Norwich City were looking for a vital three points to help them potentially avoid relegation from the Premier League when they came up against Leicester City. The Canaries sat bottom of the table and seven points off safety. A win would, therefore, be the only option if they were to have any chance of staying in the Premier League. Leicester sat six points clear in 3rd of Chelsea who are 4th and therefore are not guaranteed Champions League football. If they were to lose and Manchester United was able to win at Goodison Park they would only be 6 points off the Foxes. A win was therefore key for Leicester City to maintain their position in the Champions League places in what has been an excellent season by Brenden Rodgers and Leicester. Norwich City despite being bottom has often played better than results suggest. The key to survival would be to turn these good performances into good results which would put pressure on those above them. It looked to be an exciting game between two sides who play good football in forwarding areas.

Norwich grabbed a vital 1-0 win in a game that was full of attacking quality and a VAR controversy as there seems to be every week in the Premier League. Norwich, as a result, sit three points off West Ham in 18th place (This may have changed depending on the West Ham Vs Southampton result). It was a vital win for the Canaries and despite survival still seeming unlikely due to their upcoming fixtures, it gives them a fighting chance. Leicester, on the other hand, will be disappointed with the result and the lack of cutting edge they had during the match. The lack of Jamie Vardy seems to be evident on the pitch as they seem to lack a ruthlessness that they had when Vardy is available. Moving forward they will need to dust themselves down and pick up points as the likes of Wolves, Chelsea and Manchester United are all breathing down their neck.

This tactical analysis will attempt to look at the ways in both teams attempted to win the match. This analysis will also look at the tactics used by both teams and how Norwich was able to prevent Leicester from playing their usual game and use their strengths to hurt them in transitions.

Lineups 

Norwich lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Tim Krul, who has been one of their best players, started in goal. Ben Godfery and Grant Hanley started as the central defenders. Their solidity would be key to stopping Leicester scoring. Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis were the two full-backs. Their role would be key in Norwich’s build-up play and getting the ball into key areas. Alex Tettey and Kenny McLean were the two holding midfielders. They would have the role of breaking through the lines and breaking up the attacking play Leicester had on show. Todd Cantwell and Emi Buendía were the two wider players. Although on paper it seemed as if they would play wide they were very narrow in order to create chances. Ondrej Duda was in the central attacking midfield position with Teemu Pukki as per usual leading the line.

Leicester lined up in a 4-5-1, however, when attacking it almost transformed into a 4-3-3. The ever-present Kasper Schmeichel started in between the sticks. Jonny Evans and Çağlar Söyüncü were the two central defenders on the day, who looked to provide stability when Leicester were defending. Ben Chilwell and Ricardo Pereira were the two full-backs, their intention was to always get forward and provide themselves as options when Leicester were looking to attack. Hamza Choudhury played as a holding midfielder, his job was to provide defensive support for the back four and use his excellent passing range to get Leicester up the pitch. James Maddison and Dennis Praet were the two central midfielders looking to provide the creative spark and to be the real anchors of the central midfield. As for the front three, Ayoze Pérez and Harvey Barnes were the two wingers, however, they operated as narrow forwards as opposed to the traditional winger role. Kelechi Iheanacho was the central striker.

Premier League 2019/20: Norwich Vs Leicester City - tactical analysis tactics
The Lineups of both teams on the day.

Leicester’s front three

Iheanacho started as the central striker for Leicester in the game against Norwich. As a striker, he brings a completely different set of qualities in comparison to Jamie Vardy. Vardy often enjoys running in behind the defensive line from through balls from the likes of Barnes and Maddison. Iheanacho was significantly different, as he was holding the ball up and allowing the other strikers to run off him. This is something that Barnes and Pérez both had to get used to and struggled with during the game. With Vardy, the trio can break at thundering pace and get at the opposition backline. In this game with Iheanacho as the central striker, it meant that they were not able to break as quickly and thus had to have more possession to break Norwich down. Iheanacho had a good game, however, the Leicester attackers may have benefited from the qualities that Jamie Vardy could have brought to the match.

Below highlights the role that Iheanacho played throughout the match. He would pick up the ball in these areas and allow the other attacking wingers to make runs off him and into the box. This at times allowed good counter-attacking play, however, overall, they struggled to create as many chances as normal due to the lack of Vardy’s pace and goal-scoring ability. Pérez and Barnes had chances, however, they were mainly from mistakes by Norwich and not a result of Iheanacho bringing them into the game.

Premier League 2019/20: Norwich Vs Leicester City - tactical analysis tactics
An example of the hold up play the Iheanacho provided for Leicester.

