How Chelsea could line up under Enzo Maresca

  • Chelsea are closing in on the hiring of Leicester manager Enzo Maresca
  • Italian led Leicester to Championship title during his first season
  • Possession-based system understood to appeal to Chelsea's owners
Chelsea are chasing Maresca
Chelsea are chasing Maresca / Gareth Copley | Visionhaus/Getty Images

Chelsea look to have settled on their top target to replace Mauricio Pochettino.

Leicester City's Enzo Maresca has been given the nod by the Blues' polarising sporting directors and personal terms have already been agreed with the former Manchester City assistant, paving the way for an imminent switch to Stamford Bridge.

Here's how Maresca could set up at Chelsea.

GK: Marcin Bulka

Marcin Bulka
Bulka would be a smart target / Jean Catuffe/GettyImages

A key aspect of Maresca's build-up is the goalkeeper, who is asked to leave his goal and play in between the centre-backs at times. Neither Robert Sanchez or Djordje Petrovic have proven themselves comfortable enough with their feet to play in such a way.

That should lead Chelsea to Nice goalkeeper Marcin Bulka, whose name may sound familiar as he spent three years on the books at Stamford Bridge before leaving in 2019.

RB: Reece James

Reece James
A new role for James / Stu Forster/GettyImages

Maresca also likes his full-backs to play in an inverted role in midfield, which suits Reece James perfectly.

James may benefit from a less-intense role and already has experience playing in midfield, having been moved there during his loan with Wigan Athletic because he was simply too good to be wasted out wide.

CB: Wesley Fofana

Wesley Fofana
Fofana is nearly back from injury / Matthew Ashton - AMA/GettyImages

Wesley Fofana is expected to be back in time for the new season and may benefit from a change in manager, which will bring about a clean slate and a fair chance to walk straight into the starting lineup again.

With a goalkeeper next to him and full-backs ahead of him, Fofana may be tasked with playing in a role which feels similar to a wide centre-back in a back three.

CB: Levi Colwill

Levi Colwill
Colwill is back at centre-back / Vince Mignott/MB Media/GettyImages

Composure on the ball is integral to Maresca's setup and the Italian would likely gravitate towards Levi Colwill for that very reason.

Few defenders in England are as adept with their feet as Colwill, who should have no problems adjusting to the short-and-quick style of passing Maresca demands.

LB: Marc Cucurella

Marc Cucurella
Cucurella impressed in an inverted role / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

Marc Cucurella's recent stint as an inverted full-back almost seems like a trial for somebody like Maresca, who will have appreciated what he saw from the Spaniard towards the end of Mauricio Pochettino's reign.

Whether Maresca will be able to deal with his frequent lapses of concentration in defence, however, is a different matter.

DM: Enzo Fernandez

Enzo Fernandez
Maresca could get the best out of Fernandez / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Maresca built his Leicester midfield around Harry Winks, who plays at the base of Leicester's midfield with a view to getting as many touches of the ball as humanly possible. Only two players in the Championship had more than Winks in 2023/24.

On paper, there's no reason Enzo Fernandez would not be able to excel in this role. He's comfortable in possession, happy to play under pressure and solid enough defensively. That being said, expect Romeo Lavia, who played in this role under Maresca in City's academy, to get plenty of minutes.

CM: Moises Caicedo

Moises Caicedo
More freedom for Caicedo / Catherine Ivill - AMA/GettyImages

Wilfred Ndidi was moved from a DM role into a box-to-box setup under Maresca, and that's the exact position Moises Caicedo would take up.

In attack, Caicedo would be tasked with getting involved high up the pitch, but in defence, Maresca likes to switch to a 4-2-3-1 and would therefore ask Caicedo to get back and help Fernandez prevent transitions. That role seems perfect for him.

CM: Cole Palmer

Cole Palmer
Palmer would be central to the team's attack / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages

This third midfielder, the Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall spot, is designed to get Cole Palmer on the ball as much as possible. They're encouraged to get involved in as much as they can and tasked with scoring goals and racking up assists.

Dewsbury-Hall played a starring role here in 2023/24, racking up 12 goals and 14 assists. Palmer should thrive in this setup.

RW: Michael Olise

Michael Olise
Olise would be a dream target / Alex Davidson/GettyImages

Let's do a bit of dreaming with this one. Maresca wants his wingers to stay wide, terrorise full-backs and rack up the goal contributions.

In the current squad, it would be Noni Madueke who gets the nod here, but Chelsea's dream target should be Crystal Palace's Michael Olise, who knows exactly where the goal is and could do a job under Maresca.

ST: Christopher Nkunku

Christopher Nkunku
Nkunku may suit this setup / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages

For Maresca, a striker needs to be energetic in attack and comfortable dropping deeper into midfield to create spaces for players to run in behind him. It's the sort of role which should suit Christopher Nkunku perfectly.

Chelsea have been tipped to move for Napoli's Victor Osimhen, but the Nigerian may not be the best fit for such a style of play.

LW: Raheem Sterling

Raheem Sterling
Sterling should start on the left / Visionhaus/GettyImages

It's likely that Maresca will struggle to accept Mykhailo Mudryk's weaknesses when it comes to tactical discipline, so most of the minutes out on the left should be handed to Raheem Sterling.

Sterling brings some much-needed experience to the forward line and can contribute plenty of goals and assists in the right system. He never played under Maresca at City but the pair's mutual knowledge of Guardiola-isms should help them bond.