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Premier League 2022/23: Leicester City vs Tottenham Hotspur - tactical analysis tactics

Premier League 2022/23: Why Spurs were architects of their own demise as Leicester win – tactical analysis

The race for European football qualification in the Premier League is really heating up as we enter the final months of the campaign. There are a host of clubs battling it out to gain access to next season’s competitions such as the UEFA Champions League, Europa League, and Conference League. One club that has had something of a love-hate relationship with European qualification in recent years is Tottenham Hotspur, and their bid to finish in the top four took a huge blow in their most recent game thanks to a 4-1 battering at the hands of Leicester City.

This heavy defeat comes after Spurs beat Manchester City 1-0 the previous weekend, and that pairing of unpredictable results has been the story of their season so far – inconsistency. Leicester City have also had their struggles this season. In recent years, the foxes have been a regular when it comes to fighting for European football, but at the time of writing, they sit in 13th position – in fairness, they are in form as of late so don’t rule them out yet!

In this tactical analysis, we will look at what went wrong for Antonio Conte’s side, with an analysis of what allowed Brendan Rodgers’ team to become the victors on the day – particularly their impressive work in exploiting spaces and how their tactics enhanced their success in those areas.


Rodgers left very few surprised by setting his team up in the familiar 4-2-3-1 shape, with the same back four that lined up in City’s 4-2 win at Aston Villa last week. There was one change in midfield, however, with Youri Tielemans being replaced by Nampalys Mendy in the deeper region of midfield, with Mendy getting himself on the scoresheet too. Kelechi Iheanacho continued to keep veteran Jamie Vardy out of the starting 11, and he repaid his manager’s faith with another goal.

Premier League 2022/23: Leicester City vs Tottenham Hotspur - tactical analysis tactics

Conte opted again for his 5-4-1 shape which would sometimes become a 3-4-2-1 in possession, with a number of changes occurring. With Hugo Lloris ruled out thanks to an injury, Spurs were forced to call upon Fraser Forster to put the gloves on. New signing Pedro Porro started in the right wing-back position; Ivan Perišić played the same role on the opposite flank. Japhet Tangana was the man tasked with filling in for the suspended Cristian Romero. The midfield and attacking united remained unchanged, with Rodrigo Bentancur grabbing the goal for his team.

Spurs’ gameplan visible early on

More often than not, you know what you’re getting from a Conte team, tactically speaking. Of course, this isn’t a bad thing at face value – you only have to look at what the Italian has achieved in his managerial career to know that he is pretty clued up when it comes to a gameplan. He hasn’t managed to quite strike the same consistent balance at Tottenham yet, but even in the opening 10-15 minutes, you could see the gameplan. You could see that Spurs had a system in mind to try and conquer Leicester.

Premier League 2022/23: Leicester City vs Tottenham Hotspur - tactical analysis tactics
A look at Spurs’ approach out of possession.

Out of possession, it seemed that Spurs wanted to simply frustrate their opponents and block any roads forward for Leicester. While we saw this kind of image on more than one occasion, the game was fairly even in terms of pure possession (53:47% in favour of Leicester), but Spurs were adamant about setting up in this shape when they didn’t have the ball. While we did see the odd bit of higher pressure from Spurs as a result of triggers, it wasn’t a staple of their defensive tactics on this day and had little impact on the game.

It was rarely a compact, narrow shape, but instead, one that looked to combat the width of Leicester’s attacking shape, with consistent spacing between the individual midfielders. Interestingly, Spurs seemed happy leaving a sizeable gap between their midfield and defensive unit, which Leicester seemed to have anticipated as their midfielders could often be seen drifting into these open spaces to try and receive a pass.

Premier League 2022/23: Leicester City vs Tottenham Hotspur - tactical analysis tactics
A scintillating pass from Kane to launch a counterattack.

When the score was still 0-0, we saw signs that Tottenham would look to hurt Leicester on the break, knowing that the Foxes would sometimes be drawn into central battles, leaving space in wide areas, which is what you see in the image above. Son manages to direct the ball to Harry Kane who displayed excellent vision and passing range to spray a brilliant pass into the path of Perišić, whose starting position was considerably wide. The Croatian took the ball on toward goal but couldn’t hit the target – a disappointing outcome for such a big chance.

Premier League 2022/23: Leicester City vs Tottenham Hotspur - tactical analysis tactics
Leicester looked to squeeze Tottenham to force a mistake.

And above is a lot of the reason we saw Tottenham often relying on counterattacks and transitions – Leicester’s setup out of possession was seldom poor, and Spurs looked like they struggled in beating the Leicester press. The image above shows us that the Foxes would look to swarm the man in possession when a trigger occurs – in this case, it was the Spurs man receiving the ball still facing his goal, with the move having little urgency about it.

The narrow press squeezed Bentancur on the ball and forced him to act quickly – to his credit, he managed to worm his way into some space before releasing the ball to new signing Pedro Porro, who found his debut difficult by many accounts. But to no surprise, Leicester were prepared for this move as well, with the two closest players from the original pressing shape racing over to provide support. It was Harvey Barnes who got the important touch to cause a turnover in possession.

Premier League 2022/23: Leicester City vs Tottenham Hotspur - tactical analysis tactics

Pressing to win the ball back in high areas is an important element of Brendon Rodgers’ Leicester team, and they amplified that against Spurs. 20 counterpressing recoveries in this fixture tells you all you need to know – that Leicester like to give very little time on the ball after losing. They also made four recoveries in dangerous areas – this was a reflection of Spurs’ poor performance as well as Leicester’s strong showing.

