Playing for the second time in the span of just three days, Leicester City once again welcomed the Reds to the King Power but this time it was in the Premier League. Having crashed out of the Carabao Cup courtesy of Leicester, Liverpool had to win the game to lift themselves up having failed to win a single game after the international break.
Leicester on the other hand had produced some pretty decent displays of late only to lose those games by close margins. Having won just one game and drawing another from five games, Leicester had to get a good result out of the game to move up in the table. What followed in the 90 minutes was a typical, high tempo, end to end premier league match between the two English sides.
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Leicester City (4-4-1-1) | Manager: Craig Shakespeare
1.Schmeichel – 2.Simpson, 5.Morgan, 15.Maguire, 3.Chilwell – 26.Mahrez, 25.Ndidi, 10.King, 11.Albrighton – 20.Okazaki – 9.Vardy
Liverpool (4-3-3) | Manager: Jurgen Klopp
22.Mignolet – 12.Gomez, 32.Matip, 6.Lovren, 18.Moreno – 23.Can, 14.Henderson, 5.Wijnaldum – 11.Salah, 9.Firmino, 10.Coutinho
Craig Shakespeare sent out his side in a 4-4-2 in which Shinji Okazaki often played behind the striker Vardy. Schmeichel started in goal as Simpson, Morgan, Maguire and Chilwell played as the back four. In midfield four, Mahrez and Albrighton in the wings played alongside King and Ndidi who were deployed in the centre.
Liverpool started in their structure as Jurgen Klopp played Coutinho in place of the suspended Mane. Mignolet guarded the Liverpool goal as he was supported by a defence which was constituted by Gomez, Matip, Lovren and Moreno. Can and Wijnaldum played as the two 8s ahead of the pivot Henderson. Wijnaldum, particularly known for the engine in him, was deployed as the box to box midfielder. The coveted Liverpool attack was formed by the attacking trio of Coutinho, Firmino and Salah.
Liverpool find space behind Leicester’s 4-4-2
Known for their compact and tight 4-4-2 structure, Leicester stuck with the same for their match up against Liverpool. Mahrez occupying the right just as before was pretty inviting for Liverpool as high flying Moreno was deployed in the same flank. Mahrez’s forward runs meant that Moreno was able to find space in turnovers.
However on the other hand, Liverpool were the team with more possession and building out from the back. This meant that Leicester parked their two banks of four however Mahrez was isolated in certain cases. His offensive duties upfront along with the pressing caused havoc for the 2015-16 Champion as Moreno was able to capitalize on the runs as a result of quick interchanges with Henderson and Coutinho in the same flank.
The case of Leicester defending in two banks of four.
In certain instances Mahrez would join the forwards Okazaki and Vardy in pressing up the field and hence loses out on the follow up. In other situations, he would move to the center as he always does in creating chances. This allowed the likes of Moreno to capitalize by bombarding upfront.
The video below shows the same case where Liverpool have made movements which had attracted the Leicester players to one side especially Mahrez. This allowed Moreno to run into the space and this move becomes very effective when the play is switched from the centre to the flank.
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In the video above we can find the exchanges between the Liverpool players once they receive the ball from the back. They developed progressions and kept possession in one side of the pitch by making interchanges with the winger who would drop into the half space and the forwards who would drop back. This moved Leicester more towards the ball always leaving the wide man free and Moreno who is one of the fastest players in the pitch often was seen making marauding runs.
The video below is another instance in which Leicester were opened up when Liverpool found space behind the defence with astute build up play. Here the ball is played from the left flank in which Coutinho releases himself with a one-two with Firmino and finds the central midfielder in space who has continued his run. He allows the likes of Salah and Can to move into danger zones in wide areas and with brilliant through ball splitting the defence, the wide player was found in a position in which he find targets inside the box by crossing the ball.
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This is how the opening half of the game panned out as Liverpool dominated by finding spaces on the outside as Leicester were compact in the middle. Liverpool took a 2-0 lead going into the half but Okazaki pulled one back on the last gasp as it gave Leicester the much needed momentum to carry on coming into the next 45 minutes.
Leicester’s pressing up top and Liverpool’s 2-5-3
Leicester’s aim of winning the ball back was visible in most cases and when Liverpool had the ball, the pressing by the two forwards was there to be identified. Often Vardy would mark/chase the keeper while Okazaki would press the ball carrier or the next passing option for the ball carrier. At times, even Mahrez joined in the press if the ball was played in the right however most of the pressing from the midfield came from Ndidi.
Man oriented pressing was seen from Leicester rather than collective pressing as Leicester also did not want themselves to get opened up as a result of the pressing. Often the two forwards marked the two central defenders as both Gomez and Moreno joined the midfield in attack. This created a positional advantage for Leicester in the 2v2 – Vardy and Okazaki vs Matip and Lovren and this was effective for Leicester when they actually won certain balls back.
However, one of the three midfielders dropped back to give the numerical support at the back. And it was the Liverpool captain in most cases, Henderson helped his side by dropping deep to split the defensive center halves helping the Reds to circulate the ball better at the back. When Liverpool maintained their 2-5-3 shape, Liverpool often had more numbers in midfield and gave more width which eventually allowed them to find more space in the wide areas behind the back four through situational overloads.
Leicester’s late surge and Liverpool’s defensive reactions
Leicester looked to have found their rhythm in the second half in search of their equalizer and with the introduction of Demarai Gray for Mahrez, Leicester found the right balance going forward against this Liverpool side. However Liverpool with the introduction of Sturridge responded well as he dropped into midfield and was adept at holding up play.
In defense, when Leicester developed possession in the central area to find spaces, Liverpool defended in backs of four and five. Both the wingers dropped deep and joined the midfield three. The image below shows the case of Liverpool defending with five in the midfield.
However Liverpool were slightly off balance when Leicester got their grip. In counters, Leicester were able to effectively find the wide players and play crosses into the box. In other cases, they were able to exploit the holes in Liverpool midfield as the ball carrier was able to find runners easily in space.
It can be identified from the above image where Leicester found spaces in turnovers in central and wide areas.
Liverpool were able to score a goal against the run of play in the second half and extended their lead. However Vardy was able to find another for Leicester immediately to cut short Liverpool’s lead to one goal. Much has been said about Liverpool’s attack under Klopp but their defence is still a worry as it was evident from this game.
Though Liverpool’s attack made up their defence, they need to improve should they aim to contend for the title or even finish in the top four. Collecting just 4 points from 18, this should be a worry for Craig Shakespeare as his side has been good with the performances but has failed to grab the final result.