Leicester City have undeniably had a fantastic season so far. They currently sit third in the Premier League 8 points ahead of Chelsea in fourth and 10 points ahead of Sheffield United in fifth. Considering Brendan Rodgers side are only 3 points off their total of 52 points from last season with 13 games still to play highlights the improvements they have made this year. Jamie Vardy and James Maddison have taken a lot of the headlines this season and deservedly so. Vardy is the League’s top goalscorer on 17 and Maddison is getting his first call-up to the England first team.
A big reason for their success this season has been Harvey Barnes. The left-winger/midfielder has developed massively under Rodgers this season with 4 goals and 6 assists so far. This tactical analysis/scout report will look at how Barnes has developed. It will look at how the young midfielder has added goals and assists to his game as well as his defensive work rate and the analysis will also look at the tactics used by Rodgers to improve Barnes.
How Harvey Barnes has added assists to his game?
With 6 assists Barnes is the ninth highest provider in the Premier League, and this is also the most for Leicester. It has happened as Rodgers has encouraged him to take risks in both driving forward and in the type of ball to look for. His passing is one of the biggest changes under Rodgers. A big part of his role is to provide goals and assists and to do this it requires him to be creative in the final third. Therefore Rodgers has encouraged him to play more smart passes.
The graph below shows the increase in the number of smart passes he is making. The interesting point about this is only 1 of these passes was from his own half and was not completed. This demonstrates good decision-making as he is taking risks in the right areas. 7.3% of these passes were key passes and 3.6% lead to an assist. The increase in the number of smart passes he is attempting is good to see as it shows he is looking to affect the game more.
Types of passes
This scout report has mentioned how he has increased his number of smart passes. However, it is not the only way he has changed his passing style – there has been a decrease in the number of long passes Barnes will attempt. The winger does complete 81.5% of his long passes but none of them have been a key pass. Instead, Barnes looks for the progressive and simple pass.
The reason Barnes looks for these types of passes is that it plays into his strengths. Barnes is an energetic winger that loves to drive with the ball. To do this he needs have space to run into. The example below highlights how he does this. It highlights how because he has made a simple pass back to Ben Chilwell, it forced the Aston Villa defender to move out of position. This leaves Barnes in a one vs one scenario where he has space to run at the defender. It is no surprise that the winger completes 87.1% of these passes.
Harvey Barnes had quite a successful period with West Bromwich Albion as the 22-year-old scored 9 times in 26 appearances. His style of play catches the eye with his raw pace combined with the technical ability which makes him exciting to watch. Not only is it good to watch, but it is effective as the winger has currently won 70.5% of his one vs ones. It is noticeably the player’s best quality which Rodgers has recognised and so uses it to the team’s advantage.
Barnes ability to drive with the ball at pace is frightening for defenders. This is because if they try to be tight his skill on the ball enables him to dribble around them, but if they give him space he is difficult to stop with his pace.
The example below sums this up as he picks the ball up on the halfway line and has a lot of space to run into. This leads to a superb solo goal from Barnes as he drives with the ball into the box and has the composure to put his shot in the top corner. Notice how he has options in where to run making it harder for defenders to predict what he will do. Interestingly, he decides to go to the right when there is more space on the left. However, Vardy’s run splits the defence even more, and this shows his decision-making quality.
His acceleration on the ball is a key to the success as only 1/137 times has Barnes lost the ball. This is another part of his game that Rodgers has been able to bring out of Barnes and since being appointed at Leicester, Rodgers has encouraged Barnes to drive with the ball to find a pass and move into space.
The graph below illustrates just how much more he has done this since Rodgers was appointed in February of 2019. It also highlights how he has been told to either pass or take on his man, both of which mean Leicester can get forward to attack teams. It is refreshing to see a young winger embracing the chances to just run at defenders.
Positioning leading to more shots
For most managers now they want a right-footed winger on the left-hand side because it gives them the option to cut inside. This is exactly what Rodgers has with Barnes. With this in mind, it is interesting that Barnes often hugs the touchline. This is done because it stretches the opponent’s defence and gives Leicester two option in attack. If the opponents are compact they can play down the line, however, if they push wide it gives the wingers space to come inside. This is perfect for Barnes he often looks to get a shot off on his right foot.
The first image below shows his territorial coverage. Notice just how much time he spends out wide and in a position to have a shot with his right foot. The second image only confirms where he likes to shoot from as 24.4% of his shots come from outside the box on the left-hand side. His finishing is also good as 42.4% of his shots are on target and 10.4% of these resulting in goals. As he gets himself in this regularly it has resulted in 42 shots. At Leicester, only Vardy and Maddison have had more.
So far this scout report has looked at how Harvey Barnes has improved offensively. However, his improvement defensively is arguably his biggest change under Rodgers. Barnes has always looked fantastic going forward but nevertheless, because of the high-intensity Rodgers demands from his team, Barnes has had to do more working back. Just like how the whole team has embraced this way of playing to accommodate Barnes, as a result, Barnes’ time spent defending has risen from 8% to 14%.
The image below encapsulates this. It shows Barnes tracking back to block the cross from Pablo Zabaleta. He is not the best defensively but his determination to win the ball back for his team has definitely improved since Rodgers arrival. This particular example shows his work rate as he has tracked Zabaleta from the halfway line not giving him any space. For Leicester, this is not just an improvement from Barnes, but the whole team and is a big reason why they have had 8 clean sheets and the most tackles in the league – 97 more than Southampton.
To conclude this tactical analysis/scout report it is clear to see Harvey Barnes has developed into dangerous player for Leicester. Barnes’ transformation under Rodgers has been impressive and though the winger has always had talent, he is now adding end product to his game.
With the Euros in the summer, Gareth Southgate will be looking at the in-form and standout players of the season. There is the debate on who should be going with the likes of James Maddison and Jack Grealish having fine seasons. Nevertheless, if Barnes continues to improve in the way he is, he may well be a very good option for England in the summer.