Premier League 2019/20: Leicester City vs Tottenham Hotspur – tactical analysis
Gameweek six of the Premier League saw Tottenham Hotspur travel to the King Power Stadium and take on Leicester City. The home side were hoping to bounce back after an uninspiring loss at Old Trafford against Manchester United. Tottenham Hotspur, on the other hand, ran riot against Crystal Palace last weekend, only for them to fail to get the three points in the Champions League, against Greek club Olympiacos. Both teams really needed to get back on track with a win.
Since the middle of last season, fans and pundits alike have been predicting whether a team can break into the ‘top six’ and if so, which club? Manchester United and Arsenal particularly have had valid questions being asked about their quality and sustainability, and most feel that if there would be a side to beat them into a European spot, it would be the Foxes. While it is yet to be seen if the typical teams in the ‘top six’ will drop down in the table, it was important for Leicester City to take as many points off the top teams as possible, which is precisely what they did. A 2-1 home victory for them sealed the deal in getting all three points, putting them in third place with 11 points. Tottenham Hotspur, on the other hand, suffered another away defeat, having not been able to win away from home since January with a nervy 1-2 over Fulham. This tactical analysis will look at both teams tactics, and using analysis, will be able to see where Leicester City were able to get an advantage.
The home side started with 4-1-4-1 formation, similarly to how they lined up against Manchester United. However, some changes in personnel were made by Brendan Rodgers. Ayoze Pérez took Demarai Gray’s place on the wing on Leicester City’s right side, while Harvey Barnes came in instead of Hamza Choudhury on Leicester City’s left side. The 4-1-4-1 often shifted into a 4-3-3, with Wilfred Ndidi protecting the back four, and James Maddison and Youri Tielemans as the midfielders who were further forward. Barnes and Pérez joined Jamie Vardy up top, making Leicester City’s front three.
The away side decided on a 4-1-3-2 formation, with Mauricio Pochettino making some slight tweaks to the 4-2-3-1 that was used away during Tottenham Hotspur’s draw in the Champions League. Hugo Lloris was unavailable due to personal reasons, which allowed Paulo Gazzaniga to get his first start of the season. With the transfer of Kieran Tripper to Atlético Madrid, the team’s right-back situation has been of much discussion. So far, Pochettino has used three different players to take place in the right-back position, and against Leicester City, he opted for Serge Aurier. Harry Winks started as Tottenham Hotspur’s defensive midfielder, and new signing Tanguy Ndombele being able to once again start in the Premier League after a minor injury, along with fellow midfielders Érik Lamela and Moussa Sissoko. Pochettino also opted with a two striker system with Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane up top.
Tottenham Hotspur’s buildup
The issue for Tottenham Hotspur is that barring their fullbacks, they were too narrow and compact in the buildup. Essentially they were getting in each other’s way. Ndombele, Lamela, Kane, and Son were all trying to occupy the half-spaces between Leicester City’s midfield and defence. This made that specific area of the pitch congested.
The congestion made the Tottenham Hotspur players so easy to defend against, as Leicester City predominantly focused on defending the middle of the pitch. They were so close, that if the Tottenham Hotspur players got the ball, it was relatively easy to nick the ball off of them and counter-attack.
They then attempted to use crosses but again, more often than not, Leicester City would be able to win the second ball.
Leicester’s attacking play
Leicester City had the complete opposite tactic to their opponents. Their tactics involved stretching the width of the pitch, forcing Tottenham Hotspur to defend wide as well.
Maddison would often be found within the line of defence and offence, which focused a lot of the attention on him. This would allow his teammates to find open pockets of space to run into.
This tactic eventually worked, as it was how Leicester City were able to score the equalizing goal to get back into the game.
Maddison may have won Man of the Match for his work in midfield and his late winning goal, but Çağlar Söyüncü was arguably Leicester City’s best player. The Turkish centre-back was the reason the club did not invest in a new centreback subsequent to the departure of Harry Maguire. It’s big shoes to fill, but Söyüncü has done the job well, helping the Foxes achieve the joint best defensive record in the league so far. Along with Jonny Evans, he has helped the team only concede 5 goals so far, a statistic only Liverpool matches them in.
One of Söyüncü’s best attributes, that has been evident this season is his confidence on the ball. The modern evolution of the game has demanded centrebacks to be more in control of the ball at their feet, and not often resorting to the tactic of just booting it up the pitch as far as possible. With an 88% pass accuracy during this match, and an 89.4% pass accuracy this season, Söyüncü is able to help his team play out from the back, and maintain possession.
Although being a good passer is great, Söyüncü’s main job as a central defender is to defend. This match saw him win 100% of his aerial duels, completed eight interceptions, and complete 11 recoveries. These three statistics are the best he has had all season. He is quite tall, giving him the ability to make himself big and present in situations, yet he is also mobile and quick which allows him to keep up with the leagues quickest wingers.
The race for European spots
It is still very early in the season, with thirty-two match weeks still to go. That being said, there are both positives, and negatives both teams can take from the previous six matches. Leicester City will be delighted to have taken points off of a team that has regularly finished in European spots for the last few years. However, they need to ensure that they match the top teams in gaining points from lesser sides as well. One of the things going against Leicester City in their fight to a European spot finish is their lack of squad depth. Brendan Rodgers will have to find a way to rotate his squad without sacrificing results like most top clubs are able to.
Tottenham Hotspur were pipped as potential league winners, though most were sceptical about their ability to keep up with Manchester City and Liverpool. The sceptics so far would be proven right, as they currently sit in seventh place. Questions have arisen regarding Pochettino and if he still has what it takes to consistently keep Tottenham Hotspur competing in Europe. The good news is that before they got to Anfield, they play Southampton, Watford and Brighton, three teams that are in the bottom half of the table. This is a great opportunity for them to collect nine points and regain some momentum because as of right now, it looks quite gloomy in North London.
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