Diomande signs, Kadioglu hijack, Chilwell sold - Chelsea dream defence with Enzo Maresca overhaul

If Enzo Maresca is to hit the ground running at Chelsea this season, he has to resolve a variety of underlying issues within the playing squad.

For the majority of the 2023/24 season, the Blues failed to find any consistency and it ultimately cost them from competing at the top end of the table. In the end, it was a run of five consecutive league wins under Mauricio Pochettino that helped them secure European football.

That end of season form didn't save Mauricio Pochettino and now, for the fourth time since May 2022, a new era awaits Stamford Bridge under Maresca. The Italian is said to have already started work on the training ground with a number of Chelsea players but there remains a great deal of work to do.

Whilst there are blatant question marks over the Blues' threat in the final third, problems at the other end have consistently set them back. Last season, Chelsea kept just eight clean sheets in 38 Premier League games - coming against Luton Town (relegated), Bournemouth, Fulham, Sheffield United (relegated), Everton, Tottenham and West Ham.

Under Pochettino, there was never a formidable backline. Injuries to Ben Chilwell and Reece James meant there were continual headaches at full-back and Thiago Silva, 39, played 31 times in the league without a regular partner in the heart of defence.

Tosin Adarabioyo has already signed from Fulham on a free transfer but further work is required. Recent reports have indicated that Ben Chilwell and Trevoh Chalobah could be sold this summer and the patience needed for Wesley Fofana's return from a long-term injury means we could see two more additions made to the squad.

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It must also be added that a new goalkeeper may be signed between now and the summer transfer window closing. As anyone who watched Leicester City under Maresca last season, the number one is crucial to how the team plays. Mads Hermansen completed 1846 of his 2188 passes (84.4%) compared to Djordje Petrovic's 78.8% completion rate.

Here, takes a look at what Maresca's dream backline could be at Chelsea.

Diogo Costa

Maresca's thinking in the goalkeeper position is not yet clear. There is the possibility that Robert Sanchez retains his spot as the first choice goalkeeper but long-term, a better-suited ball-playing player would be the dream.

Valencia's Giorgi Mamardashvili is a trending name in the goalkeeper market due to his heroics at Euro 2024. In terms of shot stopping, there aren't many better than him. However, he completed just over half (53%) of his passes for Valencia last season which would be worrying for Maresca.

Another candidate who has caught the eye with his displays at Euro 2024 is Diogo Costa. The FC Porto star has established himself as one of the best goalkeepers away from Europe's top five leagues and was on Man United's radar in their hunt to replace David De Gea.

Only 24, the Switzerland-born shot-stopper completed an impressive 1034 passes (84.8%) last season and kept 13 clean sheets. Costa has a £65m release clause in his contract at Porto but it has been suggested that the Portuguese side could accept a lower fee amid financial concerns.

Reece James

When discussing a dream scenario at Chelsea, Reece James is the man at right-back. In fact, Maresca's asymmetric style of play could work in the academy graduate's favour. At Leicester, Ricardo Pereira suffered for three years straight with muscle injuries but he played 45 games last season due to a slight change in his play.

Maresca had the right-back tucked inside and played as a playmaker when in-possession and then reverted back to the backline when the opposition had the ball. From the evidence of Maresca's tactics, James could finally be set to return to his best.

Levi Colwill

Chelsea already have an array of options at centre-back. However, Levi Colwill stands out as the only predominant left-footed option. One of the players who has suffered with injuries, the 21-year-old comes into the new season with a point to prove after missing out on a place in the England squad.

As is already clear, passing ability will be key in the Blues' philosophy this season and Colwill's abundance of quality on the ball makes him a perfect fit for one of the centre-back positions. Adarabioyo, Axel Disasi, Benoit Badiashile and Fofana will be desperate to get their chance, too.

Ousmane Diomande

The second signing of this dream defence is Sporting CP's Ousmane Diomande. The Ivory Coast international has been on the Blues' radar for some time now and remains on their shortlist this summer.

After an impressive campaign in Portugal, the 20-year-old is widely expected to leave Sporting and after being in contact with his representatives, Chelsea have one foot in the door in signing him.

A colossal centre-back, Diomande would be the perfect replacement to Thiago Silva and would be a marquee signing at Stamford Bridge.

Ousmane Diomande of Sporting CP looks on during the Liga Portugal Betclic match between Sporting CP and SC Farense at Estadio Jose Alvalade on March 3, 2024 in Lisbon, Portugal.
Sporting CP's Ousmane Diomande is one of many defensive transfer targets for Chelsea -Credit:(Photo by Gualter Fatia/Getty Images)

Ferdi Kadioglu

Perhaps the most controversial position in Chelsea's backline is at left-back. Ben Chilwell has been the first-choice since signing in 2020 but, again, injuries have stopped him from flourishing into his potential and his sale may be best for all parties.

Marc Cucurella has impressed with Spain at Euro 2024 but a more attack-minded wing-back would make up the deficit of having the right-sided full-back tucking inside. Step forward, Ferdi Kadioglu.

The Fenerbahce wing-back is another Euro 2024 star seeing his services in high-demand with Arsenal, Wolves and West Ham all tracking him. In Turkey, the 24-year-old created 10 big chances from left-back and made 45.7 accurate passes per game.

Anyone that has watched Turkey in action this summer will have an idea of how he likes to play. A strong outlet down the left with great agility to win the ball back and turn defence into attack quickly.

On paper, there aren't many better defences than this. The four players across the backline with the players in reserve to provide healthy competition means Maresca would solve his defensive issues with the signings of Costa, Diomande and Kadioglu.