James Maddison has gone but Leicester flying under Enzo Maresca – and even Jamie Vardy’s improving
Enzo Maresca has Leicester City purring again.
Last season’s relegation from the Premier League felt like the end of a golden area, but could it merely be a blip in what’s largely been a positive decade at the King Power Stadium?
Leicester sit top of the Championship having secured a seventh-straight league victory in a comfortable 3-1 win at Swansea on Saturday.
They’re 11 points clear of third-place Leeds. And it’s only October.
But putting last season’s woes hasn’t been an easy task for Maresca.
But it’s been an evolution, rather than revolution as Maresca implemented a patient, passing game to his new squad.
“I always said the same: to change something is possible, but to change something quickly it’s impossible,” the Italian exclusively told EFL All Access on talkSPORT 2.
“It required time. We are working almost for more. What we are trying to do on the pitch every day, we can see it during the game. It’s a process and we are happy because we are in the right direction.
“At least when there is a relegation, most of the players are going to leave and the players that stay are mentally not perfect because of the relegation.
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“You need to work with the new players to let them understand what kind of club this is and with the players that stay here you need to work with them and to give them energy. At the same time, to be honest, what helps a lot are the results!”
Many have predicted an instant Premier League return for Leicester.
Maresca has put together a squad of talented youngsters with a point to prove, blended with players that have top-flight experience.
He also has two Premier League winners to call upon in Marc Albrighton and the evergreen Jamie Vardy.
Conor Coady has been a positive influence – on and off the field – since arriving from Everton in the summer.
“He’s been unbelievable,” says Maresca. “Unfortunately, he has been injured for a long time; two months. Now he’s back with us, but he has been fantastic since day one.
“He helps everyone, talking every time, in terms of leadership at the top.”
Coady may have missed the first few weeks of the season with a broken foot, but he couldn’t keep away from his new teammates.
He was in the dressing room after victories congratulating them on taking another step towards promotion.
The England international also travelled to away games at Huddersfield and Rotherham when most injured players might’ve stayed at home.
Maresca’s still a relative newcomer to the management game.
Leicester is his first full-time appointment since an ill-fated six-month spell at Parma in 2021.
During the interim, he rejoined Pep Guardiola at Manchester City as one of his assistants.
In a relatively short period, Maresca has reinvigorated the club.
Still, he thinks there’s more to come, despite winning 11 of their first 12 matches.
“Hopefully, yes, for sure,” he says. “We have many things to improve. I always said the same. All of them they can improve. All of us, we can improve day by day.
“Stephy Mavididi, Harry Winks, Yunus Akgun, Abdul Fatawu, Cesare Casadei, all of them can improve. Kelechi Iheanacho can improve, Jamie Vardy can improve. Wilfred Ndidi can improve – he’s improving.
“They are improving – all of them – and this is the most important thing for us.”
Maresca is now settled in the East Midlands having relocated from the north-west in the summer.
And family-time is important when he wants to leave football behind – even if it’s just for a few hours.
“The family is happy,” he says. “The kids are happy. My wife, she’s settling good. We moved from Manchester, so it’s not far. I always say that I have four kids. I think now everyone knows!
“During the normal day I spend almost all day [at the training ground], but during the international break I try to spend time with the family.”
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The Maresca clan may be only catching glimpses of the manager now, with a trip to QPR on Saturday and a key clash against Leeds six days later.
Sunderland are the visitors to the King Power Stadium on Tuesday – live and exclusive national radio commentary is on talkSPORT 2.