How Chelsea could line up under Kieran McKenna

  • Chelsea heavily linked with Ipswich manager Kieran McKenna
  • Former Man Utd coach achieved back-to-back promotions up to Premier League
  • Analysing how his tactics would work at Chelsea
McKenna is a key target for Chelsea
McKenna is a key target for Chelsea / Visionhaus | Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Chelsea's hunt for a new manager may end up taking them to Ipswich Town's Kieran McKenna.

If you want an up-and-coming boss, few in English football come with the same intrigue as McKenna, who led Ipswich to the Premier League thanks to consecutive promotions - a feat which almost defies all logic.

Should he make the move to Stamford Bridge, here's how McKenna may line up.

GK: Djordje Petrovic

Djordje Petrovic
Year two for Petrovic / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages

Limited high-level options may just convince McKenna to stick with Petrovic, whose first season at Chelsea was solid without verging into spectacular.

McKenna wants his goalkeeper to be comfortable with the ball at their feet and willing to play long at times, so he could definitely show some interest in Robert Sanchez, but Petrovic may get the chance to continue working on his game with the ball at his feet.

RB: Reece James

Reece James
James could be the focal point of the team / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages

Those who watch McKenna's Ipswich will know all about Leif Davis, the left-back who is encouraged to get as high as possible and fire crosses in like they're going out of style. Davis bagged 21 assists in 43 games last season, and Chelsea fans would love to see that output from James over on the opposite side.

Focusing on James would require a complete flip of McKenna's tactics but it should prove worth it, with James undoubtedly one of the best right-backs in the world when his legs allow him to be.

CB: Wesley Fofana

Wesley Fofana
Fofana is nearing his comeback / Catherine Steenkeste/GettyImages

Pochettino never got the chance to work with Fofana but the Frenchman should be back from his ACL injury in time to remind whoever's in charge just what he's about.

McKenna's Ipswich often find themselves in incredibly open games, which calls for both agility and stamina from defenders. If Fofana gets back to his best after his injury, expect him to play a big role next season.

CB: Castello Lukeba

Castello Lukeba
Lukeba would fit in well / Luciano Lima/GettyImages

The first new signing in this squad is Castello Lukeba, who is reported to be back on Chelsea's radar once again. The left-footed defender was admired by the Blues before he joined RB Leipzig last summer and would make a smart addition to this squad because of his versatility.

Lukeba is similar to the likes of Manchester City duo Nathan Ake and Josko Gvardiol - two natural centre-backs who can thrive in an inverted role as well. He fits two roles under McKenna.

LB: Levi Colwill

Levi Colwill
Colwill may be needed on the left again / Nigel French/Allstar/GettyImages

Some Chelsea fans may be frustrated to see Colwill, a natural centre-back, deployed out wide again, but all is not as it seems. The focus on James down the right would see McKenna's left-back tuck inside to form a back three, so Colwill is unlikely to spend too long on the touchline.

McKenna favours a bait-and-bypass system similar to the one in which Colwill thrived under Roberto De Zerbi at Brighton, so the academy graduate shouldn't need long to adjust to the tactics set out for him.

DM: Enzo Fernandez

Enzo Fernandez
Fernandez is under pressure / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Next season feels a bit make-or-break for Fernandez, who struggled to show his best under Pochettino - although an eight-month battle with a hernia definitely goes some way to explaining that.

This midfield pivot is vital to McKenna's setup. He wants short, quick passes from players comfortable enough fighting against a press, while also demanding intelligent movement to get forwards and impact things in the final thirds. Theoretically, that's the player Chelsea believe they have with Fernandez.

DM: Moises Caicedo

Moises Caicedo
Caicedo remains key / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages

Caicedo's work rate and ability to shuttle from one side of the pitch to the other should make him a smart fit for McKenna's midfield duo.

Like Colwill, Caicedo should also be familiar with McKenna's desire to lure defenders in and play around them.

RM: Cole Palmer

Cole Palmer
The system suits Palmer / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages

McKenna demands that the winger on the side of his most-advanced full-back cuts inside to vacate the space. That job lends itself perfectly to Palmer, who needs to play centrally and get on the ball as much as possible.

Omari Hutchinson played in this role under McKenna and would definitely get the chance to stay in the squad next season, although he may have to accept minutes off the bench for the most part.

AM: Christopher Nkunku

Christopher Nkunku
Nkunku may thrive under McKenna / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages

The attacking midfielder is crucial to McKenna. It's your typical shadow striker, who needs to float around the entire final third to create goals and score plenty as well. Conor Chaplin has 39 goals and 14 assists across two years under McKenna at Ipswich.

That sort of freedom should lend itself perfectly to Nkunku, who does his best work ahead of the midfield but behind the central striker. Chelsea fans should be seriously excited by the prospect of Nkunku in this setup.

LM: Raheem Sterling

Raheem Sterling
Sterling will hope for a stronger season / Catherine Ivill - AMA/GettyImages

This spot is a tricky one. With James providing most of the width on the right, McKenna would want his left-winger to stay wide, hug the touchline, fizz in crosses and send cut-backs into the box with reckless abandon.

Ignoring the crosses, those instructions sound very similar to the orders Sterling operated under at Manchester City. If he's still that sort of player, this could actually offer Sterling a great chance for a career resurgence.

ST: Nicolas Jackson

Nicolas Jackson
Jackson could be an ideal fit / Ryan Pierse/GettyImages

It's easy to put Victor Osimhen in here, and there are plenty of signs to suggest it will be the Nigerian leading the line for whoever's in charge, but for McKenna, Jackson may actually be the ideal focal point in attack.

McKenna likes a big, strong striker who can hold the ball up, but also wants his forward to link up with those around him and stretch the play by charging in behind himself. That's what Jackson does, and he does it better that most strikers around. Maybe big bucks don't need to be spent after all?