If the home fixture against Burnley was all about commemoration for Leicester City, then the one against Southampton was all about celebration – nine times.
A near-perfect performance from the Foxes saw them leave St. Mary’s Stadium with three points away Premier League record for the largest winning margin.
Scoring hasn’t been an issue this season for Leicester – they’ve already beaten Newcastle United, 5-0. To beat the record, however, is something drastically different and it was Brendan Rodgers’ starting XI alteration that made it achievable.
Leicester have made themselves known for their 4-1-4-1, which sees the wingers play across the same line as the central midfielders. Marc Albrighton excels in this position, as his tracking ability makes him the perfect fit for the system.
Rodgers said midweek that he “wanted more from his wingers”. He wasn’t completely disregarding the performances of the wingers, but he was asking for more and rightly so, given that Ayoze Perez cost just over £30m and was yet to get a goal for the club.
Harvey Barnes has been playing well, too – he has four assists and a goal. The message from the manager seemed to spark the whole squad into action, especially the wingers.
It wasn’t just purely intent that rewarded the visitors with a 9-0 victory. Ryan Bertrand’s red card served as a catalyst, but the change in formation from 4-1-4-1 to a more attacking 4-3-3 was the main reason.
Allowing the wingers to play higher up – closer to Jamie Vardy – boosted their output. They were receiving the ball in more advanced areas, meaning that they needed to do less on the ball to create chances.
The formation gives extra freedom to the full-backs also. they’re allowed to progress with the ball deeper into the opposition’s half while also being an option on the overlap. It does expose them defensively, so against top-tier opposition, it shouldn’t be considered a formation of choice.
Praise should still be heaped on both wingers, Barnes and Perez, as the formation in isolation only places them in the positions. It’s their personal abilities that make chances happen, and with that , the former Newcastle star really excelled.
There was no coincidence that Vardy got a hat-trick in this game either. The former England international had already scored six goals with, at times, a lack of support.
When the front-line is so closely positioned, he will always get more chances, although a prolific goal-scorer such as Vardy doesn’t require much service to get his goal.
A footnote would be that Southampton played horrendously. The staff and players of the club have consequently given a day’s wage to the club’s foundation, although a day’s worth of wages won’t justify the embarrassment for the fans.