International Soccer

5 priorities for new Chelsea manager Enzo Maresca

The latest episode of the Chelsea soap opera has seen Enzo Maresca replace Mauricio Pochettino in the Stamford Bridge dugout.

The Spaniard arrives in west London having just lifted Leicester City back up to the Premier League as Championship winners, impressing with his meticulous possession-based approach. He’s also a disciple of Pep Guardiola, in case you hadn’t heard.

But how can Maresca lift the mood in the Blues dressing room and get the team competing at the top of England’s most prestigious division once again after a few years of decline?

Here are the main jobs facing Maresca and how he can rid Chelsea of the incessant drama that has dogged them in recent seasons.

Mykhailo Mudryk, Ian Maatsen, Nicolas Jackson

Chelsea already have too many expensive duds / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/GettyImages

Chelsea have taken large punts on young players since Todd Boehly and BlueCo took ownership but few of their investments have offered tangible returns so far, Cole Palmer aside.

What the Blues certainly don’t need is another summer of egregious spending when they already have young players desperate to make an impression.

A few sensible additions aside, Chelsea cannot afford to burden their new coach with another new raft of players. If anything, some of their youngsters need to be shipped out – either on loan or permanently – to give Maresca a less-bloated roster of stars to work with in his first campaign at Stamford Bridge.

cole palmer

Chelsea must start the new season quickly / Chloe Knott – Danehouse/GettyImages

Chelsea fans are undoubtedly crying out for a smidge of optimism and there’d be no better way for Maresca to get them on side by making a flying start to the 2024/25 campaign.

The Blues had won only eight of their 20 Premier League games by New Year’s Eve last season as Pochettino struggled to get consistency out of his crop.

Supporters have already put up with some lifeless and downright embarrassing performances in recent years, so Maresca must instil a more resilient core and get points on the board early on to give his doubters something to think about.

Christopher Nkunku

Nkunku’s first season in England was ruined by injuries / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/GettyImages

Sure, this is easier said than done, but the point remains. Injuries played a cruel role in Chelsea’s topsy-turvy 2023/24 campaign and Maresca cannot allow the number of casualties in his squad to hit double figures again.

Christopher Nkunku was a big absentee having impressed so much at RB Leipzig and the Frenchman could take a large goalscoring and creative burden off Palmer if he can stay fit for the majority of the campaign.

Knocks in defence also meant there was little consistency between any pairing at centre-back, where stability is needed most.

Enzo Fernández - Argentinian Soccer Player, Moisés Caicedo

Can Fernandez and Caicedo thrive together? / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Whispers suggested Pochettino was never too keen on partnering Moises Caicedo and Enzo Fernandez in central midfield. Whether the two South Americans can co-exist in the middle of the park remains to be seen, but if the two £100m stars struggle together again in 2024/25, some tough decisions will have to be made.

Maresca loves his teams to keep possession meticulously and Fernandez could be the perfect fit by keeping things ticking over, but Caicedo will have to prove himself as a dynamic and aggressive number 8 rather than a simpler ball-winner.

Carney Chukwuemeka and Conor Gallagher could be perfect fits if the Ecuadorian can’t provide what Maresca needs.

Conor Gallagher

Gallagher’s future is still up in the air / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

England international Gallagher so often filled in as captain in the absence of club skipper Reece James and vice Ben Chilwell, so the idea of his contract running out next year is quite remarkable.

The former Crystal Palace loanee has the attributes to thrive under Maresca but speculation persists over where he will be playing his football next season, with Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa mentioned as potential destinations.

A Chelsea lad through and through, worse players than Gallagher have been handed bumper contracts in recent years and his exit would undeniably be an arrow through the heart of any football purist.

Stay or go, Gallagher deserves a quick resolution and it must be one of Maresca’s priorities once he gets down to business at Cobham.

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