Two teams that usually feature in blue played against each other on Sunday in the Premier League. This tactical analysis will focus on the match between Leicester City and Everton. Two teams who are competing at opposite ends of the table with a different set of tactics, as this analysis will show.
Leicester City is having a great season with good results and consequently, are second in a very interesting battle with Chelsea and Manchester City. A win over Everton would not only guarantee the second spot for another week but also expand their lead over Chelsea and Manchester City, who both dropped points.
Everton, however, are not having great results at all. The Toffees are dangerously close to the bottom spots and in this form, they might have to fear for relegation at the end of the season. A win was vital for the club and for manager Marco Silva.
In this tactical analysis, we will focus on three tactical trends. First, we look at the attacking style of play in the first half of Leicester City, then we will have a look at how Everton frustrated Leicester City in defence and finally we look at how the introduction of Kelechi Iheanacho brought the home, a vital win in this Premier League encounter.
Leicester City’s manager, Brendan Rodgers, fielded a 4-3-3 formation with an attacking midfield. While Wilfred Ndidi played closer to the defence, Youri Tielemans and James Maddison played close to the three strikers – giving Leicester City plenty of options going forward.
Everton’s manager, Marco Silva, chose a different formation in this vital away game for the Toffees, as he fielded a 3-4-3 formation with Lucas Digne and Djibril Sidibé as wing-backs in this rather surprising formation. How they were defensively is something we will touch upon later.
Attacking style of play Leicester City in the first half
Leicester have not dropped points in the Premier League since they lost away at Anfield against Liverpool, back on October 5th. They have won against Burnley, Southampton, Crystal Palace, Arsenal, and Brighton. They were hoping to add to that run with Everton. Their defence is strong, but their attack is a vital part of their way of play as they scored 17 goals in those games.
In this analysis, we will look closer at how Leicester City constructed their attack from the 4-3-3 formation Brendan Rodgers fielded. Leicester City’s attacks started with their centre-backs Caglar Söyüncü and Jonny Evans. Their passing was instrumental at the start of their attack and was the beginning of it as well. Evans had 35 passes forward (77% completed) and Söyüncü had 23 passes forward (96%). Their aim was to pass the ball forward, as the full-backs were occupying the flanks on their own half.
As you can see in the image above, the centre-backs move upwards and the full-backs make themselves available to receive the passes. In doing so they broaden the pitch and make sure they utilise the space that is open, as Everton is occupied with the players closer to their defence.
This is, however, one option that the centre-backs had to pass the ball to. Another option was given by defensive midfielder Ndidi, who would drop down from the midfield to collect the ball and give the attacking players options to receive the ball, as is illustrated in the image below.
When Ndidi had the ball, he had different options but full-back Chilwell had plenty of space on the left side. This could be possible due to the fact that five Everton Players were occupied with the three-man midfield of Leicester City. This 5 vs 3 overload in the midfield made it possible for the full-backs to make runs down the line.
On the occasion that Ndidi would pass the ball to Maddison or Thielemans, the pace would get higher. In the image below you can see what happens when Leicester City quickly move forward on the flanks when Maddison passes the ball forward. Both the left-winger Barnes and full-back Chilwell move up on the opponents’ half.
After these movements forward, the full-backs provided crosses from the flanks, but this is where this style of attacking did not work: the crosses were not of sufficient quality for the attacking players to convert them into chances, which was worrying. This can be seen in the crosses Chilwell provided in this game, in the image below.
Right-back Pereira did not perform a lot better with only 1 of his 3 crosses getting to his teammates. The attacking style of play was very straightforward and the idea was clear, but the execution of the crosses by the full-backs was not good enough. The game plan had to be changed by the home side and we will look at that change, later on in this tactical analysis.
Everton’s tight defensive line frustrating the hosts
Everton needed to get a result to stay away from the relegation zone and tried to do that with a disciplined defensive set up of their 3-4-3 formation. They started with three central defenders consisting of Keane-Mina-Holgate. Those three defenders were assisted by a four-man midfield in the 3-4-3 formation as the image below shows. In the build-up and attacking phase this was the shape they stood in.
This was how they played when they were moving up to attack and pose a threat to the Leicester City goal, but in defence they had a different shape. When they were under threat of a Leicester City attack they changed their shape and their wing-backs played a very big part in the transformation of the shape.
The wing-backs Digne and Sidibé move from the four-man midfield to the defence as Leicester City progressed on the Everton half. Their movement towards the three central defenders was the first step in going to another formation with five defenders, as you can see in the image below. Leicester City played with three attacking players and with the pace they have, a 3 v 3 in the final third would be lethal to the Everton defence. A five-man defence was needed.
The shape changed to five defenders and this was not the only thing that changed in this formation. The formation changed from a 3-4-3 formation into a 5-4-1 formation with four defensive-minded midfielders guarding the five-man defence, as you can see in the image below.
Everton’s four-man midfield consisted of the same four players. Two players were always the defensive bloc: Tom Davis and Gylfi Sigurðsson, while they were also joined by Iwobi and Richarlison. Together they formed the 5-4-1 formation that proved to be a tough nut to crack for Leicester City and later needed to change their tactics.
Iheanacho, the key to victory
The 62nd minute was the turning point for Leicester City as Brendan Rodgers made a change in his squad. He replaced Ayoze Perez with Iheanacho and that changed the idea of the match. Leicester City changed their formation and moved to a 4-3-2-1 formation with three attacking players, playing close to each other. Vardy and Iheanacho played as the two strikers, with Maddison playing just behind them in the number 10 position.
They played through the middle, which left more space open on the flanks. Combined with the three attacking players in the middle, this led to a numeric advantage when Leicester City attacked. In the image below you can see how those three attacking players stood versus the Evertonian defence.
The space on the flanks was a more intense version of what happened in the first half but after Iheanacho came on, the danger came from the triangle in the middle. Instead of trying to utilise the flanks and provide crosses, the players chose to get the attacking from the middle. 18 of the 54 attacks were formed through the middle with a total xG of 0.44. This is not exactly what made Leicester win the game, but the involvement of Iheanacho was a vital part.
Iheanacho came on and was involved in both the goals scored by Leicester City. We will take a look at how he performed in these 30 minutes and made an impact on the attacking style of play of Leicester City. He had 30 actions in this game, of which 16 were successful and he had a pass accuracy of 83% – but his decisive actions in the final third was what made him an asset in this game. The moment he needed to move forward is especially interesting.
In the image below we see how Iheanacho moves forward anticipating the weighted pass from Ndidi and at the same time, Vardy moves into space on the left side. The number 9 is anticipating Iheanacho further actions.
Just a few moments later, Iheanacho sees Vardy moving to the far post and his cross is a good one. This we can see in the image below.
His movement could also be seen just before he scored that injury-time winner against Everton. Iheanacho gets in the right position to launch himself if he gets the pass from a teammate.
An injury-time winner gives a lot of joy to the team that is having quite the season in 2019-2020. The movement of Iheanacho was instrumental in their way of playing in the last half hour of the game and saw them clinch the victory.
Beforehand, it looked like an easy win for Leicester City as the Everton were struggling on the bottom half of the table. But football is a funny game and the 5-3-2 formation of Everton in defence gave Leicester City trouble going forward. Combined with the lack of quality from the crosses of the Leicester City’s full-backs, it was not weird that they were trailing Everton 0-1 in the first hour of the game. Bringing on Iheanacho and playing with a tight attacking triangle was the key to success and to win this game against Everton.
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