Next Pep Guardiola, Todd Boehly concern - Five talking points as Chelsea appoint Enzo Maresca

Enzo Maresca was appointed as the new Chelsea manager on Monday.
-Credit: (Image: Photo by Copa/Getty Images)

The new dawn at Chelsea has begun after Enzo Maresca was appointed as the new Blues head coach, a little under a year after he took his first managerial role in England with Leicester City.

One promotion and a managerial sacking at Stamford Bridge later, the Italian has been tasked with steering the Blues into a new era - becoming the fifth manager since Todd Boehly's consortium took control in West London. Maresca ensured that the Foxes immediately bounced back to the Premier League following their relegation on the final day of last season.

After Chelsea's Europa Conference League-securing 2-1 win over AFC Bournemouth, things looked rosy. Unbeaten in six, star players firing and something to build upon in the next campaign - but it all came crashing down when the announcement was made that Chelsea had parted ways with Mauricio Pochettino by mutual consent.

Needless to say, pressure and scrutiny were never far away from the Argentine in a dour debut campaign but positive shoots were seemingly beginning to appear.

A lot can happen in football, never mind in 24 hours, but a fortnight has passed since the former Tottenham Hotspur manager departed. Roberto De Zerbi and Thomas Frank were linked, talks were held with Kieran McKenna, and another newly-promoted tactician was earmarked.

Today, Maresca signed a long-term contract with Chelsea, becoming the third permanent manager in the Boehly-era. Only time will tell if this piece of business is a masterstroke or another chapter in the American's ostentatious ownership.

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Will Maresca receive the boardroom backing?

Football fans have become obsessed with transfers and the transfer market. For those Chelsea supporters in that bracket, they have probably not been disappointed with the free-spending in the last 18 months.

While there could be no question about whether Maresca will be backed in the market, Premier League Profit and Sustainability pending, the real suspicion is over job security at Stamford Bridge. Champions League-winning manager Thomas Tuchel was sacked after winning three of his first seven matches after a £278million summer spending spree in 2022.

Graham Potter was prised away from Brighton & Hove Albion after a successful spell with Seagulls in a lucrative move for the Englishman. However, his tenure lasted a mere 206 days. Bruno Saltor, Frank Lampard and Pochettino followed, the latter permanently.

Although the Argentine was under continuous scrutiny at the helm during his 325 days in charge, his sacking came on the back of a five-match winning run. Pochettino has had high-pressure jobs in the past and earned respect for the work he did in North London with Spurs. The news of his sacking was met with claims that the next club he joins will have secured a coup. In Chelsea's case, it could look more like an own goal.

So where does that leave Maresca? The 44-year-old had a strong start at the King Power Stadium, seemingly soaring into an unassailable lead at the Championship summit, but were soon pegged back after a slump in form. Leicester managed to get themselves over the line and back to the top flight, and although it's a different landscape between the two clubs, there must be a question of whether he would be afforded the luxury of time in West London should he suffer a dismal run of form.

If Boehly wants to shake off the unwanted tag surrounding his football club ownership, patience and precision must be implemented.

Todd Boehly, chief executive officer of Eldridge Industries, at the Qatar Economic Forum (QEF) in Doha, Qatar, on Wednesday, May 15, 2024.
Chelsea chairman Todd Boehly -Credit:Christopher Pike/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Another gruelling pre-season beckons

Managers and head coaches are traditionally hands-on these days and by all accounts, Maresca is exactly the same. There are concerns over Chelsea's bloated squad and how the Italian will deal with the different personalities, as well as demands.

But the Blues are seemingly acquiring one of the top up-and-coming managers. It takes a lot to work up through the Manchester City academy ranks and first-team, never mind assist Pep Guardiola as his right-hand man. Experienced Leicester defender Conor Coady has already provided a glimpse into what to expect from the 44-year-old.

"I’ve never seen detail like it in my whole career. I’ve worked with some brilliant managers but the detail he goes to is ridiculous," he told The Telegraph in October. "He just makes things so easy for you to see with the way he explains his ideas and paints pictures for players.

"This is the way you want to play as a footballer - you want to have the ball for the majority of the game, attack and go forward playing in the opponent’s half."

