On June 3, Chelsea officially announced Enzo Maresca as the club’s newest manager. The Italian steps in for Mauricio Pochettino, who mutually parted ways with the Stamford Bridge club after the 2023/24 season. The Argentine’s dismissal was particularly surprising given the form Chelsea showed at the end of the season. Since Christmas, only Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City picked up more points in the Premier League. Pochettino coached the second-youngest team in the Premier League to an improvement of six league positions compared to the failed 2022/23 season.

Now, Maresca faces the task of continuing the young side’s development. Most recently, Maresca brought Leicester City back to the Premier League at the first time of trying. Despite struggling with second-tier Parma in Italy, Maresca comes from the Pep Guardiola tree of managers having coached Manchester City’s Elite Development Squad. He also served as an assistant to Guardiola during the title-winning campaign of 2022/23.

That has proven successful for a time. In addition to Pep Guardiola’s success at the Etihad, Mikel Arteta has transformed Arsenal into a contending club that is on the cusp of success. Chelsea will hope Maresca can perform the same task.

Comparing Enzo Maresca at Chelsea to other like-minded coaches

There is one philosophy at the forefront of this Manchester City and Pep Guardiola school of coaching. Controlling the game breeds success. Manchester City and Arsenal had the two best defensive records by a clear margin in the Premier League. Unsurprisingly, they finished as the top two clubs in the league, as the adage goes, defense wins championships. Regarding the Championship, the same exists. Leicester City had the best defense in the second tier. With 41 goals against, Leicester had 15 shutouts last season.

It is a stark contrast from the Leicester City Maresca inherited. Leicester conceded 68 goals in the Premier League in the 2022/23 season, which was among the worst in the league. Assuredly, part of the improvement boils down to the quality of competition in the Championship compared to the Premier League.

If Maresca can have a similar effect on Chelsea, the benefits are clear. Despite an underwhelming sixth-place finish, Chelsea had no problem scoring goals. Only four clubs mustered more goals than Chelsea’s 77 last season, highlighted by Cole Palmer’s 22 contributions. Putting any kind of dent in that goals-against record can make Chelsea a contender for Champions League spots. Ten clubs had fewer goals against than Chelsea last season.

Maresca has young talent at his disposal

Under Pochettino, Chelsea showed consistent growth throughout the season. With a couple of hiccups dotted throughout the campaign, Chelsea had some success against top opposition despite its young core of players. Doubles over Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace combined with wins over Manchester United and Newcastle. Many of those games were high-scoring affairs where Chelsea relied on goals.

Much of the Chelsea squad is young, and they have the capacity to grow under the defensively conscious Maresca. Enzo Fernandez, Moises Caicedo and Malo Gusto all showed promise in the midfield or defense. Maresca can hamper in a new era.

There are, of course, risks to hiring Maresca as a replacement for Pochettino who made a name for himself by allowing Harry Kane and Son Heung-min to score rampantly. It could be a challenge for these young players to adjust to yet another new coach at Stamford Bridge. Yet, Maresca is a strong candidate to lead a top club like Chelsea.