Manchester City vs Leicester City — Tactical Analysis
Man City vs Leicester was a highly entertaining game played on 27th September, where Leicester City came out on top with a 5–2 victory. The Foxes made it 9 points out of a possible 9 in the Premier League so far, and it was the first time Brendan Rodgers picked up a win against a Pep Guardiola side. As for Pep’s side, it was the first time Pep’s side conceded 5 goals in a home game. Man City entered the game with a few injury concerns, with Aguero, Jesus, Laporte, and Bernardo Silva all missing out. Meanwhile, Leicester had Evans back from suspension but had defensive midfielder Ndidi miss out due to injury.
The home side Manchester City lined up in a 4–2–3–1 formation but did not have a proper number 9 available in the squad, meaning Raheem Sterling was playing as a false 9. Meanwhile, the foxes surprisingly came to the game with a 5–4–1 formation. They were looking to soak up the City pressure by defending deep and counter attack whenever possible. The idea was to frustrate Guardiola’s men and hit them on the break which they had been doing quite successfully against other teams. On the other side, City would play with a high line of defense with the full-backs pressing high up the pitch.
Brendan Rodger’s men met with an early setback, as Riyad Mahrez scored only 4 minutes in against his former club in spectacular fashion. But Leicester did not make any tactical changes and stuck to their plan. The idea of sitting back and defending was so prominent that sometimes the foxes even had all 10 outfield layers in their own half. But in terms of transition, whenever Leicester got the ball, they had enough players at the back to link up and attack City’s defense, especially Barnes, who was using his speed to rush into advance positions left empty by the ever attacking Kyle Walker.
City controlled the first half quite well before Walker gave away a cheap penalty after he and Garcia both missed the Vardy’s run into the box. The first half saw 73% possession with Manchester City, who did not have much to show for it. City’s lack of clinical finishing up front was evident from the half chances they were unable to convert.
Pep recognized missing a proper striker and reacted by replacing Fernandinho with Liam Delap early in the first half. This meant City had more bodies upfront with a 4–1–4–1 shape, with Foden coming into the center and Sterling going wide to the wings. Bringing on the young inexperienced striker in place of his box-to-box defensive midfielder was not a great decision by Pep, as it affected the cohesion of his side and also provided the foxes with more space to exploit while going forward. Leicester suddenly grew into the game, taking up more possession and showing an early press high up the pitch. Just 3 minutes after the change, the Foxes scored with a clever backheel flick from Vardy. Three minutes later, Walker and Garcia once again did not pick up Vardy’s run, and Garcia brought him down for another penalty, leading to Vardy completing his hattrick.
With a 3–1 lead, Leicester were now pressing more aggressively whenever they got the chance, also frustrating City by keeping things tight at the back. Maddison then made it 4–1 with a superb goal from distance, before Ake scored his first for City to make it 4–2. This was followed by Maddison winning a penalty late in the second half, scored by Tielemans to make it 5–2. It is safe to claim that tactically, the game was pretty much over when Vardy completed his hattrick.
In conclusion, this was one of those games where City were over-reliant on Kevin De Bruyne to create for them, who apparently did not have one of his best games. They were not clinical upfront and clumsy at the back, and it was evident from the game that Sterling is not a viable option to play as a center-forward. It is too early to judge City, as Nathan Ake was impressive in the game and the ideal pairing of him and Laporte, once the latter returns from injury, is what City fans will be waiting for. Brendan Rodgers deserves all the credit for this impressive display as it was clear that he trusted his tactics and had come to the Etihad to win.
About the Author: Namit Sharma is a student of MBA(Sports Management) at Symbiosis School of Sports Sciences, and a football enthusiast obsessed with an in-depth analysis of football. A big supporter of the flexibility of tactics and formations during a football match.
Namit is a creative writer at HeadKick.co