Michel? McKenna? Assessing the candidates to become next Chelsea manager


On Tuesday evening, Chelsea confirmed the departure of Mauricio Pochettino as head coach. It was a decision that caught many off guard and left plenty scratching their heads. The Argentine guided the Blues to a sixth-placed finish, which is a fine achievement given the squad he inherited and the injuries over the course of the season. 


Nevertheless, attention turns to his replacement with a number of names already linked with the vacant Stamford Bridge hotset. Here we run through five who have been considered the next Chelsea manager. 


Michel - Girona 


Girona exceeded expectations this season. There was a brief period where they were Real Madrid's closest challengers for the title and while they ultimately fell away in the race for domestic glory, a Champions League finish is a huge achievement for the Spanish side. As such, Michel's stock has risen significantly in recent months and the 48-year-old has emerged as a target for Chelsea. 


It's for good reason, too. Michel has favoured a 4-2-3-1 setup for Girona this season, not too dissimilar to the system used by Pochettino, but has shown a willingness to tinker and move to a three-man backline, this in itself suiting Chelsea's current crop. Girona's squad is also on the younger side, and this benefits a Chelsea outfit that has focused on investing heavily in youth in the last two years. Probably the best suited candidate for the job. 



Enzo Maresca - Leicester 


Despite a wobble, Leicester secured their top-flight return as Championship champions and while many at the club hope Enzo Maresca will be the man to lead them back to the Premier League, the Italian is another believed to be on Chelsea's radar. Similarly to Michel, Maresca does look to use a 4-2-3-1 setup, though it's worth noting that 4-3-3 has been his go-to formation in the Championship this season. 


Maresca has also shown a willingness to go for a three-man backline but his preference is to use a four-man defensive system. Maresca also demands his players win the ball back quickly high up the pitch to force turnovers in dangerous areas. Indeed, his Leicester side won possession in the attacking third more times (230) than any other side in the regular 2023/24 Championship season and he seeks to set his sides up in a similar style to Pep Guardiola, of whom he was assistant at Manchester City for the 2022/23 season. 


Kieran McKenna - Ipswich 


Another promoted manager on Chelsea's wishlist, Kieran McKenna has earned a number of admirers for the way his Ipswich side has returned to the Premier League. The Tractor Boys were one of the more entertaining sides to watch in England this term as they scored more goals (92) than any other team in the division. 


McKenna initially implemented a three-man backline when first appointed as Ipswich boss back in December 2021 but a dip in form saw him revert to a 4-2-3-1, and he has stuck with the system that secured automatic promotion. The emphasis is on the full-backs to stretch opponents with Leif Davis in particular shining in Ipswich's return to the Premier League. The 24-year-old did, after all, finish the season with more assists (18) than any Championship player. The 38-year-old is a manager in demand, with Brighton eyeing up McKenna as a successor for Roberto De Zerbi, so Chelsea would need to act quickly if they are to snare one of the brightest managers in the country. 


Sebastian Hoeness - VfB Stuttgart 


VfB Stuttgart have endured a whirlwind 12 months. Around a year ago, they secured a 4-1 win at Mainz to effectively seal a relegation playoff spot in the Bundesliga. They breezed past Hamburg to retain the place in Germany's top tier. The appointment of Sebastian Hoeness last April proved a masterstroke and his stock has quickly risen in part due to VfB's second-placed finish this time around. 



The Reds leapfrogged Bayern in the top two on the final day of the 2023/24 campaign and, back in March, Hoeness was rewarded with a new contract for his efforts at the MHPArena. Hoeness, like those included on this list, does favour a 4-2-3-1 and he seeks control in games. VfB finished the season third for possession (60.4%) and pass success rate (86.9%), and they look to strike quickly having also made the third most key passes per game (12.2). 


They are also proactive in their pursuit of the ball having won possession in the attacking third the fourth most times (184) in the Bundesliga this season. However, his contract situation could muddy the waters should Chelsea approach Hoeness, who'll no doubt want to manage in the Champions League next season. 


Thomas Frank - Brentford 


If it's Premier League experience that Chelsea will prioritise, then Thomas Frank will likely be high on the wishlist. The Dane has worked wonders with Brentford on a fairly modest budget and despite flirting with relegation earlier in the year, Frank is still a wanted man in England. Whether Brentford would be happy to see the 50-year-old switch allegiance from one west London side to another remains to be seen but there are plenty of reasons why he would be wanted by the Blues. 


Frank switched between a 4-2-3-1 and a three-man backline over the course of the campaign with injuries not helping his Brentford side this season. Indeed, he had to make do without key man Bryan Mbeumo and Ethan Pinnock for chunks of 2023/24, and his Bees team suffered as a result. His Brentford side isn't nearly as dominant as others on this list with Frank now a more pragmatic boss than the likes of Michel and McKenna. However, he worked well with the tools at his disposal and did so without kicking up much of a fuss. This may well suit the Chelsea hierarchy.

Michel? McKenna? Assessing the candidates to become next Chelsea manager