In this article series I will provide match analysis/reports for all of the pre-season games I attend live. Some of the detail documented will be directly beneficial for Fantasy Premier League and some will be more tactical based information or anecdotes.
Match 2 – Leicester City 3-0 Cambridge United (23/07/19)
After an uncharacteristically sweltering Cambridgeshire evening, I have managed to regather myself and recover from liquid state to provide my second match analysis of pre-season, this time focused on Leicester City.
In a stadium that does absolutely no justice to the city it is situated in, Leicester City lined up similarly to how they did towards the end of last season after Brendan Rodgers took charge. This was a 4-3-3 in attack, which became a 4-1-4-1 in the defensive phase. The starting line-up consisted of: Schmeichel, Pereira, Evans, Maguire, Chilwell, Mendy, King, Tielemans, Gray, Albrighton and Vardy. Mendy operated in the ‘6’ role, covering the absent Wilfred Ndidi, whilst King and Tielemans operated slightly further forward in the ‘8’ roles. Albrighton played from the left, with Gray on the right.
The first substitution was an enforced one as midway through the first half, Jonny Evans picked up what looked like a thigh injury. He was replaced by Caglar Soyuncu. At the start of the second half, Rodgers introduced Maddison, Choudhury and Barnes, who replaced King, Mendy and Gray respectively, creating the best possible XI available. Around the hour mark, a final round of subtitutions were made in order to give minutes to a number of squad players. Justin, Fuchs, Morgan, A.Silva, Ghezzal and Iheanacho entered play replacing Pereira, Chilwell, Maguire, Tielemans, Albrighton and Vardy respectively.
The first goal originated from a Maddison corner which initially landed in the box and was only half-heartedly cleared. The ball fell to Chilwell just outside the box on the far side, who took a touch before delivering a perfectly weighted ball to the back post, where Harry Maguire of all people attacked it and headed home.
The second goal was also a header from a very similar spot, this time however, the cross came from Barnes after a smart cut back onto his stronger right foot and was dispatched by Iheanacho.
Throughout the whole match it was clear that Rodgers had instructed his players to put high amounts of immediate pressure on their opposition as soon as they got the ball. This was effective for the entire match, meaning that Leicester dominated the ball and had very little to do from a defensive perspective and it was also what led to their third goal. As Cambridge attempted to play out from the back, pressure applied by Choudhury and Ghezzal caused Cambridge to give up possession inside their own box, giving Choudhury a simple opportunity to place the ball in the bottom corner past the goalkeeper’s reach.
All 3 goals were scored in the second half, however, if it hadn’t have been for an inspired performance from Cambridge’s goalkeeper, Dimitar Mitov, Leicester could’ve easily scored the same number in the first half as well.
In my eyes there were 3 standout players, those being Youri Tielmans, Ben Chilwell and Harvey Barnes. Tielemans was at the heart of everything Leicester did offensively in the first half, looking to make either a long diagonal pass or threatening forward pass at all opportunities. You can tell he wants to make something happen and every time he got the ball, he was immediately looking up for a forward passing option. The majority of his game revolves around trying to find spaces to play his teammates in behind and did so to set up chances for both Vardy and Pereira who were unable to finish, however, he was also not shy to shoot. He took 2 shots, both from outside the box in the first half, one fizzing just wide and the other forcing a smart save from the goalkeeper after it bounced just before it reached the goal. It may also be worth noting that Tielemans took the free-kick from just outside the box when Maddison wasn’t on the pitch.
Baring in mind it was his first game back after a summer break, Ben Chilwell looked incredibly sharp and as if he had never been away. As always, he was looking to provide width and regularly join the attack down the left-hand side and was always an option, bombing up and down even in the challenging temperature. He played a number of dangerous crosses into the box, both aerially and along the ground, one of which resulted in the assist for the first goal. Even though he was a key figure throughout the 60 minutes he played, there was still a lot more opportunities where he was free and not found quickly enough (as demonstrated by the photo above).
