has played down his decision to bench marquee signing for ’s 2-0 victory over Sheffield United on Saturday.
The Argentine midfielder, who joined from Benfica last January in a £107million deal, had started all but one of the west Londoners’ previous matches this season, with a muscular injury keeping him out of his side’s 2-0 defeat to Brentford at the backend of October.
Practically since he first joined, Fernandez has been one of the first names on the team sheet, but he was relegated to the bench on Saturday with Moises Caicedo and Conor Gallagher sitting behind an attack-minded front four.
Although frustrated in the first half, Chelsea dominated against Sheffield United – enjoying 78 per cent possession – and wrapped up the three points in seven second-half minutes as Cole Palmer and Nicolas Jackson both netted.
Fernandez did eventually come on in the 69th minute, with Pochettino taking off Mykhailo Mudryk to shore things up, and the Chelsea boss insists little should be read into his team selection.
Asked why he left Fernandez out, and whether Caicedo’s much-improved display in the Argentine’s absence was related, Pochettino replied: ‘You can only play 11.
‘It’s a big competition and sometimes you need one characteristic, or one profile or another profile, and you need to choose the player.
‘And of course today we saw that the combination between Caicedo and Gallagher, plus Cole Palmer like a number 10, was a possibility to be the best combination for today.
‘But it doesn’t mean that maybe Tuesday [against Newcastle in the Carabao Cup] Enzo can play with another, and another is on the bench.’
Asked why he swapped Palmer and Raheem Sterling at half-time, Pochettino continued: ‘Yeah we swapped and then the position of our full-back and the midfielder also.
‘In the first half we didn’t give the possibility for him and for the team to find better positions on the pitch, that is why we changed. And we changed also the way we build in a medium block.
‘If you see, we were using on the right pocket Palmer and on the left Conor but we were giving too much pressure to our players, [Axel] Disasi and Levi [Colwill], when they played with the ball. There was always only one option to play on the side and then it was 2-v-1, the Sheffield United midfielder with the full-back.
‘It was really difficult, always playing back to the goal, it was impossible to create chances and circulate the ball because always we were giving them time to shuffle, shuffle, shuffle and when we wanted to take a risk we lost the ball.
‘But I think it was good that we were frustrated and we reacted very well, second half we moved some pieces and changed the positions and we were much better and started to create a real problem to Sheffield United.’
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