Alternative Approaches Leicester Could Use Going Forward In The Premier League

Alternative Approaches Leicester Could Use Going Forward In The Premier League
Sep 20, 2017

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In among what has been acknowledged as one of the toughest starts to the Premier League campaign, Leicester City have notched about as many points as most fans would’ve predicted, as the Huddersfield result aside most games have gone largely as anticipated.

Whilst four points from five games is not a particularly great start, the performances (Huddersfield aside) have been encouraging; despite playing some of the league’s top sides, Leicester have not been outplayed at all and in fact, arguably deserved to take a share of the spoils on at least one occasion.

In the past, Leicester managers have been accused of not having a Plan B, a viable alternative to turn to when the trusted 4-4-2 formation is simply not working, however, with the addition of Vicente Iborra, Leicester have gained someone who possesses the skill to facilitate a change in approach.

4-5-1/4-3-3

lineup-1

If picked, it would not be the first time that Shakespeare has used this team shape, most notably in the second half of the first leg of our Champions League tie against Atletico Madrid where it was utilised to counter the not inconsiderable threat posed by Antoine Griezmann.

Why Would It Work?

The most obvious effect would be the reduction in space between our midfield and defensive lines. Since N’Golo Kanté joined Chelsea we have struggled with this, as teams have been able to get through space in the midfield to run directly at our centre-halves, who would be the first to admit that they are not blessed with pace. Shakespeare’s side are yet to keep a clean sheet in 8 consecutive games, and defensively this would tighten our approach.

If Adrien Silva does eventually join he is the natural replacement for Andy King, and the possession-based orientation of this formation would suit that midfield three massively, but significantly, it would reduce the defensive burden placed on Demarai Gray and in particular Riyad Mahrez, allowing them a much greater impact on the game. The ability to transition between 4-5-1 and 4-3-3 dependent on the flow of play offers a great flexibility and the ability to alter our approach without changing personnel.

Why Wouldn’t It Work?

Given the focus on controlling the midfield, there is often a tendency for the lone strikers in a 4-5-1 to become isolated, and as Jamie Vardy thrives off of consistent, quality service this presents a problem. When we are sat deep in a 4-5-1, as we are likely to be against the top sides, midfielders are not as able to get forward in support, as a result, chasing games from this formation can represent a genuine challenge and you’ll often see a complete reshuffle should a side playing 4-5-1 concede the first goal.

Depending on the style implemented by Shakespeare, this shape could also inhibit City’s counter-attacking ability as it depends largely on the ability of the striker to hold up the play, instead of darting behind the lines. It is more suited to the talents of Islam Slimani, or even Kelechi Iheanacho than Vardy, and as a key player, it is hard to envision dropping him.

3-5-2

Why Would It Work?

Leicester have used this exact shape before to great effect in the “Great Escape” season, and it could well be utilised once again. The key elements of this shape centre around sacrificing width to add solidity throughout the central positions, so it represents quite the departure from City’s previous tactical shape.

Three centre-halves makes it easier to handle clever movement up top, the wingbacks hug the touchline and provide the width in attach and support the centre-halves in defense and the strikes need to be well rounded – be able to hold the ball up when required and find space with their movement.

In the key position of wingback, Chilwell and Albrighton tick the boxes: hard working, athletic and able to create havoc with either direct runs or pinpoint delivery, and with Maguire, Leicester have a ball-playing centre half who is able to start the attacks from deep. Vardy does prefer playing with a strike partner, and Iheanacho is happy dropping deeper between the lines.

Why Wouldn’t It Work?

Riyad Mahrez. He is often pilloried by City fans for his work ethic (wrongly in my view), but there is absolutely no doubt that he is our most creative outlet and in this shape, there is no place for the fleet-footed winger. Can Leicester afford to leave out their star player?

What Should Leicester Use?

Based on results and results alone, then a change is required but I remain unconvinced that the performances completely warrant a wholesale change of system. If Leicester do opt for a change, I believe that the 4-5-1 would best suit our current squad.

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