Leicester City’s Enzo Maresca has convinced six players to stay at the club to fight for promotion. Here are our thoughts on the Italian’s impact.
As you may remember, the King Power club were dismally relegated to the EFL Championship due to poor recruitment, a lack of passion, and the abysmal management of players and tactics from Brendan Rodgers. A late improvement under Dean Smith combined with poor luck, meaning too little was done too late to avoid the plummet. But never mind that now.
Finally, the Foxes have a coach supporters and players seem to be able to get behind. The uncanny mix of Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta which now resides over day-to-day training and match day planning has been a reviving and exciting arrival.
Leicester City players convinced to stay
Interestingly, Maresca himself was commenting on the transfer window and loyalty of players when he made this remark:
"“The only thing I can say is that there are six players, they come to my office to say: ‘My idea was to leave the club in the summer but now I would like to stay because I enjoy the idea and enjoy the day by day”"
That is quite the turnaround from the previous campaign. The end of our Premier League stint led to speculations of mass walkouts from these EPL and at least Europa League level players: those such as Timothy Castagne, Jannik Vestergaard, our ‘Rocketman’ Ricardo Pereira, or even the stalwart Marc Albrighton. We had expected to see some of these exit for game time, bigger leagues, or just simply for a new challenge.
"“It’s a good thing for me. But the guy that goes on the pitch is the player, so they have to be happy. If they are happy with us, I’m happy too… But if some of them want to leave, you cannot try to keep some players when their intention is to leave”"
Players being happy to accept a promotion challenge over fighting for European places, being happy to stay at a relegated side with all the negative press and connotations which came with that, being happy with that supporter pressure, is a very good thing indeed. It truly shows that Maresca has changed the atmosphere, the mentality, and brought back the intensity.
Leicester fans too seem to have become more loyal, more happy, with the current structure. We still have that underlying anger with the board – a lack of action, poor recruitment, oh, and Jon Rudkin – and there is definitely much more work to be done on the squad to make it EPL ready, but the energy is there.
The Italian effect
The Foxes have changed a lot in but a brief moment of time. From the methodical, cautious understanding which understood Leicester as a challenger for European football and just underperforming, to the passionate demand to be better consistently.
Maresca has altered the philosophy: from a Premier League mentality to a Championship winning mentality. The King Power side are an EFL team which need to recognise where they are at, adapt to the circumstances, and – as the head coach incessantly states – work on it day by day, little by little.
The whole strategic approach has been ripped up too. Rodgers’ system relied on a methodical recycling of the ball at the back before creating chances by encouraging opposition players to break their defensive lines. ‘Marescaball‘ has no such limitation: it is built on domination, progression, and movement. Of course, possession remains a key element, but it is no longer the primary strategy.
To put it more clearly: LCFC have switched from a boring possession-retention to a progression-retention model. This has clearly resonated with the players, who want to play aggressive, fast paced, and ‘big team’ football. It is good for their careers and just more fun to be involved with.
Although Leicester City’s head coach did not spill the beans on specific names, I think the tall Danish defender might be one of them, even after his rather brutal interview revealing a desire to leave the team. It seems Vestergaard is in contention for the starting XI with Conor Coady absent.