Iheanacho was essentially another hub of creativity for Leicester. Vardy is usually someone who finishes the chances that are made for him. Iheanacho was brilliant outside the box and had an excellent goal disallowed from VAR, however, he missed a couple of great chances from proximity and didn’t look like scoring. This highlights the difference between the two strikers and why Leicester failed to score in this game. The best example of Leicester’s front three in their prime would be their 9-0 demolition of Southampton earlier in the season. This highlighted what Pérez, Barnes and Vardy can do to opponents. With Iheanacho in the side, they have a different prospect when it comes to being a threat going forward.

Below is another example of Iheanacho’s hold up play. We can see him with the ball in the centre area of the box. Pérez and Barnes make good runs off him into attacking positions. This was a pattern that could be seen in the match. This could be effective in certain games for Leicester, however, this one proved to be a slight failure in terms of the tactical usage. What is interesting to notice is that there was a seeming lack of speed when Leicester counter-attacked. Iheanacho is no slouch, however, they seemed to be lacking substantial pace with Vardy missing. Going forward, getting him back into the side will be key to Leicester’s hopeful success.

Premier League 2019/20: Norwich Vs Leicester City - tactical analysis tactics
Another excellent example of Iheanacho’s hold up play.

Norwich’s press

It has been evident that Norwich needed to find a solution for the number of goals they have been conceding this season. Often conceding two to three goals per game means that it is hard to score these amounts of goals to get a positive result. One thing that they did well in this game was compact the midfield to prevent Leicester’s creative players getting the ball and having an influence on the game. Tettey and McLean were vital in this, as they were pressed right up against Maddison to stop him from having his usual influence in the game. This worked to great effect as Maddison did not have a great game and was stifled in the way he usually likes to play. Norwich has often been weak in the pressing aspect, lacking aggression to win the ball back and stop opposing teams from dominating. This was not the case in this game, and they were excellent at winning the ball back and moving forward with it as a result.

Below is an example of the narrow nature of Norwich’s midfield pressing. By coming in narrow with the midfield press it allowed Norwich to stop Leicester having the ball in areas where they could be dangerous. This was a really good tactical usage by Norwich and it should be used more often against the better teams to prevent them from hurting their weak defensive line.

Premier League 2019/20: Norwich Vs Leicester City - tactical analysis tactics
An example of the narrow nature of Norwich’s press to prevent Leicester playing out through midfield.

This narrow midfield press was not limited to Tettey and McLean, the whole midfield was actively positioning themselves in positions whereby they could prevent Leicester from dominating the game. An interesting point on this tactical usage was the limited options that the Leicester centre-backs had when coming out with the ball. Usually, when Evans and Söyüncü came out with the ball they have options to play into, however, Norwich stifled Leicester when they had the ball and it meant that chance creation was limited. Norwich also implemented elements of what seemed to resemble a form of the low-block, with there being very little space for the Leicester players to play into. As has been mentioned by other analysts deploying this could have huge advantages for Norwich due to their ability to counter-attack quickly.

Below is another example of Norwich being deployed with a narrow pressing structure to prevent Leicester from being able to create as they normally do in situations against the weaker teams. It worked for Norwich and they got a clean sheet as a result. They used this tactic at the King Power Stadium and got a 1-1 draw. They almost copied the way they played that day and managed to get a 1-0 win. This shows that using this tactic against teams with more quality can work in their favour as it did on Friday night.

Premier League 2019/20: Norwich Vs Leicester City - tactical analysis tactics
Another example of the narrow midfield press that Norwich attempted to implement on the Leicester midfield.

James Maddison

Maddison has been one of the best players in the Premier League this season. He has six goals and three assists; however, this does not paint a true picture as to how good the Leicester midfielder has been. One of his greatest attributes is that he can find space and can create chances as a result of finding this space. However, in this match, the problem was not him finding space but the lack of ability his teammates had to pick him out. This was very frustrating for Maddison who often found himself in lots of good space with the opportunity to score or make a key pass, however, he was rarely found and as a result, could not influence the game against his former club. Leicester, therefore, misused his talents in this game and gave him the ball in situations whereby he could not affect the game in attacking areas of the pitch. A player like Maddison has thrived in the attacking system Brendan Rodgers has put in place this season, however, this game was a bad example of this highlighting what can happen if he is not found with the right passes.

