Why Pochettino, Howe seem safe as Chelsea, Newcastle flounder

There have been too many losses at Chelsea and Newcastle United this season — both on and off the pitch — but it is the latter that might just be enough to keep managers Mauricio Pochettino and Eddie Howe in their jobs despite their obvious underachievement.

In the money-driven world of modern football, with billionaire owners playing fantasy football with real consequences, the balance sheet is now as important — sometimes even more so — than points and trophies earned on the pitch. With that in mind, and Chelsea and Newcastle’s respective financial losses of £90.1 million and £73.4m will make it increasingly difficult for each club to change their manager even if they wanted to.

Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga & more (U.S.)

At the start of this season, Monday’s clash between the biggest-spending team in world football (Chelsea) and the club with the wealthiest owners (Newcastle) would ordinarily have been marked down as a game about UEFA Champions League qualification or even one with implications for the title race. But the reality is that the Stamford Bridge fixture will involve two teams closer to the relegation zone in terms of points than the top. Chelsea’s 10 defeats in 26 league games, and the 11 losses suffered by Newcastle in 27 games, are why a season of optimism and expectation has devolved into a battle simply to finish in the top half of the Premier League table.

Despite guiding Chelsea to last month’s Carabao Cup final where they lost to Liverpool at Wembley, Pochettino has failed to live up to expectations as manager in his first season at the helm. Howe’s team has enjoyed high-profile wins against Manchester City and Manchester United in the Carabao Cup, as well as a 4-1 victory against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League before crashing out at the group stage. Yet, Howe has also placed himself under intense pressure at St James’ Park by failing to build on last season’s top-four finish.

But sources have told ESPN that both Pochettino and Howe are likely to see out this season and remain in their jobs, barring a late-season form slump that makes it impossible for their bosses not to act.

The reason for the apparent safety net is the financial picture at both clubs. Although Chelsea and Newcastle are both confident that they continue to comply with UEFA and Premier League financial regulations, which are in place to prevent clubs from registering unsustainable losses, UEFA will limit spending on transfer fees, wages and agents’ fees to 70% of revenue by 2025-26 while the Premier League Profit and Sustainability Rules (PSR) allow losses up to £105m over three years. However, it is clear that both are now operating with minimal financial headroom.

In simpler terms, neither Chelsea nor Newcastle can afford to rip it up and start again by firing the manager, paying his compensation, hiring a successor, and then backing the new coach with significant funds in the transfer market.

Since buying the club from previous owner Roman Abramovich in May 2022, the new regime at Chelsea has spent almost £1 billion on new players, as well as paying a combined £26m in compensation to Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter following their respective dismissals as manager. Chelsea also paid £22m to Brighton to hire Potter in September 2022.

Newcastle have spent much less than Chelsea since the October 2021 takeover by a Saudi Arabia-led consortium as player recruitment costs amount to £375m, but spending constraints at St. James’ are due to the club having to build from a low base of just £29m of annual commercial revenue before the new owners took charge. Both Chelsea and Newcastle are boxed in by their finances to the extent that neither can feasibly embark on a significant summer outlay for players or a new manager at present.

Manchester United are in a similar situation because of excessive spending during the past two summer windows, and it may keep manager Erik ten Hag in a job if the club decides that spending £14m to pay up the final year of his contract is too much of an outlay when money needs to be spent on squad reinforcements. But because Newcastle and Chelsea’s losses are so high — Newcastle posted their figures on Jan. 11 while Chelsea posted theirs on Mar. 7 — harsh financial realities are dictating everything from player recruitment to the coach who sits in the manager’s office.

Pochettino has earned some credit at Chelsea for the run to the Carabao Cup final and there remains a sense that he provides stability and is overseeing progression with a group of young players. Howe, meanwhile, has had to deal with a significant injury list this season, as well as the loss of major summer signing Sandro Tonali to a 10-month suspension for breaching gambling regulations.

Had the financial picture at Chelsea or Newcastle been healthier, both Pochettino and Howe would be in far greater jeopardy after such dismal seasons. Yet thanks to the balance sheet, keeping both in post is the least-worst option facing the owners at Stamford Bridge and St James’ Park.