This article is by Bhoys Analytics. They provide in-depth analysis and opinion on a variety of Celtic subjects. You can follow them on Twitter @BhoysAnalytics.
This is a look at Enzo Maresca, a name doing the rounds as a potential managerial appointment at Celtic, discussed by fans and listed in bookmakers’ odds.
Enzo Maresca is currently the manager of Man City u23s, previously having held the assistant manager role at Sevilla and more recently under Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham side. The 41-year-old Italian holds a UEFA pro licence and will be looking for his first chance at first-team management.
With Man City’s academy team, he has taken charge of 19 games with 11W 4D & 4L (57 goals for/29 goals against). They currently sit top of the Premier League 2, three points clear of second-place Everton.
Most noticeable is City’s clear dominance with +23GD in the league, the second best being +9GD. They are the best offensively and only just second defensively.
A manager coming from a dominant side is a must for Celtic, so surface-level indications are positive.
Man City U23 Data & Style
Unfortunately, due to it being youth football the only data available on Wyscout is from the EFL Trophy where they came up against Mansfield, Scunthorpe, Lincoln City and Tranmere. They would be knocked out by finalists Tranmere, but data would indicate this was unfortunate. Lincoln, who they beat, reached the semis. Man City U23s were unfortunate not to go all the way and win this cup. Lincoln are currently second in EFL1 so this City side are likely at low Championship level which is mad for a youth side.
From the 4 games average xG [expected goals] was 1.97 & xGA [expected goals against] was 1.13 with a resultant xG differential in City’s favour. No outliers here, they comfortably dominated each game. Against Tranmere xG was 2.64 to 1.84 in City’s favour and that was with a red card and a penalty going against them.
Enzo sets his team up usually in a 4-1-4-1 formation, however, what makes his system so great to watch is its flexibility in match. The 4-1-4-1 can quickly become a more defensive 4-5-1 or more often an offensive 4-3-3 and at its best a 4-2-4, completely overwhelming the defence.
This dynamic hybrid causes the opposition all sorts of difficulties as players are very well drilled on the demands of the system.
Below are average positions from EFL Trophy against all four teams in order of Mansfield, Scunthorpe, Lincoln & Tranmere.
To give some comparison here are Celtic’s positional pass maps from Ross County and Aberdeen games.
Instantly we can see the huge difference in style as the City fullbacks are narrow in formation to help with build-up play. Whereas Celtic are pushed forward to help offensively as wingers (not a great idea). That is not to say City’s fullbacks don’t get forward just not as often.
Joao Cancelo’s style of nearly being a CM can be seen from the heat map of City U23 full-back Egan Riley below, next to Cancelo’s v Arsenal. This would be a great innovative style to bring to Celtic.
Unlike Celtic, Enzo prefers his team to find better quality opportunities to score in matches. From data available, Celtic do have more shots at 15.71 P90 [per 90 mins] compared to 12.75 P90, but accuracy from City is higher, 43% on target compared to 39%. I think the City U23 shot maps below prove this want to have better xG yield opportunities.
Compare these to the shot maps of Celtic against Ross County and Aberdeen below we can see that Celtic’s is a bit wilder with pot shots from distance. This is seen in the data with Man City only having 4 shots from outside the box P90 compared to Celtic’s 7.41. That’s a big stylistic change and one I think the Celtic fans would love to see.
Playing Through Lines/High Press/Wide Defensive Weakness
The City gameplan is to use its ball-playing CBs to break the first line by finding a narrow fullback/midfielder/winger that has run in front of the secondary line. They then take the ball under pressure and have them turn their man or find a pass. What this does is pull the opposition players out of shape, creating gaps. When the next pass or turn occurs, the final line before the defence can be passed through with ease as players have stepped out of position, thus creating gaps. This leads to numerical advantage from the forwards attacking the defensive line, increasing chances of a good goal scoring opportunity.
On the defensive side when out of possession City deploy an intelligent high press. They look to restrict easy passes for defensive players and force either a risky dribble or pass. This can lead to winning the ball in the opposition third, creating a dangerous transition that could lead to good goalscoring opportunities. Not only that, they press with numbers so if the ball is won high City can attack with numerical superiority at times.
This system isn’t flawless however and does have a glaring weakness in the wide defensive areas. Due to the defence being narrow, if wingers are pushed up and a transition or long ball comes, it can be easy to find space in wide defensive areas for attackers. It is pivotal that defenders, especially fullbacks, have pace and good recovery speed.
Maresca may be able to persuade top young talent from Man City to follow him to Celtic. This could include the likes of Lukas Nmecha who could be an ideal replacement for Odsonne Edouard.
Nmecha is providing 0.68xG P90 this season on loan at Anderlecht and is young at 22 years old. A lure could be to also sign his talented inverted left-wing brother, Felix, who starts for City’s u23s at the moment, who is out of contract this summer.
From all that I’ve seen in the clips and the data, Enzo Maresca is the perfect style of manager to bring to Celtic. I think he is innovative and his ideas would be great for getting past low blocks.
He is managing a dominant side and in my opinion is worthy of a step up to first-team management.
His side is also fun to watch and I believe he could develop players to the next level. He is clearly a coach with a lot of good ideas.
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