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Enzo Maresca’s Football Philosophy: Technical & Tactical Analysis

Enzo Maresca, a former professional football player turned coach, has made quite a name for himself in the world of football. With his experience playing under renowned managers like Pep Guardiola, Marcello Lippi, Carlo Ancelotti, and Manuel Pellegrini, Maresca has developed a deep understanding of the game and a unique tactical philosophy. Recently, Enzo Maresca gave a tactical masterclass of his football philosophy and talked about his coaching journey at “Coaches’ Voice” platform. In this article, we will discuss Maresca’s journey, his coaching influences, and his approach to the beautiful game in more detail.

From Player to Manager: Enzo Maresca Remarkable Transition

Maresca’s journey from player to manager began when Manuel Pellegrini, his former manager at Málaga, suggested that he could excel in a coaching role. This sparked a desire in Maresca to embark on a new chapter in his career. After retiring as a player, he started to think seriously about becoming a manager. He was excited to start his coaching journey and was clear about his goal to be where he is now.

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Falling in Love with a Playing Style

In football, one often falls in love with a specific playing style. For Maresca, that love affair began when he faced Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona as a player. He was captivated by the way they moved the ball and their remarkable reaction when they lost possession. This admiration for Guardiola’s approach to the game became the foundation for Maresca’s own tactical philosophy.

Learning from the Best: Working with Pep Guardiola

Maresca had the privilege of working with Pep Guardiola during his time at Manchester City. Initially, he served as the head coach of the elite development squad and later became the first-team assistant manager. This experience allowed Maresca to explore his ideas and improve them without the immense pressure to win that comes with managing a first-team. He was able to observe and learn from Guardiola’s methods, gaining valuable insights that would shape his own coaching style.

Enzo Maresca & The Leicester City Challenge

Leicester City, a prominent club in England, became Maresca’s next destination. The club’s impressive track record, including winning the Premier League, FA Cup, and Community Shield, drew him in. Maresca recognized the immense potential of the club and its fans. However, he also acknowledged the reality that the team was currently in the Championship, the second tier of English football. He understood the need for a significant effort to bring the club back to where it belonged – the Premier League.

The Championship Experience: Adapting to Constant Changes

The Championship, renowned for its competitiveness, presented Maresca with a new set of challenges as a manager. He highlighted how most managers in this league approach games differently, constantly forcing him and his staff to adapt and improve. The dynamic nature of the league required them to stay one step ahead and find new solutions to counter the ever-changing strategies of their opponents.

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The Chess Player and the Football Manager

Maresca drew an interesting parallel between chess players and football managers. Both must adapt to their opponent’s moves and adjust their strategies accordingly. Just as a chess piece’s movement can influence the entire game, a football manager’s decisions can shape the outcome of a match. Maresca emphasized the importance of quick adaptability and finding new solutions when facing unexpected changes in the opposition’s plans.

Keeping the Ball: Enzo Maresca’s Playing Philosophy

Maresca’s playing philosophy revolves around controlling the game by maintaining possession and playing in the opponents’ half. This approach aims to dominate the match and dictate the flow of play. From the beginning of his tenure at Leicester City, Maresca focused on instilling this idea within his team. The players embraced this style of play and found joy and fulfillment in executing it on the pitch.

Enzo Maresca Inverting the Full-backs for Defensive Solidity

Maresca frequently instructs Leicester’s fullbacks to invert their runs and take up more central positions alongside the midfield three. This tactical tweak serves several purposes. Firstly, it allows Leicester to defend transitions more effectively when they lose possession. With the fullbacks already tucked inside, it means Leicester have 5 players back to cover if the opponent counterattacks. Compare this to a traditional system where advanced fullbacks are still high up the pitch, leaving the defence exposed.

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The extra central presence also gives Leicester numerical superiority in the middle of the park. Maresca aims to create a 4 v 3 central overload against teams playing with a lone striker and two central midfielders. This helps Leicester dominate possession and starve opponents of the ball.

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Manipulating the Opposition’s Shape

The inverted fullbacks also serve as a ploy to manipulate the opposition’s defensive shape. As teams try to match up Leicester’s central numbers, it draws players out of position and opens up space elsewhere. Dropping a striker or number 10 to mark the advanced fullback creates opportunities for Leicester’s forwards and wingers in the channels.

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Additionally, if a centre-back steps out to close down the inverted fullback, it leaves gaping holes at the back for Jamie Vardy and co. to exploit. So while it makes build-up play congested for Leicester, the knock-on effects stretch the opponents and create goalscoring chances.

Technical Abilities to Thrive in Tight Spaces

Maresca does acknowledge inverted fullbacks need certain technical traits to thrive. Operating in central areas means having less time and space on the ball compared to being in wide areas. The fullbacks must have quick feet and close control to wriggle out of pressure. The likes of Ricardo Pereira possess these dribbling quality in abundance.

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Their presence in midfield also helps free up Leicester’s creative forwards. The fullbacks drag defenders out of position, allowing the likes of Stephy Mavididi and Kieran Dewsbury-Hall more time and space to flourish in pockets between the lines. This is key to unleashing the full potential of Leicester’s attack.

The Unpredictability of Results

While Maresca emphasizes the importance of controlling the way his team plays, he acknowledges that results cannot always be controlled. He understands that various factors can influence the outcome of a game. Despite this awareness, he remains committed to his playing philosophy, emphasizing that the players’ dedication and enjoyment of the style of play are paramount.

The Ambition for Leicester City

For Maresca, the ultimate ambition and dream are to bring Leicester City back to its former glory. The club’s relegation after achieving remarkable success in winning major titles was a bitter pill to swallow. Maresca is determined to restore the club to its rightful place in the Premier League. He recognizes the significance of this goal for the club, the city, and the fans who have been through the highs and lows.

Enzo Maresca – A Conclusion

Enzo Maresca’s journey as a player and now as a manager has been shaped by his experiences under some of the greatest football minds in the world. His admiration for Pep Guardiola’s playing style and his own tactical philosophy have laid the foundation for his coaching career.

At Leicester City, Maresca aims to combine his learnings and experiences to guide the club back to the Premier League. The Championship presents its challenges, but Maresca’s adaptability and commitment to his playing philosophy will undoubtedly propel him towards success.

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