Everton hosted Leicester City in where Duncan Ferguson has newly coined the ’bear pit’ Goodison Park for a quarter-final clash in the EFL League Cup. Although the Foxes qualified for the semi-finals, Brendan Rogers’ wait to get his first win at Goodison Park goes on as the Toffee’s returned with two goals in the second half to make it a full-time score, 2-2.
The tactical analysis below tells the story of the game from a tactical standpoint.
Here we analyse the tactics deployed by both managers, including how both teams set up to attack and defend as well as other key aspects to both teams performance.
Leighton Baines makes his first start of the season having only played eight minutes at Old Trafford this past weekend, Duncan Ferguson had seen enough to recall the fan favourite left-back into the starting XI for this big game. Seasoned centre-back Mason Holgate continues in his newfound role beside Tom Davies in centre-midfield, just behind the paired strikers Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Leicester City 4-1-4-1
The Premier League’s top goal scorer leads the line as a lone striker, followed closely behind by the ever-threatening James Maddison in centre-midfield. Marc Albrighton and Ayoze Pérez occupy the flanks in-front of the inform full-backs Ben Chilwell and Ricardo Pereira. The trusted Wilfred Ndidi is once again tasked with the deeper-lying midfield role in front of Wes Morgan and Johnny Evans.
Everton drop together & press together
As Leicester City controlled the game with superior possession from the early stages, we got to see Everton’s plan out of possession very early. Careful not to leave chances open for Leicester to create overloads and play through their block Everton were highly disciplined in their defending. As Leicester built from the back Everton stayed disciplined in their 4-4-2 shape. Organising a midblock on the edge of the middle third, Everton’s forwards and midfield moved as a compact unit horizontally to the same pace Leicester moved the ball from flank to flank. Such to deny Leicester defenders ample time they were seeking to play through the units.
Through analysis we could see that in transition Everton were defensively aggressive and organised to the moment, knowing full well how dangerous Leicester can be on the counter-attack their efficiency, in this case, could not be overstated. In the moments when Everton turned over possession from their attack in the Leicester’s final third, those, in particular, were the moments we saw Everton pressing in units. Everton done superbly well to limit a full-strength Leicester city side to only two counter-attacks in this game.
Leicester play through the block
The above data gives clear evidence where Leicester sought to find success.
Supported by the athletic full-backs and the creative movement from midfield Leicester were very well organised and efficient building up play into wide areas
Here we identify one repetitious fundamental movement used by Leicester City to beat the block when building from the back. Maddison represented by the ‘red’ player labelled ‘CM’ to the bottom left of the image drops deep to join the defensive line. The ‘yellow’ arrow represents the movement the player made from his orthodox position to receive the ball in space. This is best executed when the ball has come from the other flank when the opponent is not yet compact or aware of the movement.
Considering football by numbers, the left flank would be a ‘2v2’ with both teams wingers and full-backs matching up. Now Maddison can progress from deep unmarked to create a ‘3v2’with Chilwell and Albrighton up ahead. Maddison the ‘CM’ engages the winger then release Chilwell forward into the final third with the ball. If the Everton forward comes across to press Maddison, then the free centre-back can take the ball and step into midfield unmarked. Leicester were very effective building with this strategy.
Another key movement Leicester used to penetrate into the final third, Right-back Pereira is in possession and has ample time to play a ground pass forward. Utilising a high to low rotation Leicester winger Pérez comes short to the full-back to create space, as Everton left-back Baines follows his player, inside centre-midfielder Dennis Praet makes a run into the space created by his teammate to receive line splitting pass from the right-back, Pereira.
Although a chance could not be forged to deliver a ball into the central area to meet the advancing runs of Maddison and Vardy, this still developed into more prominent attacking opportunities for Leicester by getting an offensive organisation in Everton’s final third. From a similar movement and a similar position, Maddison converted from a cross just inside the box to open the scoring 0-1.
Attacks were favoured in wide areas and more so on the right flank.
Everton were reduced to a much lower xG rating than in recent games.
Prefacing Everton’s set up again we take a snapshot of how the teams matched up, call it football by numbers. The ‘blue’ represents Everton. In attack starting with a balanced shape, we see Everton are matched for numbers in each zone except for the central area, where they are inferior to Leicester’s choice of three central midfielders [Ndidi, Praet, and Maddison]. Naturally, this would shift Everton into wide areas when building attacks.
Only for Leicester disciplined defending to force play wide and then deny Everton crossing opportunities, Everton’s attacks perhaps could be mistaken for lacking a bit of quality at times however I would go as far to credit Leicester for reducing Everton’s wide attacks to little promise.
