Transfers, tactics and Enzo Maresca legacy – Steve Cooper's five key Leicester City tasks

Steve Cooper with Conor Coady and Kasey McAteer as the Leicester City players return for pre-season training
-Credit: (Image: Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images)


While Steve Cooper has been busy working at Leicester City's Seagrave training base for the past couple of weeks, he now has the chance to get hands on.

The players are back in for pre-season training and so preparations for the new Premier League campaign ramp up. In the six weeks until City host Spurs on Monday, August 19 (8pm), there's plenty for Cooper to do.

Here, we've jotted down five key tasks for the new City boss, with transfers, tactics and Enzo Maresca's legacy all featuring on his "to do" checklist. If Cooper can get these jobs done, it should lead to a positive season...

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Assess the squad to determine transfer business

Cooper said he had watched almost all of City's matches from last season, so will have ideas as to how players can be used and how they might fit into his plans. From there, Cooper can decide which of them are surplus to requirements and which positions need strengthening.

But Cooper won't have been able to see everything from last season's games. He needs pre-season training sessions and friendlies in order to get a better idea of players' qualities and how they might perform in his system.

For example, there will be players that barely featured under Maresca, like Harry Souttar, who will need to be thoroughly assessed in pre-season as Cooper's research will have revealed little. Then there are last season's loanees, like Boubakary Soumare, for whom the same is true.

Victor Kristiansen is a particularly interesting case. The left-back did not fit into Maresca’s formation, but looks ideal if Cooper is to play with his preferred wing-back set-up. While it seemed the Dane was destined for a permanent exit this summer, Cooper may see a young, improving, committed player and feel he is worth keeping around.

Cooper will also need to assess the club’s young players too. Will Alves, Sammy Braybrooke, Logan Briggs and Silko Thomas all appear to be in first-team training and if they can reach a level in pre-season that convinces Cooper they are ready for a permanent role in the senior set-up, that eases pressure in the transfer market.

Work with recruitment team on targets

Good progress has been made already on the transfer front, with three players signed and Abdul Fatawu's permanent return due to make it four. There are still areas that require improvement though, notably in attacking midfield and maybe up front.

For the remaining business that Cooper feels City need to do, he must work with the club's recruitment team. They have shown they are worth trusting.

Transfers can sometimes be at the heart of a power struggle between a manager and the club they work for, but Cooper should heed the advice of head of recruitment Martyn Glover. He was praised by Maresca for uncovering Fatawu, while the deals for lesser-known players like Mads Hermansen and Stephy Mavididi also paid off handsomely. He knows what he's doing and can make sure Cooper gets the right players to fulfil his requirements.

Win over the players after Maresca exit

Unlike when a manager has been sacked and the players are perhaps more open to new ideas to turn the form around, Cooper is taking over a squad that have not only just won a title, but were fond of the man who led them to it. He will have to work to show he's worthy of being Maresca’s successor.

The players are professionals and will get on with their job, but they were impressed by both Maresca’s tactical knowledge and his work-rate. To convince the squad that they can maintain their good form in a higher division, Cooper will need to demonstrate he can get close to matching Maresca on both of those fronts.

Drill the tactics for Premier League return

City arrived in the Premier League with a very clear way of playing. Cooper needs to determine what they keep from Maresca’s year in charge and what he wants to change.

Most managers have distinct styles of play and won’t consider what their predecessor did. But when Claudio Ranieri took charge, he made the sensible decision not to change much at all from the side that had been in good form prior to his appointment, and that proved to be a masterstroke.

Conor Coady said on the final day of last season that City needed to stick to their values and philosophy in the Premier League, showing faith in the methods that got them promoted. But maybe there needs to be an element of pragmatism added to the mix, knowing that City won’t have it all their own way back in the top flight. Cooper has to determine that balance and then put it into practice over the course of pre-season friendlies.

Stop set-pieces being the club’s downfall

For too long, set-pieces have been a problem. Defensively, it caused City all sorts of issues for a couple of years in the Premier League, so much so that it was ignored how poor they were at attacking them.

It's something that continued into last season. According to Opta data, City ranked 22nd of 24 clubs for expected goals from set-pieces, ranking only ahead of Birmingham and Plymouth. Given the number of corners and free-kicks they had compared to their rivals, that’s pretty shoddy. When defending set-pieces, they fared better, but still not as well as would be hoped, ranking 13th for expected goals conceded from dead balls.

In the Premier League, it’s going to be more difficult to score from and defend set-pieces, so it really is an area that Cooper needs to address if City are to stay up. The good news is that he has already made progress on that front.

Andy Hughes has been brought in as a first-team coach from Norwich, where he was in charge of the club's set-pieces. The Canaries were one of the best at attacking dead balls last term, so Hughes' appointment will hopefully make City a greater threat at corners and free-kicks. For Cooper, the task is to ensure Hughes gets enough time to drill the players each week.

Which is Cooper's most important task this summer? Click HERE to have your say