One thing Leicester City fans have learned about Enzo Maresca during his brief time as manager is that he is not afraid to shake things up. HThe team’s selections left many people in doubt, including its players.
When it comes to his training and philosophy, Maresca is totally invested in his methods. Regardless of the opposition, he remains true to his principles on how he wants his Leicester to shape up.
He is fully committed to doing things his way, regardless of the outcome. That’s why he was still smiling after Leicester’s solitary defeat so far this season, at home to Hull, because his team had always implemented the plan he gave them.
This system, the 4-3-3 which becomes a 3-2-4-1 in possession, is his model. His back four/three, with Harry Winks as the ever-present anchor, is the foundation on which everything else is built.
He can change this basic unit from game to game – James Justin came to play in Wout Faes’ right-sided position at Southampton before the pair returned to Carrow Road – while Ricardo Pereira was given a break at Norwich in inverted full-back. role, but otherwise the unit remains the same.
But before this base, it becomes more and more difficult to predict the eleven and Maresca has shown that he is willing to cut and change, rest and rotate, and even play some players in unfamiliar positions .
He did it again at Carrow Road on Wednesday evening as Leicester began a run of three consecutive weeks with a midweek game to add to their workload.
Cesare Casadai made his first league debut as an attacking midfielder while Yunu Akgun, brought in as a right winger, was also brought in as a number eight after making a brief appearance in that position at Southampton.
It may not have worked as well as Maresca would have hoped, but it was a vital experience for two promising young players who will have better games and bigger roles to play as the season progresses.
As expected, Kelechi Iheanacho and Vardy continue to rotate in the central striker role, and Abdul Fatawu is eager to make his first start on the right flank. His time will surely come in the coming weeks as Maresca gives him more and more controlled minutes.
Not that Fatawu will know much about it when it happens.
Maresca likes to keep his players on their toes and only reveals the starting line-up a few hours before kick-off.
Previous Leicester managers have briefed the team the day before (information which was often leaked last season) and used the final training session before the match as a final tune-up on form and tactics, but Maresca embraces a different approach.
His system is non-negotiable and he trains all his players in their places during general training, so there is no need to make specific arrangements for players the day before a match. Maresca believes that players must be adaptable and interchangeable, but above all ready.
He also thinks they should be on guard, fearing that players who know they aren’t starters will relax too much during match preparation, and he draws on his own experiences as a player proof.
“At the end of the day, they practice every day because they want to play,” Maresca says. “They don’t train every day because they want to sit on the bench next to me.
“I know that. I’ve been (a player) for 20 years and you’re out there and working every day because your goal is to play, but sometimes you have 20 or 25 players and you have to make the right decision.
“Sometimes it’s bad because sometimes my decision is not the right one, but they have to accept and be ready when we need them.
“I already told them that when you want to achieve something important, you need 20 players. Some of them won’t play every game but the season is so long that we will definitely use them.
“The clear example is JJ (James Justin) he was only playing in cup games and the other day he played (in the league). He was incredible. He is ready and the rest must be the same.
Maresca wants to keep its players fresh for the relentless nature of the Championship, but also keep them hungry.
He is not afraid to bring in youngsters, with his Norwich starting line-up containing seven players aged 25 or under, including Hamza Choudhury as captain, a player who was surplus to requirements last season under Brendan Rodgers and who is in his final year. of his contract but who impressed Maresca, alongside James Justin.
After six wins in their first seven games, things are starting to click for Leicester. Despite the adjustments from match to match, Maresca’s team has found consistency even though they are still in great shape in the season.
There are still 39 league matches to go and Maresca knows he has to manage this group, especially with the African Cup of Nations looming on the horizon in January, a tournament that could keep four of his squad away for a month.
That’s why young striker Tom Canon won’t take any chances as he nurses a stress fracture in his back. He will be the only alternative to Jamie Vardy if Kelechi Iheanacho and Patson Daka, who have still not played this season, are absent at the CAN. The options available to Maresca must be the envy of every manager in the Championship.
When Bristol City travel to the King Power Stadium on Saturday, Maresca is almost certain to rotate his attacking options again.
Exactly how he will do it remains to be seen and even the players won’t know until they arrive at the stadium.
It is becoming very difficult to question Maresca, but Leicester’s results more than justify his approach.
(Top photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images)