Brighton & Hove Albion hosted in-form Leicester City to for game week 13 of the Premier League season. Although the result went in favour of the visitors by two goals to zero, Brighton may take confidence from an all-round dominant display that was just short of the finishing touches.
Brendan Rogers’ side boast the best defensive record so far this season, conceding six fewer than third-placed Manchester City and four less than first-placed Liverpool. Although not enjoying much possession in the second half that was where Leicester did the damage. Both goals born out of their signature counter-attacks, Ayoze Perez taps in from close range shortly before Jamie Vardy converted from the spot. Final score; Brighton & Hove Albion 0 – 2 Leicester City.
The tactical analysis below tells the story of the game from a tactical standpoint with the support of key statistical data. Analysing tactics deployed by both managers we look at Brighton and Leicester’s attacking qualities as well how Leicester doubled their lead when Brighton pushed for the equaliser.
The tried and trusted Foxes, Brendan Rogers did not seem to have much to contemplate as he set out the same side that collected three points against Arsenal last week. Jamie Vardy led the line alone upfront with play-maker James Maddison and Youri Tielemans following closely behind. Ben Chilwell and Ricardo commanded the flanks of the Leicester attacks while Harvey Barnes and Ayoze Pérez had the freedom to make runs inside. Defensive midfielder Wilfred Ndidi protected the already watertight back four made up by the solid centre-back pairing of Çağlar Söyüncü and Johnny Evans.
Graham Potter has changed system and personnel quite often in this first third of the season. Although the 3-4-2-1 formation ultimately did not serve to return the desired result that the performance deserved, Brighton looked solid at the back and a threat going forward. Lewis Dunk missed the game through suspension, so it was a reintroduction to the side for Adam Webster at centre-back. Martin Montoya and Solomon March operated as high-wide wing-backs while just up in front was Leandro Tossard, Aaron Mooy and Neil Maupay.
How both teams matched up
Leicester dominated the early stages of the game, with patient build-up play from the back they looked to gain an advantage in wide areas. Once crossing opportunities were reached Leicester would look to deliver crosses to meet the attacking runs from Brighton’s weak side.
Brighton for the initial phases occupied a mid-block inside their own half to deal with Leicester’s build-up play. However, they did not seem to develop many fruitful attacking moments in transition from this strategy. Brighton got a foothold in the game and looked to get success from their own build-up play however unsuccessful.
Brighton came out the stronger in the second half, still with better ball possession and a determination to find the breakthrough, Leicester’s defensive resolve was tested. That said, the trade-off that presented itself for both teams were Brighton’s susceptibility to the counter-attack and Leicester’s opportunity to execute.
Consider the statistics above, as we can see Leicester City’s two goals indicated by the two broken vertical red lines, came at a time when Brighton seemed to dominate possession and seemed more likely to find the goal. Easy to establish at this point, Leicester emphasised and succeeded at their intention to counter-attack.
Still, with the minority of possession, we are helped understand why Leicester had an xG of 2.94 versus Brighton xG of 0.73. Leicester were unlucky not to capitalise further from their nine counter-attacks.
Leicester beating the block
When Leicester attacked in their better spell of possession they were challenged to get past the mid-block of Brighton. In their defensive shape, Brighton’s wing-backs were tasked with neutralising the wide-midfielders Perez and Barnes who pushed high, allowing full-backs Chilwell and Ricardo to move into space and penetrate in wide areas.
Chilwell and Perez were vital to Leicester’s build-up play, playing key passes to advancing players and making runs from deep. Leicester got into prominent attacking positions this way and looked dangerous from wide areas including set-pieces. The four midfielders anchored by the wide full-backs and the deeper midfielder Ndidi were offered opportunity to move in and out of the half-spaces and central areas to create overloads. Although they could not find the breakthrough from their build-up play, Leicester seemed a threat and capable of undoing the Brighton defence.
