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Enzo Maresca’s in-tray – winning over the players is key

Enzo Maresca has a significant in-tray waiting for him at Chelsea (Nick Potts/PA)
Enzo Maresca has a significant in-tray waiting for him at Chelsea (Nick Potts/PA)

Despite a positive end to the season that saw Chelsea nick a place in the Europa Conference League, the removal of Mauricio Pochettino as manager to be replaced by Enzo Maresca has thrown yet more uncertainty over a club coming off two hugely turbulent years.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the in-tray for Chelsea’s incoming head coach.

Win over the squad

The dismissal of Pochettino caused surprise and dismay amongst the squad as communicated via various players’ social media channels, and in removing the Argentinian the club has lost a coach known for his popularity, man management and skill at working with young players.

The 52-year-old had seemed the perfect fit for communicating with and getting the best out of a callow, inexperienced squad, many of whom were adjusting to living abroad for the first time, and Maresca will need to prove himself equally capable on a personal level if he is to keep the team on their current upward trajectory.

Get Caicedo and Fernandez playing together

Fernandez and Moises Caicedo
Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo have rarely looked at their best when side by side in Chelsea’s midfield (John Walton/PA)

Given the record-breaking sums the club paid to acquire them, the midfield pair of Moises Caicedo and Enzo Fernandez are the nearest thing to undroppable, but it was only once the Argentina World Cup winner was ruled out for the season run-in with a groin problem that his Ecuadorian partner started to thrive.

With Conor Gallagher playing next to him, Caicedo looked far more like the player Chelsea parted with £115m in order to sign from Brighton, as the team closed out the season with five consecutive wins. Finding a way of getting the best out of the club’s two most expensive buys when side by side will be high on Maresca’s list of priorities.

Tighten up the defence

Thiago Silva
Thiago Silva’s departure could further disrupt an already-leaky defence (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Under Pochettino the team conceded more goals than during any season in the Premier League era, and whilst they scored more than in any campaign since they were last champions in 2017 – even outscoring Jose Mourinho’s champions of 2015 – there is a limit to what can realistically be achieved with such a porous defence.

They let in more than twice the number conceded by runners-up Arsenal and 29 more than champions Manchester City, and while injuries meant the manager was rarely able to field a settled back four, the departure of the team’s most experienced defender in Thiago Silva is only likely to add to the potential for chaos at the back next term.

Identify the team’s leaders

With Silva having moved back to Brazil, it will not be easy for the incoming coach to pick out an obvious leadership core within the current squad.

Captain Reece James made limited appearances last season due to injury, as did vice-captain Ben Chilwell, and neither are known for being overly vocal on the pitch. Gallagher wore the armband for much of the season but could yet be sold as the club look to balance the books, leaving a young group that too often looked around for guidance during tougher moments of a difficult campaign and found it lacking.