Below is an example of the space Maddison was finding himself in. The situation below is perhaps the most frustrating, because Leicester opts to go wide in this moment as opposed to finding Maddison. As mentioned, this is not something that Leicester have done often this season, quite the opposite in fact and Maddison is a key hub of creative play in this Leicester side. However, this game saw a real waste in the possession and a lack of cutting edge compared to what they are used to.

Premier League 2019/20: Norwich Vs Leicester City - tactical analysis tactics
Maddison was finding space at a high rate, however, he was rarley found which did not allow chance creation.

Despite the earlier suggestion that Norwich was able to nullify Leicester for most of the match, it was often Leicester’s own underdoing’s that prevented them from winning the game. Maddison and Praet were often finding bags of space in really good areas and not being found. This can be attributed to a certain complacency and sloppiness that Leicester showed signs of in this game. Going forward, using the likes of Maddison is key to any creativity that they may have. The attacking players of Leicester often thrive on the through balls and pass that the midfielders provide for them in forwarding areas of the pitch. The narrow nature of Leicester’s attacking players means that chance creation occurs more regularly. This game, however, presented a problem for Leicester as they were unable to find Maddison at a rate at which they usually do.

Despite the earlier suggestion that Norwich was able to nullify Leicester for most of the match, it was often Leicester’s own underdoing’s that prevented them from winning the game. Maddison and Praet were often finding bags of space in really good areas and not being found. This can be attributed to a certain complacency and sloppiness that Leicester showed signs of in this game. Going forward, using the likes of Maddison is key to any creativity that they may have. The attacking players of Leicester often thrive on the through balls and pass that the midfielders provide for them in forwarding areas of the pitch. The narrow nature of Leicester’s attacking players means that chance creation occurs more regularly. This game, however, presented a problem for Leicester as they were unable to find Maddison at a rate at which they usually do.

Premier League 2019/20: Norwich Vs Leicester City - tactical analysis tactics
Another example of the spaces that Maddison was finding himself in.

Norwich’s full-backs

The final section of analysis that will be analysed is the role of Norwich’s full-backs who were both keys to Norwich’s build-up play. Aarons and Lewis were essential to the way Norwich attempted to get the ball forward. The attacking midfielders played extremely narrow in this match, allowing huge spaces on the outside flanks for the pair to run into. This really gave them a license to go forward and provide the forward players with service. The pair are two of the brightest prospects from and England perspective. Lewis scored an amazing goal which highlights his technical ability and overall, they were both superb at getting forward and providing Norwich with a completely different attacking outlet. This season they have often been struggling to deal with the physicality aspect of the Premier League and haven’t got forward as much compared to the Championship. However, this game presented a real throwback to the pair at their best.

Below is an example of their positioning in the game. They were pushed right up the pitch in the corners and in situations that were 1v1 against the full-backs. This meant they could provide crosses and key passes into the attacking players. This was as close of an example to what they were doing last season, being a key outlet for Norwich and managing to win them games.

Premier League 2019/20: Norwich Vs Leicester City - tactical analysis tactics
An example of the Norwich full-backs who made excellent runs forward and had an excellent game.

As mentioned, Lewis grabbed a key goal in the match giving Norwich the victory. Aarons played a key role in this goal by getting an assist. The performance was similar to how Liverpool’s full-backs operate. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robinson are the most important piece of build-up play that Liverpool possess. Aarons and Lewis presented themselves excellently in this game and were the most important hubs of creativity that Norwich had in this game. Leicester simply couldn’t deal with their build-up play as Norwich were able to get the ball into key wide areas for the pair to run into. This is something they should really look to use more going forward if they want to get success in attacking areas.

Below is another example of the positions that the pair were taking up. Being in higher areas of the pitch were really important also in preventing the opposing Leicester full-backs from making any progress in attacking areas. This is also important in the defensive aspect as Leicester’s full-backs are extremely good at getting forward and providing them with another attacking outlet. Furthermore, their role was extremely important in both the attacking and defensive transitions.

Premier League 2019/20: Norwich Vs Leicester City - tactical analysis tactics
Another example of the full-backs getting into good attacking positions.

Conclusion

To conclude, the game was one of great intensity and attacking play. Norwich overall deserved the victory and played a really strong defensive game. They managed to stop Leicester from playing their usual game and really provided a strong incentive on the counter-attack. Moving forward they could really use this tactic to beat some of the better teams that they come up against. Leicester will be disappointed with their overall performance, as they were unable to get the ball into the key areas and hurt Norwich’s weak defensive line. They will need to improve if they are going to have hopes of getting in the Champions League. Norwich, on the other hand, need to continue this good form if they are to have any hope of getting survival in the Premier League.