How Brendan Rodgers should tackle the difficulties of AFC Bournemouth

Brendan Rodgers of Leicester City (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Brendan Rodgers of Leicester City (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images) /

Leicester City secured their first three points of the season against Sheffield United, ending up 2-1 winners.

It was a testament to the character of this young side, as newly-promoted Sheffield made life extremely difficult.

The game saw Leicester adopt their third formation of the season and another slight tinker in personnel, as Wilfred Ndidi hadn’t recovered from the injury he picked up during the 1-1 draw against Chelsea.

With depth in midfield, the visitors were able to replace this midfield hole with Dennis Praet. The box-to-box, progressive Belgian midfielder is a different mould to that of Ndidi, which resulted in Leicester going for a narrow 4-1-2-1-2 formation.

With four recognised central-midfielders starting the game, it made sense for the Foxes to overload the midfield and attempt to control the game from there. The narrow diamond (4-1-2-1-2) is Leicester’s strongest formation when attempting to encompass all their midfield talents.

Next. Leicester City news: Club football the priority for Harvey Barnes at the moment. dark

Hamza Choudhury was the defensive midfielder in the block of four, sitting at the bottom of the diamond. Both Belgians, Youri Tielemans and Praet, played in the style of a box-to-box and James Maddison was the creative outlet ahead of them.

This also allowed Ayoze Perez a chance to start alongside Jamie Vardy rather than on the wing, where he naturally drifts into the centre.

The formation also facilitates attacking full-backs. Ricardo Pereira ensured Leicester had creativity from wide, whereas Christian Fuchs provided another level of defensive security.

With Ben Chilwell in the side, you get attacking intent from both sides. This, however, is risky. Leicester won’t want to overexpose the new centre-back pairing of Jonny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu yet and allow easy counters for opponents.

In this system, Choudhury essentially operates as another centre-back. In possession, he drops between Jonny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu, allowing them both to spread wide and open up the pitch. Out of possession, Choudhury sits just in front of the centre-back pairing, neutralising opposition’s creative midfielders.

dark. Next. Leicester City duo in Jamie Redknapp’s Team of the Week

As mentioned before, this is the third formation Brendan Rodgers has used this season. With Leicester leaving Bramall Lane with three points, many would argue it has been the most effective, but the formation actually limited some of Leicester’s best players.

Fuchs has rightly replaced Chilwell for now, but his days as an attacking full-back are numbered. With a fit Chilwell, Fuchs wouldn’t have seen any game time this season.

This isn’t to discredit him. If Chilwell had started the game against the Blades, Leicester would have been consistently exposed on the break, with too many players designed to push forward and not provide cover defensively.

Rodgers may have favoured one of the other formations he’d used previously this campaign had he been able to use the 22-year old, but using a narrow 4-1-2-1-2 is dangerous with both Chilwell and Pereira starting.

Tielemans wasn’t as imposing on the game. With Maddison being the pivotal piece of the attacking puzzle, the play was forced through him, often bypassing the central midfielders. Tielemans naturally drifted wide-right during the game but struggled to progress play without a recognised winger to linkup with.

Speaking of which, Leicester are yet to see the best of Perez. Playing him alongside Vardy was a calculated risk to get more output but the Spaniard is often – and best – utilised on the flanks. The play between Perez and Vardy looks unnatural and forced at times; it’s early days in their partnership, but Perez’s best games so far in a Leicester shirt have come when he has operated on the wing.

That’s three of Leicester’s core components struggling in this formation. It’s a formation that, with time, could truly unlock the potential of the team’s midfield excellence, but in that transitional phase, the lack of creativity elsewhere is worrying.

A moment of excellence from Harvey Barnes was the deciding factor last week, something that’s not replicable every game. Leicester struggled to create clear-cut chances in the narrow diamond formation. It was the introduction of the winger that allowed for space centrally, as his natural wide positioning decluttered the pitch.

This space allowed for play to flow freely and resulted in some good opportunities for Rodgers’ side.

Against AFC Bournemouth, the task is different. A young, free-flowing frontline sits in front of an exposable backline. Therefore, Leicester should opt for one of their setups that accommodate wingers: either the 4-3-3 or a 4-1-4-1.

The Cherries have two very impressive central defenders in Nathan Ake and Chris Mepham, but their full-backs have tendencies to push high and lack recovery time, which could work in Leicester’s favour.

Bournemouth normally operate with two or three central midfielders, so Leicester can easily match them centrally. Undeniably, Leicester have more talent in the middle. By matching Bournemouth with three central midfielders, the winners of the contest will ultimately be Leicester.

The aforementioned formations also provide cover for counter-attacks better than the narrow 4-1-2–1-2 does. This is the main reason Rodgers should use it, as Eddie Howe‘s men will look to play quickly on the counter, rather than controlling the ball for large spells.

They offer more speed on the break and will be ruthless in doing so. By playing with with wingers, Leicester will have two wide men to support the defence and neutralise their guests’ biggest strength. Easier said than done, though.

Next. Multiple clubs interested in Leicester City winger. dark

After an excellent start to the 2019/20  Premier League season, a win this weekend could be the cherry on the cake.