Leicester exploiting space with forward passes

There are a few traits that you are synonymous with a Brendon Rodgers side. They are usually hard-working and well-drilled both in and out of possession, but they also usually have an edge in attack – if you look at his time at clubs like Swansea City and Liverpool these traits, and particularly the latter, are all visible. Playing forward quickly when there is space to take advantage seems to be a key factor in Rodgers’ tactics, and it was vital to his side’s win on this day.

Premier League 2022/23: Leicester City vs Tottenham Hotspur - tactical analysis tactics
Maddison finds a pocket of space and drives his team forward.

It is sometimes difficult to understand Spurs’ approach and their consistency in that. We just discussed how they looked to set up when Leicester have them penned back in their own half, and while Leicester have the ball in a deeper area than that example, Spurs are looking to block their way forward all the same. However, their setup in the image above is just baffling, inviting Leicester to play through them.

James Maddison is a master of pinpointing the right space to exploit, and that is what he did above, with Mendy picking the right moment to fizz the ball through a static Spurs midfield. Bentancur is the deep midfielder for Spurs in this image. Lying deeper for defensive support is completely understandable, but he didn’t even look to mark Maddison but instead looked to close the England international down as the pass made its way through. Bentancur was too late, though, and Maddison glided past him and drove forward into dangerous territory.

Premier League 2022/23: Leicester City vs Tottenham Hotspur - tactical analysis tactics
Leicester take advantage of the space in high midfield areas.

Recovering, readjusting, and regaining shape & structure seemed to be a real problem area for Conte’s men in this game, and Leicester would look to utilise that as often as possible, looking to move the ball forward quickly with purpose. Dewsbury-Hall is the midfielder receiving the ball in the first of the two images above – and why wouldn’t he be the prime candidate to pass to, just look at the space he’s in!

As he received the ball, he was met by some pressure from Spurs, but he showed clever technique and thinking to thread the ball through two opponents to the feet of Maddison, who took the ball into the final third to set up Harvey Barnes…

Premier League 2022/23: Leicester City vs Tottenham Hotspur - tactical analysis tactics
Barnes collects the ball from Maddison before netting Leicester’s fourth goal.

The urgency Leicester showed, even at 3-1 with 10 minutes to go, shows their hunger to get as many goals as possible. Many teams in the same situation would have slowed the game down and recycled possession, but Maddison set the example in driving his team forward. With numerous runners darting into space, Maddison was spoilt for choice, but the central run caused Eric Dier to follow, leaving a dangerous space centrally. Barnes was already free, but now there was space behind him that he could attack. And attack he did, cooly dispatching the ball past Forster from the edge of the area. Yet more poor defensive organisation from Spurs met by Leicester City’s deadly and clinical nature.

Foxes capitalise on Tottenham’s mistakes

It’s safe to say that Spurs had quite the off-day against Leicester, but the Foxes were on hand to strike as hard as they could when their opponents presented the opportunity. Tottenham were often wasteful in possession in the midfield and final third, but they were also careless at times with simple possession and even conceded goals as a direct result.

Premier League 2022/23: Leicester City vs Tottenham Hotspur - tactical analysis tactics
The Foxes make Tottenham, and particularly Davies, pay for their errors.

We have established by now that Spurs could really have no complaints about the result, and the big margin in the scoreline. Poor individual performances really hampered Conte’s men who just couldn’t carry out his tactical instructions in several areas. Two Leicester goals were very similar in terms of Spurs giving away the ball and being punished for it rapidly.

Ben Davies, who really struggled in this game, thought he had selected the right pass in firing a ball into Harry Kane – one of the furthest teammates from the Welshman. In Davies’ defence, this decision may have been influenced by Leicester’s setup that left little in the way of passing options. Still, it was Davies poor pass that was met by Wout Faes, who managed to steer the ball toward Iheanacho. The former Manchester City striker showed good composure to control the ball and take it forward before being incredibly unselfish to set up James Maddison to make it 2-1.

Premier League 2022/23: Leicester City vs Tottenham Hotspur - tactical analysis tactics
Another individual error leads to a Leicester goal.

Leicester’s third goal, right on the brink of halftime,  also came as a result of Spurs being sloppy in possession. Davies, who did well to find Perišić whilst under pressure, started the move off, but Perišić’s blind pass was both unnecessary and detrimental. Instead of finding his teammate inside, the ball instead trickled towards Harry Souttar, who lofted a first-time pass into Iheanacho.

The pass looked effortless and classy, and while it looks like Iheanacho is offside in the image above, there is actually a Spurs player so deep that he isn’t even in the shot! Another example of a defensive setup from Spurs that is hard to explain. The Striker scanned the area before Souttar even got the ball, showing good awareness – this allowed him to receive the ball in space and run at goal. After some good individual skill, Iheanacho whipped the ball into the corner past Forster.


From a Tottenham perspective, it is very much a “one step forward, two steps back” kind of season. They can turn up and beat the reigning champions one week, but then produce performances like this the next. There have been, and will be more, questions regarding Conte being the right man for Tottenham, or Spurs being the right club for him.

They have much to work on, based on this performance especially, but they must dust themselves off and go again – they are still very much in the race for fourth. Meanwhile, Leicester’s resurgence in form has been impressive, and while the gap is sizeable, don’t rule them out of clinching a European spot come the end of the season!