Tottenham 0-2 Leicester: A blueprint for beating the deep-block

Leicester City's Brendan Rodgers (Photo by ANDY RAIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Leicester City's Brendan Rodgers (Photo by ANDY RAIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Leicester City
Brendan Rodgers of Leicester City (Photo by Nick Potts – Pool/Getty Images) /

To tackle this, Rodgers’ starting XI had to be tactically adaptable, but also explosive in the final third. The return of Timothy Castagne was pivotal, as his positional flexibility – along with others in the squad – allowed Leicester City to setup their initial eleven in anywhere between three and four different formations depending on the scenario (phase) in the match.

In possession, the Foxes built attacks inside of a 4-2-3-1, a formation they’ve seen some success against deep-blocks in. Out of possession, Leicester could revert to a 3-4-3/5-4-1 – the formation they utilised during the heights of their injury woes. To enable this, the two defensive-midfielders in the 4-2-3-1 – Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi – became the double pivot in the centre. Attacking-midfielder, James Maddison, would push out-wide and Harvey Barnes (starting as the left-midfielder in the 4-2-3-1) would accompany him.

In the starting XI, Marc Albrighton was operating as one of the wingers inside the 4-2-3-1, but his transition into an all-round wing-back has been exemplary this season, and that’s a by-product of elite coaching brought in by Rodgers. Therefore, he naturally dropped into the wing-back position and created a defensive five with the initial starting back four. This allowed Leicester City to be very adaptable when Spurs were in possession, but also defensively resolute. With Belgian-international, Castagne, back in the side, you’ve got an excellent attacking outlet from deep as well.

This still wasn’t the entirety of Rodgers’ formation scope. In fact, the Foxes pressed in a different formation as well, utilising a 4-4-2 – with Maddison helping Jamie Vardy press the Tottenham Hotspur defensive line. The reason for this was to initiate an energetic counter-press that would suffocate Spurs into misplacing a pass, or forcing the ball long – which worked to perfection when the game was still level. Having two forwards inside the first pressing line was integral in this plan, hence Maddison’s adaption.

For the majority of the first-half, Leicester City controlled the game. This was predominantly territorially, as the ball was fairly evenly split between the two sides (46% for Spurs and 54% for Leicester at half-time). During the possession phases, Rodgers’ side rotated the ball exceptionally quick – which was very pleasing to see, and would always utilise a progressive passing lane if it was available. There was an unprecedented level of risk-taking whilst in possession and this was a key principle in the game plan.