Tribal Football

Enzo Maresca: The right choice for 'this' Chelsea dressing room?

Enzo Maresca: The right choice for 'this' Chelsea dressing room?
Enzo Maresca: The right choice for 'this' Chelsea dressing room?
Enzo Maresca: The right choice for 'this' Chelsea dressing room?Action Plus
COMMENT: Project... Philosophy... Whatever you call it. No club planning succeeds without those in charge having the resolve to see it through. Which is why Enzo Maresca needs to watch his back in the opening months of the new season...

So Chelsea have their man. At least, those running the show do. Maresca arrives fresh from guiding Leicester City back into the Premier League at first attempt. The Italian steps in to succeed Mauricio Pochettino, whom leaves - apparently - on good, mutual terms.

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The reasons for the split haven't been made public. "A differing of opinion," has been offered - which takes little reading between the lines. Poch wanted Chelsea to act like, well, Chelsea. Buy big. Buy quality. Buy proven experience. Work the market in the traditions of Chelsea these past 20 years. And let 'me' choose who arrives. But the board, specifically co-sporting directors Paul Winstanley and Lawrence Stewart, saw things differently. And so with Pochettino's reputation not just intact, but enhanced, the split was inevitable.

Instead, Chelsea now have their 'yes man'. Harsh? Of course. But this is the criteria that today's Chelsea set out. And this is the moniker Maresca will carry until proven otherwise. Let's be serious. Good coach. Good reputation. But there's very little on his cv. A Serie B sacking. And a promotion with a squad which could safely be described as having mid-table Premier League quality. To put it another way, Maresca would not be getting on any shortlist of managerial candidates during the Abramovich era. But, as long mentioned in this column, that Chelsea is gone. Dismantled. Even destroyed. 

The Blues are no longer a perennial contender. They may at times surprise. Even punch above their weight. But that wasn't Chelsea. Chelsea were the heavyweight. They were the ones to be knocked off their perch. But today, Chelsea FC are simply one of many. And the Maresca appointment confirms it.

There'll be no more Jose Mourinho. Antonio Conte. Nor Carlo Ancelotti. Chelsea want a coach to work with the players he's given. To select them. Even put them in specific positions, which was a complaint Pochettino encountered from the higher ups last season over his deployment of Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo. 

Is Maresca the one to conform to such criteria? Time will judge. Though the question is: if things kickoff on the wrong foot, just how long will the Italian get? Indeed, with no top-flight experience, what evidence will anyone have of Maresca being able to turn things around? 

And this is where the belief and resolve of Chelsea's top brass come into play. There's obviously a method to Maresca's appointment. There has to be. He hasn't won this post on experience. After all, it's 18 months of second tier managerial experience... Again, just how would the past dressing rooms of Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and John Terry take to such an appointment?

But perhaps that's actually the answer? This Blues locker room isn't the one of Drog and JT. It's of Reece James, Cole Palmer and Nicolas Jackson. Perhaps at this level, they need a manager like Maresca? Maybe it was agreed even Pochettino was above them?

“He’s incredible in every way,” Harry Winks, effectively Maresca's quarterback for Leicester last season, stated just days ago. “He’s a manager who I think will certainly go to the very top. His understanding of football is something I’ve never witnessed before.

“I think his approach-ability and man-management is exceptional. 

“When you go out on the pitch you know exactly what to do and how the opposition are going to operate and what you can do to affect that.

“To do it so simply is the most important thing. That’s a thing a lot of managers probably struggle with - getting the message across, but the gaffer does it so well here.”

So the right manager to suit this dressing room? But again, what of that potential slow start? Do those above Maresca have it in them to stick by him? They certainly crumbled when it came to Graham Potter. Indeed, we now know there was debate even before Christmas '22 to get rid and start again. And we can level the same at Pochettino's one season, when leaks about doubts over the Argentine started making their way to the press after the New Year. 

This lot have form. With Potter. With Poch. Chelsea's board talked about a 'long-term' project and an approach to how they wanted to play. Yet as soon as things didn't go to script, they panicked. That resolve to back their belief and ideas simply melted away.

For Maresca, this has to be the concern. If the team suffers early stumbles. If it all starts slowly. Just what evidence does he have that this board him have it in them to stand strong?