All of his attacking play did not hinder his defensive contributions at all however. Although there was not massive amounts for either him or the rest of the Leicester defence to do, what he was required to do, he did without mistake. One part of his game that seems to go under the radar is his defensive aerial ability. Last season, he ranked 2nd amongst Premier League full-backs for aerial duals won behind only Matt Doherty, but had a 1.4% higher overall percentage won than the Wolves man. He demonstarted this ability against Cambridge, comfortably winning the aerial duals he attempted.
Harvey Barnes played the second 45 minutes and as well as collecting an assist, had 6 key opportunities that could’ve resulted in a goal. He wanted to be on the ball driving at the full-back or being played in-behind all the time and you could see his frustration any time the ball wasn’t played to him. He had 3 shots deflected, one just wide, one over and one cleared off the line in addition to a shot lashed over the bar and a 1v1 and rebound shot saved well. He did absolutely everything apart from score and he and his manager will be disappointed he didn’t with the chances he had. Most of his chances came about through brilliant play from himself amongst others and if he would’ve been able to convert at least one of the chances he had, it would have rounded off his overall performance perfectly. If he can improve his finishing, Leicester could have a really special on their hands in the near future.
Pereira was not quite as consistently involved in the attacks as Chilwell was, however, he came a lot closer to scoring having played a clever one-two with Tielemans, who played him in behind the Cambridge defence. He first attempted to chip the ball over the keeper, but this was well saved which then resulted in another attempt, this time an unorthodox backheel which unluckily rebounded off the post.
James Maddison’s introduction to the game added a touch of class to Leicester’s midfield. He was slick on the ball, producing some clever turns and accurate passes, linking up especially well with Chilwell and Barnes. He only had one significant shot, which deflected over the bar, but was constantly searching for that defence splitting pass, however it did materialise in the 45 minutes he played. There was very little to split Maddison and Tielemans whilst they were on the pitch together, however, the player that stood out as more likely to either score or assist whilst the other was not on the pitch with them was Tielemans on this occasion.
Vardy was not massively involved in the match, but as ever was positioned on the shoulder of the last defender, awaiting the perfect pass in-behind. The only time this happened was a pass from Tielemans on the right-hand side between the left-back and centre-back which Vardy ran onto before flashing a shot across goal, just scraping the far post.
Albrighton delivered a few of his famous ‘whipped’ deliveries, however, none of them resulted in a big chance being created as well as having one shot that was comfortably saved. Gray looked to cut inside from the right-wing on almost every occassion he had the ball, but this put the ball onto his weaker left foot which resulted in a number of tame shots in addition to a few that were blocked.
A final tactical point that we saw during Rodgers’ 10 matches in charge at the end of last season that was evident again during this match, was that the “8’s” and the wingers would sometimes interchange positions, so fully expect to see both Maddison and Tielemans popping up in wide areas regularly next season.
With so many stories flying around about Harry Maguire’s future, a few points from during and after the game, makes his future seem fairly clear to me. Firstly, after his inevitable header, he waved before quickly changing to a thumbs up at the Leicester supporters, very much suggesting a goodbye. Additionally, on the touchline, the Leicester staff were a lot more supportive around Maguire for his goal compared to the other 2, which felt very much like a farewell. Finally, after the game, he was the only player to be rushed through the crowds of fans quickly, which is odd as he was not injured as is usually the case for those escorted out of the stadium. I believe this was done to avoid the ‘banter’ and confrontations from fans regarding his future as he had to deal with a lot of it whist he was on the bench for the final 30 minutes. I think it is clear that he will be leaving Leicester City and that Manchester United will be his destination.
James Maddison was sat next to me in the stands for the first 20 minutes or so and I was also able to have a good chat with Ben Chilwell as well as a brief one with Maguire. Manchester United fans… agent Nick has got you covered.
For more on Leicester: Why Leicester City can break into the Premier League top 6 in 2019/20
For more Match Analysis: Sheffield United Match Analysis
Written by Nick Pasquet
Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Nick_FootballPA