Enzo Maresca has given Leicester City an impossible task with transfer problem he predicted

Leicester City manager Enzo Maresca talks with Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall after the win at Norwich
-Credit: (Image: Joe Toth/REX/Shutterstock)

As Enzo Maresca has played a part in taking Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall out of Leicester City, it’s worth a reminder of what the Italian said the next step needed to be in such a scenario.

Speaking on the final day of the Championship season, the then City boss said: “I don’t care about this (selling players for financial reasons). But if we lose important players, it’s important that we bring in important players.

“It’s not a problem if we need to sell players to solve any problems. But it’s important that we can then bring players in. We need to be competitive. I don’t want to be, this time next year, where we were a year ago. This has to be the main focus.”

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So, in short, Dewsbury-Hall’s departure doesn't have to be an issue as long as he is replaced. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

First, City need to decide what they’re missing without Dewsbury-Hall in their team. Most obviously, it’s goals and assists. Dewsbury-Hall was one of only three players to hit double figures for both in the Championship last season, along with Adam Armstrong and Gabriel Sara, the 25-year-old central to their attacking play.

It’s not clear how those numbers would have converted to the Premier League. Dewsbury-Hall’s most prolific top-flight campaign saw him register just four goal involvements, but by playing in a more advanced position in Maresca’s side, he made great strides tactically and technically. It would not have been unreasonable to expect him to reach at least 10 combined goals and assists in the coming season.

Dewsbury-Hall provided far more than that, though. His stamina and energy levels were unmatched, and he pressed extremely well. He carried the ball into the final third at speed and built up an excellent combination with Stephy Mavididi, making the left winger more effective. He could whip in dangerous crosses.

There’s a lot of attributes there that need finding in a new signing. Because, right now, City don’t have any players in their ranks that could do what Dewsbury-Hall did.

Dennis Praet and Yunus Akgun, two of the other advanced midfielders used by Maresca last season, have left. Wilfred Ndidi may not return, and even if he does, he may drop back into his more natural defensive role now that City are back in the Premier League.

As things stand, City’s midfielders are Harry Winks, Hamza Choudhury and Boubakary Soumare. They’re either tough-tackling defensive shields or deep-lying metronomes. Collectively, they’ve played 682 games in their careers and scored 11 goals, one fewer than Dewsbury-Hall managed in the Championship last season.

Look deeper into the squad and City do have a more natural replacement for Dewsbury-Hall in Will Alves. But the teenager has not even played a senior league game yet. To expect him to fill Dewsbury-Hall’s boots would be unreasonable, and possibly detrimental to the talented youngster’s career.

The qualities that City are missing also have to be balanced against what Steve Cooper needs for his squad. At Nottingham Forest, his central midfielders tended to be defensive-minded, with a focus on protecting the back line. Then there was Morgan Gibbs-White, a number 10 who was sometimes asked to play wide. Cooper didn’t really play with box-to-box number eights like Dewsbury-Hall.

So there’s a lot for Martyn Glover and the recruitment team to think about, especially with budget constraints. But even if City can find a player to match Dewsbury-Hall from a technical and tactical perspective, completely replacing all of his qualities is impossible.

He may have quite liked Manchester United growing up, but he loved Leicester City too. He grew up in the county, joined the academy aged eight, and over 17 years developed an incredibly strong bond with the club and the fans.

In nearly every match he played, that connection with City was evident in his performance. His love for the club materialised in his feistiness in the tackle, the lung-busting sprints in added time, the way he lapped up the celebrations.

There was a commitment to the cause in his play that can only come from such a long relationship with the club. Seeing that love for City on the pitch brought out the best in the fans too. That is what will be impossible to replace no matter who is signed this summer.

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