In this round of Premier League, 2019/20 fixtures Leicester City took on West Ham United. This tactical analysis will break down the tactics used by Brendan Rodgers as his side dismantled West Ham. This analysis will also look at how David Moyes adjusted his tactics during the game to try and get his team back into the game.
Leicester City have been one of the standout teams this year and have looked a solid top-four outfit. The foxes have only lost six games all season. Two of which being in their last two games to Burnley and Southampton. Whereas West Ham have only won six games all season. However, despite the vast contrast in form, it was surprising just how easy the home side found it at times. Considering West Ham are currently in a relegation fight. The analysis will break down how Leicester tactically got it right.
Part of the Foxes success this year has come from the fluid movement in their midfield. This has come for their 4-1-4-1 system. This system becomes interchangeable as the game goes on. The two central midfielders and the deeper central midfielders all provide different roles. The defensive midfielder who at the start of the game was Nampalys Mendy provides a defensive cover in front of centre-backs. His role is to be the pivot in the middle to get the ball forward and wide quickly. When defending Youri Tielemans will drop back alongside Mendy, changing the system to a 4-2-3-1. this movement also moves James Maddison into a central position behind the striker. As a result of this Leicester have several players who are not deep and can, therefore, break quickly.
Since West Ham has reappointed Moyes they have been looking to change their form. To do this they have mixed up their approach to each game. This game was no different as he went with a 5-3-2 system. This formation was very much designed to try and contain Leicester. They, in theory, wanted the three central midfielders to be tight to the defence so there is very little space for the foxes to play in and get in behind. The Hammers would then want to get at Leicester through the middle using Sébastien Haller as the outlet to hold up the ball. With Manuel Lanzini playing alongside him they would have an option to break out and get forward.
From the outset, it was clear that West Ham was going to struggle to contain Leicester. This was because of the movement in the attacking players. Jamie Vardy is constantly looking for a way to get in behind a team as he is always playing on the shoulder of the defender. The way West Ham is set up means that there is not this space centrally. As a result, he will move wider for the ball down the channels. This stretches the Hammers as this takes a central defender with him leaving space in the middle for Maddison to move into. This sort of movement was happening across Leicester’s attacking line as the two wide players also like to come inside as Maddison moves out wide making them difficult to mark.
In contrast, West Ham found it difficult to get out of their half. The image below shows the problem West Ham have. Leicester are eager to win the ball back quickly after losing it and therefore commit men towards the ball. In this case, they put pressure on Arthur Masuaku. The wing-back does not have many options on the ball as Mark Noble makes a run out wide to free the space in the middle and drag Tielemans with him. However, neither of the front two are offering for the ball and Robert Snodgrass is too far out on the wing. As a result, Masuaku tries driving through the middle and loses the ball. In this occasion, the tackle from Mendy fell to Pablo Zabaleta who cleared the ball.
This was a constant problem for West Ham as they could not cope with the high intensity. Leicester made 30 recoveries in West Hams half while the Hammers could only manage 11. The home side had 84% of the ball in the first fifteen minutes illustrating the hammers difficulties.
Harvey Barnes threat
The 22-year-old has become a dangerous weapon in the foxes armoury with three goals in his last four games. he is beginning to have a greater impact in games. This is because of the positions he is now taking up. The fluidity in the Leicester attack means that Barnes is encouraged to drift around and often take up central positions. in the example below, it shows how effective his movement ca be.
The image below shows Barnes picking up the ball in a central position with nobody marking him. This is where he can be dangerous as he has time to pick a pass out wide to Pereria who has left his marker on the edge of the box. Pereria then fires a cross into the box for Barnes making it 1-0.
Barnes also does his defensive work effectively as he is prepared to trackback. This shows just how much he has improved as he understands that where he plays also requires him to get back. It was a good all-round performance from Barnes with a pass accuracy of 91%, one goal and one assist.
Moyes tactical change
It was evident from the first half that Moyes did not set up the team in the right way. Nevertheless as effective as Leicester have been West Ham were really poor first half. This was summed up in Leicester second goal. No West Ham player got close to Barnes as he was able to cut the ball back to Pereira who was unmarked at the back post. It was still a great strike from the right-back but he should not have had the time or space. To try and get his team up the pitch Moyes made two changes at half time bringing on Michail Antonio and Pablo Fornals. This meant a change to a 4-4-2. The system would mean that Lanzini and Fornals would be in a deeper position. This is where they can pick the ball up in pockets and find a forward pass getting West Ham up the pitch.
This tactical change had an impact as immediately after the goal West Ham’s expected goals increased. The graph below shows that with the new system West Ham looked for a period to be the next team to score in the game. This is also boosted by their increased work rate as the pressing intensity graph shows this was often lead by Antonio. The team were now working harder which was putting Leicester under pressure and allowing them to get forward.
Leicester finishes the game in style
Moyes tactical change had made his team more competitive and with the goal, they had given themselves a way back into the game. However, after West Ham’s quick start to the second half Leicester were able to regain control of the game. This is due to the way that they like to build attacks and ability to retain the ball. Rodgers likes his team to build from the back and pass through teams. Leicester are doing this well as the movement in the midfield always means that there is an option on the ball. They do this by moving into the gaps between the defence and midfield
As the half went on it Leicester continued to open up West Ham. However, it was not until the 81st that they put the game to bed with a goal from the penalty spot. Then six minutes later Pérez finished off a fine move to make it 4-1. The image below shows just how much space Pérez finds himself in the penalty area. This should not happen considering the number of players in the box. Despite this, the cross should never have reached him as it is a ball played along the ground which should have been cut out by the Hammers.
To conclude it was another fine performance for Leicester as they look to cement their top-four spots. It is a positive result in a lot of ways for Rodgers. Wilfred Ndidi was able to get back after injury. His team also showed good character as they did not panic when West Ham made it 2-1. The foxes will go into their upcoming cup games with a lot of confidence with the squad playing well.
As for West Ham, it is worrying signs. Despite the different approach in the second half, the Hammers looked short of ideas and defensively where far to open. They now have a cup tie against West Brom before they play Liverpool in the Premier League. Moyes needs to change things quickly if West Ham wants to stay in the Premier League.