Mauricio Pochettino defends midfield star amid comparisons with Declan Rice

Mauricio Pochettino believes it’s unfair to compare the impact of Enzo Fernandez at Chelsea to that of Arsenal’s Declan Rice.

The Blue’s head to the Emirates tonight looking to bounce back from the disappointment of their defeat to Manchester City at Wembley.

Fernandez joined Chelsea from Portuguese side Benfica for £107m in January 2023, whilst Rice joined the Gunners from West Ham last summer in a deal worth an initial £100m.

At the time the fee paid for the World Cup winner was a British record before the Blues broke it to sign Moises Caicedo from Brighton last summer for £115m.

Rice has earned plaudits for the impact he’s had on Arsenal’s midfield as they once again challenge for the Premier League title.

In the 15 months Fernandez has spent at Stamford Bridge Chelsea’s league position hasn’t vastly improved, and despite showing glimpses of his obvious talent there have been questions asked about the Argentine’s impact on the team.

However, Pochettino has called for perspective and highlighted the obstacles the 23-year-old has had to face since arriving in England.

“Declan Rice was playing for West Ham, an English guy who knows the Premier League, knows the language”, said the 52-year-old told reporters in quotes picked up by Mail Sport.

“For Enzo, after the World Cup to arrive here, in a team that was inconsistent, difficult to get positive results, always it was really difficult.

“In summer he was involved in too many games and he arrived late in pre-season, hasn’t had a holiday in the last two years.”

“Too many negative things happened. (It was) difficult for him to adapt, his family. It’s not easy to adapt and perform so quick.”

Fernandez has certainly improved this season despite playing through a hernia issue at times, and has added goals to his game, scoring seven in all competitions, three of those coming in the Premier League.

Pochettino believes the best is yet to come from the midfielder and is convinced he will be better next season.

“For sure he is going to be much better next season, after the experience of the whole season in this squad and this team”, he added.

“He’s more experienced, he gets better feelings. The whole season is good for him to learn. Even if he is a world champion, he needs to adapt to the Premier League and to this club. For me, there is no doubt that he is going to be much better.”

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