Chelsea's winning formula: critical improvements for Maresca's reign

Stamford Bridge
Stamford Bridge / Catherine Ivill/GettyImages

Chelsea FC has officially named Italian Enzo Maresca as their new manager on a five-year contract, signaling the dawn of a new era at Stamford Bridge. As the club embarks on this fresh chapter, stakeholders will be anticipating a successful start to Maresca’s reign. To achieve this, the club's hierarchy must critically evaluate and learn from the issues that plagued previous seasons.

Last season, CFC encountered a myriad of challenges both on and off the pitch. Defensively, the Blues endured their worst-ever Premier League season. In midfield, the pairing of Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo failed to consistently click, hampered by tactical inefficiencies. Up front, inefficiency was a significant issue, with forwards squandering numerous opportunities.

Compounding these performance issues was a relentless injury crisis that continually disrupted team cohesion. Addressing these areas will be pivotal in steering the club back on course.

Defensive and set-piece struggles

The Blues endured their worst defensive performance in Premier League history, conceding 63 goals. The team frequently faltered due to lapses in concentration and an inability to close out games, leading to numerous dropped points. Furthermore, Mauricio Pochettino’s side struggled with set-piece situations, conceding 11 goals from dead-ball scenarios, placing them among the ten worst in the league in this regard.

To address these shortcomings, the Blues has secured the services of set-piece specialist Bernardo Cueva from Brentford. Cueva has been instrumental in Brentford’s Premier League successes, with 25% of their 160 goals since promotion originating from set pieces. His expertise is expected to significantly bolster the west Londoners' defensive solidity and effectiveness in dead-ball situations.

Attacking and recruitment needs

Offensively, Chelsea finished the season with 77 goals, the fifth-best in the league. However, this tally belies the numerous missed opportunities, with CFC creating as many big chances (87) as rivals Arsenal but failing to convert them with similar efficiency. The Blues missed 73 big chances, the second-highest in the league, with Nicolas Jackson alone accounting for 24 of these.

Despite criticism, Jackson’s debut season in England yielded 17 goals and 6 assists in 43 games, a tally comparable to Luis Suarez’s first season in the Premier League. This suggests potential and talent in the young Senegalese striker, but the onus is on the board to recruit quality forwards who can complement Jackson and enhance the team’s finishing prowess. With Armando Broja expected to depart, Chelsea’s recruitment strategy must align with their tactical plans to ensure a well-rounded and competitive squad.

Moreover, with the departure of Thiago Silva, CFC must bring in experienced players. Both fans and pundits believe that such additions are vital for this very young team, providing leadership and stability on and off the pitch. The acquisition of seasoned professionals will help balance the squad and support the development of Chelsea's emerging talents.

Injury crisis

Injuries plagued Chelsea throughout the season, with over 50 injuries leading to 300+ games missed by key players. The likes of Reece James, Ben Chilwell, and Christopher Nkunku were frequently sidelined, disrupting team cohesion and tactical implementation. The pervasive injury issues raise questions about the club’s medical staff, training routines, and player management.

The club’s ownership must urgently investigate and address the root causes of these recurring injuries to foster a healthier, more consistent squad environment. Ensuring players’ fitness will be crucial for Maresca to establish a stable and effective team.

Chelsea’s decision to swiftly appoint Enzo Maresca following Pochettino’s departure on May 21st underscores their determination to rectify past mistakes and propel the club forward. Promptness in addressing the outlined issues will be vital to reviving Chelsea’s fortunes and setting a strong foundation for the Maresca era.

As Chelsea embarks on this new chapter, the club’s ability to learn from past missteps and implement strategic improvements will be crucial in their quest for success under Enzo Maresca.