3 Things we learned from Leicester’s win against SC Braga

Leicester City players (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Leicester City players (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images) /
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Leicester City
Leicester City players (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images) /

Leicester City have completed their first round of UEFA Europa League fixtures with a perfect record, the Foxes have only conceded a single goal in three games. What did we learn, from a tactical standpoint, from the victory against SC Braga last night?

The winger compositions

Brendan Rodgers’ winger usage at Leicester City is fairly regiment. Ordinarily, they’re accompanying Jamie Vardy, a forward that likes to play on the shoulder of the defensive line, ready to exploit the space in behind. In last nights game against SC Braga, Kelechi Iheanacho was deployed as the focal point forward, but even with a contradictory style to the Foxes’ talisman, the wingers were still utilised in the same capacity.

Essentially, Rodgers wants both kinds of wingers present on the pitch at anytime, to facilitate a balance in the composition. Throughout the Leicester City squad, there’s a plethora of winger options – Harvey Barnes, Ayoze Pérez, Cengiz Ünder, James Maddison, and Dennis Praet. There’s also the out-of-favour, Demarai Gray, but his time with the Foxes is seemingly dwindling.

Of the five “usable” options, there’s a distinct way of splitting them up into two groups – there’s the direct runner, who likes to hold the wide positioning before attempting to beat his full-back one-on-one, and there’s the “false” winger, who plays between the lines and cuts inside to roam in the half-space.

To achieve maximum balance, Rodgers has opted to use one from both groups in all of his starting XI’s this season. In the first few games, it would be Barnes and Pérez – the former being the direct runner, and the latter being the “false” winger, but in recent outings it’s been Barnes and Praet – with Praet occupying the “false” winger role.

In yesterday’s game, it was Maddison and Ünder, with no surprise that the Turkish-international was the direct runner, and the English playmaker was the “false” winger. The theory behind this composition is that while the direct runner is stretching the defensive shape with their positioning and threat in behind, the “false” winger can drop into the half-space and collect the ball from midfield. By creating diagonal and vertical passing lanes, Leicester City are able to cut through presses and effectively bypass the oppositions midfield.

Interestingly, I think two direct runners would work alongside Iheanacho, but not Vardy. This is because the Nigerian naturally plays the role of the “false” winger, dropping off the defensive line to receive the ball with his back to goal, whereas Vardy is considered a direct runner. For the balance to work, Rodgers wants two direct runners and one dropping in between the lines, so playing Iheanacho in the middle could facilitate a Barnes and Under partnership on the wing. Think of this style in a similar sense to American Football, the “false” winger is the quarterback and the two direct runners are the full-backs.