In the last third of the match, we a new lease of life and a tactical advantage created with the change to a 4-2-3-1 and rotation of personnel. It is key to note Richarlison a left-footed player was moved to the right and Calvert-Lewin a right-footed player was moved to the left. Both these forward were then on their stronger foot cutting inside from the flanks which was effective when changing the point of attack at pace. The use of this left & right foot on both flanks serves as a dual purpose of attack so that dangerous crosses can still be delivered and wide attackers can also cut inside to penetrate or find the target.
Leicester City defence
There are many simple but often overlooked qualities to the best defence in the Premier League. Consider the following, how rarely Leicester give away free-kicks in their final third, how seldom Leicester give away corner kicks and even how unusual it is this season to see opponents threaten Leicester City from counter-attacks. So many sub-points can be expanded upon in each of these areas but as an overarching point, Leicester are a team that hold firmly to their defensive values. Take note when watching this Leicester team defend in their own half, the tackling is calculated and clean, not leaving room for risk or error of body clashing and tripping opponents to give away silly fouls. Leicester’s tackling even changes depending on what third of the field they are in.
In the above image, we take a snapshot of Leicester during an organised defensive phase.
Notice how Leicester’s central midfield double up on Everton’s Alex Iwobi.
In this moment Iwobi was controlling a bouncing ball. Clever and well-timed, Maddison leaves his man to come short, support Ndidi and win possession back cleanly before Iwobi has a chance to lay off a pass. The back four are centrally compact and alert to the danger that may advance.
Here we take a look at Leicester when they transition to defend.
This image is an excellent example of Leicesters’ discipline and energy in defence.
Moments before this image, Leicester were horizontally stretched from developing an attack. Possession was lost and the retreat was imminent, full-backs come central and four Leicester midfielders sprint to get goal-side of the attacker. Notice the Leicester ‘CM’ Maddison recovering to press the ball carrier while ‘LM’ 30-year-old Albrighton tracks the run of his junior Iwobi so to deny Everton a chance to breach the defensive line.
Perhaps due to Everton’s change of tactics which seemed to show them more promise, Brendan Rogers retreated to a very unusual 5-3-2 formation. It must be mentioned, for all the territory and possession that Everton boasted late in the second half that seemed to show developing chances for a reward, with equal measure of opportunity and danger was the counter-attacking threat of the Vardy and Gray partnership upfront.
Leicester still dangerous from set-pieces
Before the game, Leicester had the second-best record in the Premier League for goals scored from set-pieces this season with a tally of 6 goals. On the other hand, Everton had the joint-worst record in the league for goals conceded from set-pieces this season giving way for opponents to find the net seven times. Going into this game, I was anticipating at the very least a good chance to score from a set-piece to be mustered, let alone a goal. Sure enough, that is what happened, 29 minutes into the game and a top-class set-piece move is executed with precision.
Set-pieces have become a sort of a speciality of for Leicester this season and it’s worth watching more closely as they progress how they will continue to find success from set-pieces. Many top-flight teams will often try and fail to execute this double movement flick-header and finish, however it is quality and something of an art when executed so well.
After Baines wonder-strike in the 91st minute, the referee signalled for penalties at the final whistle. Everton will be kicking themselves they did not somehow carry all that positive momentum they finished the game with into the shoot-out to get an equally positive outcome. Perhaps fatigue and nerves matched up against world-class goalkeepers had something to do with it but a lack of perfection in the first two penalty kicks for Everton was enough to see Leicester progress to the semi-final of the Carabao League Cup.
Ferguson may not get the recognition he deserves for his strokes of tactical genius in this game. In the first half, Everton did not seem to offer much in front of goal, not least were there chances few and far between. However, the rotation of personnel and the change in tactics in the second half caught Leicester by surprise and they seemed to be raising the attacking intensity with right until the very end. The Leicester defensive masterclass was tested well, denying Everton any advances over an xG rating of 1.03.
It is worth mentioning the Leighton Baines 91st minute equaliser had an xG rating of 0.02
In Lehmann’s terms, giving the position of the shot a 2% chance of scoring, and sure enough to endearing Everton Fans delight, that is exactly what happened.
Leicester City march on to the semi-finals and with them, they will take away many lessons from this game. Both where they may have got more success and where they may have been punished but for a bit of fortune. The next time these sides meet will be an interesting watch, however, who will sit in the dugout at the ‘bear pit’ Goodison Park we will have to wait and see.
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