Enzo Maresca’s Tactics and How They Could Shape Chelsea in 2024/25

After a short search, Chelsea have unveiled Enzo Maresca as their new head coach.

It’s an appointment that somehow balances excitement and pessimism: the Italian doing an excellent job to win the Championship title with Leicester City last term, but lacking any top-flight managerial experience whatsoever.

There has been critique that he’s too rigid in his tactical beliefs – lacking an effective Plan B when things don’t go to plan. But what is Maresca’s Plan A… and could it work at Stamford Bridge?

Glass Half Full

Given the sparkling end they enjoyed to the 2023/24 campaign, Chelsea should be full of confidence heading into next season.

The football odds indicate as such, with the Blues priced at 14/1 to win the Premier League title in 2024/25.

While their chances of usurping Maresca’s old club Manchester City seem fanciful, only City, Arsenal and Liverpool are classed as having a better chance than Chelsea of lifting the trophy – confirmed by many football betting tips columns, which are predicting a top-four finish for the West Londoners and thus a return to Champions League football.

If those expectations are to be met, Chelsea will need to hit the ground running under Maresca – the good news is that some of his tactical preferences are already familiar to his new players.

Readers may recall towards the end of last season, when Chelsea won five Premier League games in a row, that Mauricio Pochettino tweaked his own system to incorporate an inverted full back – Marc Cucurella, more often than not, handed the task.

It was a switch that enabled the Blues to assert more dominance in the middle of the pitch – the extra body often causing an overload that allowed a more attack-minded midfielder to push on, run into space and break the lines. Chelsea scored 14 goals in that five-game span, so it’s fair to say that the tactical change worked like a charm.

Maresca too is a fan of inverted full backs – learned, perhaps, from his time as an assistant coach to Pep Guardiola, so at least the tactical transition for the new manager should be smooth.

Build from the Back

Another of Maresca’s innovations is to build passing moves from the defensive line.

At Leicester, his goalkeeper would join in – often venturing far outside their penalty area to act almost as a third central defender in a bid to beat the opposition’s high press.

Other times, you would see Wout Faes and Jannik Vestergaard literally standing still with the ball at their feet – daring opponents to press them and, potentially, leave space in behind them.

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Chelsea’s first-choice defenders are all comfortable in possession, but Maresca’s bold strategy does not come without risk – giving the ball away in your own half can lead to devastating turnovers, as Leicester fans will attest, with the Foxes’ xG against tally of 43.3 (effectively a goal conceded per game in the Championship) an indicator of the strife they would find themselves in when short-handed at the back and out of possession.

Maresca is a head coach that favours an entertaining, almost swashbuckling brand of football. When things are going well, it’s fantastic to watch. But when results take a turn, this style of play tends to see the knives drawn much faster, too.