With a full pre-season in the pipeline, this could be yet another gruelling one for those players who played under Lampard before they transitioned to Pochettino. With style of play and patterns, accompanied by new signings, the period of transition under Maresca will be the difference between a fast start and a slow one.

He will analyse the season with a fine-tooth comb, dissecting not just Chelsea's performance but his own in East Midlands. There will be work to be done.

What must Enzo Maresca do next?

How long is a piece of string?

The silver lining is that the foundations are already in place from Maresca's predecessor. It could work in the Italian's favour that he will inherit a strong squad, albeit bruised from a difficult season. Additionally, one would suspect there will be added motivation and an extra sense of vigour.

Last season, Chelsea players were frequently targeted for their poor performances in the Premier League. The criticism should spark extra fight into the squad as they look to start strong in what will be another competitive top flight campaign.

Maresca has to utilise the positive signs from the final five games, Cole Palmer proved to be a shrewd piece of business and an inspiring signing as he topped the goalscoring charts for the Blues - even challenging Erling Haaland for the Golden Boot.

Thiago Silva will be among the high-profile summer departures and with that comes the task of finding a reliable central defender. There are a number of options for the tactician with Wesley Fofana set to comeback from long-term injury plus Levi Colwill, Axel Disasi, Benoit Badiashile, Trevoh Chalobah, Malang Sarr and Alfie Gilchrist among the options.

Chalobah is facing speculation over his future following interest from Bayern Munich during the January transfer window. Further up the pitch, there are several transfer decisions to be made over the summer including Conor Gallagher, who was named captain under Pochettino but there are suggestions his future lies away from Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea supporters will grimace at the thought of how the season would have panned out without the contributions of Palmer. Nicolas Jackson netted 15 goals in his debut Premier League campaign but as a whole, the Blues attackers failed to hit the mark, which will be one of the biggest turnarounds that Maresca will need to perform.

Former Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino
Mauricio Pochettino was liked by his Chelsea players -Credit:GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images

Chelsea gamble mirrors Liverpool move

Tuchel, Frank, De Zerbi, McKenna and Maresca were all names linked with the vacant position in light of the Pochettino decision. Whoever was due to replace the previous manager, question marks would duly be raised.

But across the managerial landscape in Europe, there has been a lack of high-profile names waiting to pounce at the next big job. Liverpool are preparing for the next era in their history following Jurgen Klopp's departure. A number of managers were linked; Xabi Alonso opted to remain at Bayer Leverkusen, Ruben Amorim was mooted before the lesser-known Arne Slot was appointed after success with Feyenoord.

There were similar cases with Barcelona and Bayern Munich who bid farewell to Xavi and Tuchel respectively. The European giants opted for Hansi Flick and Vincent Kompany in somewhat underwhelming appointments.

McKenna, who rivalled Maresca in the Championship, was fiercely tipped to take up the position at Stamford Bridge before signing a lucrative four-year extension at Ipswich Town, after ending their 22-year top-flight hiatus.

Whichever way Chelsea turned, it would have been a gamble and Manchester United could yet fall into the trap, although Pochettino is among the favourites to succeed Erik ten Hag should the Dutchman be relieved of his duties.

Only time will tell whether it was a good decision or not. But how long will be afforded to judge it and what are the parameters for success at this stage for Chelsea?

Have Chelsea found their very own Pep Guardiola?

Guardiola has already raved about Maresca.

"We are delighted with Enzo Maresca, all the organisation he has done with the EDS, he showed he will become an extraordinary manager in the future. Extraordinary," he said.

"I feel it. Like I felt it when I saw Mikel Arteta I see it with Enzo, [he] will be an extraordinary manager and he helped to develop many, many young players."

Next season they will go head-to-head.

The Italian was side-by-side with the Spaniard as they completed their quest for a treble - picking up their first Champions League crown in that feat. But despite his work with the iconic City manager, he also counts working alongside memorable tacticians including Carlo Ancelotti, Marcelo Lippi, and Manuel Pelligrini to name a few.

He does have his own ideas and has hinted previously that a Chelsea dynasty will not be built immediately. He said "It's just something gradual.

"The first idea was probably born when I faced Pep Guardiola's Barcelona team as a player, that was the first time I realised something different happened and I was curious to understand, so I started analysing games and from there taking things from different managers. In the end, you create your own idea."