Brighton’s prominent attack
Brighton advanced quite well and were able to play through the Leicester high press quite confidently. Utilising all units from defence through midfield and onward, Brighton found their opportunity to progress into the final third via the wide areas. As Maupay was the concentrated target player occupying the centre-backs this allowed both attacking midfielders, Mooy and Trossard to move into the half-spaces to create overloads. The wing-backs were critical in the final third as March and Montoya continued their runs forward from combinations as they aimed to play crosses to the centre-forward Maupay.
Brighton although unable to undo the best defence in the league, this very progressive attacking system will find its full value in more games this season. Mooy & Trossard played a crucial role as they moved to receive passes in between the defence and midfield units of the opposition. The progressive play and vision in attack needs to be supported by quality execution if Brighton are to get the rewards of their new-found attacking style. The low xG indicated above owed somewhat to the defensive qualities of Leicester.
Leicester City counter-attack
Leicester’s signature high value counter-attacking football came to life in the second half. Particularly when Brighton seemed to be playing high-risk/high-reward possession football Vardy, Maddison and Ndidi came to life for counter-attacks. There are a few key aspects to note when analysing Leicester’s transition to attack. Firstly, shape; Vardy predominantly the target man would occupy the half-spaces so that he may make an angled run and meet a through ball in central areas.
Secondly, the attacking midfielders turn to play forward even with minimal pressure as the chance of reward to be claimed outweighed the security of possession from a safe pass backwards. Maddison was particularly skilfull and able to execute these types of penetrating passes forward quite often. Subsequently, he provided the assist before the assist for Leicester’s first goal, so to speak.
The third point to highlight, the first touch when possession is won back. Ndidi offers that Kante-Esq style of midfield support, as he would win a defensive header and aim it towards a teammate’s feet or tackle into a pass.
As the game progressed, Brighton pushed harder for the equaliser committing defenders forward for crosses. As this happened Leicester’s effective counter-attacks increased, although not able to convert on some better opportunities these moments showed greater opportunity to claim reward with a much higher xG.
Leicester’s watertight defence
Leicester proved their defensive record is not just luck, out of possession Leicester controlled the game well. Isolating players in counter-attacks, pressing hard on opposition throw-ins and having sound defensive principles during opposition attacks. Leicester’s tackling, for example, they did not seem to give up free-kicks in dangerous positions or even many corners for that matter. Brighton, could not find the opportunity to combine with overloads with their advancing wing-backs or succeed in 1v1’s. Johnny Evans and Söyüncü martial their box quite well and seem to take as much pride in goals scored as goals kept out.
Here we see LB, Chilwell defending the ball carrier. As you can see in the image CB’s Evans and Söyüncü do not get pulled about of position, they remain centralised and balanced as CDM and CM are required to follow their relative opponents as they make penetrating runs from deep.
Here is an example when Leicester defend a counter-attack. Brighton win the ball back from a Leicester corner and begin to attack. Leicester players force the ball carrier from a central are into a wide area so to isolate the attacker and win the ball back before he advances into dangerous positions.
Another critical and often overlooked moment of the game, Leicester press with intensity and in numbers to deny opponents any advancements from throw-ins. At this moment the RWB throws to RAM who plays a pass back. Immediately as this happens Vardy presses the player in possession along the angle to block an outlet pass. Midfielders for Leicester mark tight and deny passing opportunities. Seconds later the RWB for Brighton plays a miss-placed pass into the path of Johnny Evans who plays directly for Leicester to counter-attack the space left unoccupied by the RWB.
Leicester seem to have very high standards of practice when it comes to their defending. Their low numbers of fouls or corners conceded are an exemplification of their discipline. Their defence and quickness in the transition show why they sit second in the Premier League table.
As this analysis shows, Brighton were tasked with undoing the best defence in the league, even with their fantastic attacking display and creative attacks to break the lines they could not claim any reward. Leicester championed for the very same reason will be happy with their resolve in defence and their ability to get the goals in a period of so little possession. Brighton will go on to claim three points in December with this brand of attacking football I am confident of that. Graham Potter and his men go uncelebrated from this game but will take heart and confidence in their ability to play when they reflect. Leicester City still looking dangerous on all fronts are a side to watch closely in the last two-thirds of the season. For now, Leicester collect three points and move into game week 14 placed second in the table.
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