Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino has admitted that Mykhailo Mudryk still has some work to do on his "understanding" of the game before he can become consistently effective in this team.
The Blues agreed to pay an initial £62m, potentially rising to £89m with add-ons, to beat Arsenal to Mudryk in January. The Ukrainian winger had seemingly come out of nowhere during the first half of last season when he scored 10 goals in 18 games for Shakhtar Donetsk.
But he has so far struggled to justify such a price tag in eight months as a Chelsea player.
The 22-year-old is yet to score in 21 appearances in all competitions during that time and has only registered two assists. Chelsea put an extra show of faith in him ahead of this season by handing over the number 10 shirt worn with distinction in the Premier League era by Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Joe Cole and Mark Hughes. But no goals or assists have come in 2023/24.
Mudryk had been a substitute for a struggling Chelsea side against Liverpool, West Ham and Nottingham Forest. His first start of the season came against Bournemouth on Sunday, only to be hooked after 63 minutes as the Blues eventually slumped to a 0-0 draw. Cruelly for Mudryk, he was injured when Chelsea beat Luton and AFC Wimbledon and so has missed the only two wins so far.
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Whether Mudryk will retain his place next out against Aston Villa amid competition from summer signing Cole Palmer, who replaced him at the weekend remains to be seen – especially given that Pochettino appears to think the ex-Shakhtar star still has much to learn.
"He is improving. He still needs to learn; the Premier League is very fast, the speed of the game is so fast," Pochettino told Sky Sports. "I think it's about understanding the game better, try to be more connected sometimes with the team. We need to give the time and to give the tools for him to improve during the season."
On Chelsea's collective ongoing struggles, the Argentine added: "We need to be tough in the way we are trying. It's about improving our efficacy in front of the goal. We need to be calm also, but in these types of circumstances it is not easy for the players to be calm in front of the goal but we cannot blame no one."