Enzo Maresca has four forgotten Chelsea stars to vindicate bold Todd Boehly contract decision

Enzo Maresca
-Credit: (Image: Plumb Images)

Enzo Maresca is preparing for life at Chelsea despite the Italian not being officially confirmed as head coach just yet.

At the time of writing, the Blues are yet to announce the appointment of Maresca, although understands everything is agreed for a five-year contract at Stamford Bridge. The 44-year-old will be Mauricio Pochettino's successor following the Argentine's departure from the club last month.

Chelsea are handing Maresca a five-year deal with an option of a further 12 months as the club prepare to back the Leicester City manager in the long-term. However, as is always the case in modern day football - a real cut-throat business - there needs to be evident progress on the pitch otherwise the pressure becomes too much.

While there was signs of on-pitch progress in the 2023/24 season, Pochettino was very much hampered by an injury crisis that seemed to be there throughout the campaign. There were a quartet of Blues players, and key players at that, that barely featured in Pochettino's sole season with the club.

Wesley Fofana ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) last summer and did not kick a ball throughout the season for Chelsea. Meanwhile, Romeo Lavia, signed for £58million in the summer from Southampton, played just 32 minutes in his debut season with the club due to injuries.

While Christopher Nkunku and Reece James played considerably more minutes than Fofana and Lavia, the duo were missing for the majority of the season. Nkunku finished the campaign strongly, scoring his third goal for the club in their win at Brighton at the Amex Stadium, while James was shown a straight red card on the same evening.

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James, who was appointed club captain before the season started, was then suspended for the win against Bournemouth on the final day and he will be forced to sit out of the opening three matches of next term. Fortunately for Chelsea, James' absence was not missed as much as initially expected because of Malo Gusto's brilliant debut season in England.

Gusto was exceptional throughout the campaign - providing a never-ending attacking threat while being more than capable in one-on-one defensive situations. However, when James is fit and firing, something he will be hoping for much more next season after having hamstring surgery in December, it will be interesting to see what Maresca does in the right-back slot.

Likewise, it will be fascinating to see what happens with Nkunku. Chelsea supporters have not seen enough of the France international at Stamford Bridge just yet to determine what position he will play in the long-term.

He can play as the No.9 but he can be equally impactful on either wing or as the No.10. The 26-year-old played all across the front-line during his time at RB Leipzig, where he flourished for multiple seasons.

Bringing Fofana back to action will be a huge boost for Maresca and Chelsea, although the club and the coaching staff will be extremely cautious with the defender. The 23-year-old has already suffered two extremely serious injuries during his short professional career and he needs to be looked after upon his return in order to get him back to the levels we know he can reach.

Lavia, meanwhile, will be desperate for a much-better 2024/25 season after what was a disastrous introduction to life at Chelsea. The Blues do not really have someone of the 20-year-old's ilk, a ball-winning defensive midfielder, in their squad when he is injured.

For all four of these players, it is imperative they get a strong pre-season under their belts. Only James, out of the four, had a non-disrupted pre-season last time around - and that really showed.