For the first time in a century, Leicester City have started the season with three victories, the latest being a hard-fought 1-0 victory against Neil Warnock’s Huddersfield Town.
Yet, despite the positive results, some fans have questioned some of Enzo Maresca’s tactics and selection choices. In response, FOL are here to clear up any doubts.
Patience is a virtue
Having gone to both league games this season, it has become clear that there are some fans who are yet to understand the principles that Enzo Maresca seeks to bring to LCFC’s play. Enzo Maresca encourages his side to engage in ‘press-baiting’, involving slow and methodical build-up designed to lure the opposition in and create space to exploit.
At times this may mean Leicester City seem boring and slow, but that is not the case. Unlike build-up under Brendan Rodgers, Maresca’s LCFC pass with a purpose. Every pass is designed to lead to an eventual goal of progressing the ball to the final third, with the opposition out of shape. Like many things in life, successfully building up play is not a linear process.
The ball cannot continually go forward without attackers being crowded out. Otherwise, it becomes very predictable for teams, who can sit in a disciplined shape and make it near-impossible for LCFC to break through.
Key to the process in the absence of Conor Coady is the much-maligned Jannik Vestergaard. Contrary to popular opinion, the Dane has actually started the season quite well, considering the negativity shown towards his selection. Fans undoubtedly have a negative opinion due to his athletic limitations but he performs a very important role in the side. Being able to choose and execute the right pass to break the first line or recycle possession is vitally important, something Vestergaard executes nearly every time. The fact he may give away possession occasionally should not be used as a marker of unreliability.
Therefore, Maresca’s decision to pick Vestergaard for the 70% of the time LCFC have the ball accepts the risk that the Foxes will be more vulnerable out of possession. Eventually, Vestergaard will be no longer needed, but it is important to highlight his current use to the team.
Risks are inevitable
On the flip side, this approach inevitably leads to mistakes, especially against high-pressing opponents who employ man-to-man marking.
Throughout the Huddersfield game, there were instances where the Foxes lost the ball in dangerous areas, as a result of playing out the back. This is inevitable, even the best teams will give the ball away in their own third.
Players are human and LCFC are a Championship club now, so this is going to happen more often than at Manchester City for instance. Mistakes should not be catastrophised, they are a small price to pay for the rewards this approach can garner, and should not deter fans or the players from continuing to buy into the process.
Leicester City fans must get behind the team
Going back to the discontent at Maresca’s tactics, this mainly seems to be present amongst certain sections of the match-going crowd. Ironically, some of the match-going fans wanting us to ‘clear our lines’ when under pressure are the same people who moan when a long ball results in a turnover of possession.
You cannot have control and sustained dominance by being constantly direct. Liverpool’s draw against Chelsea showcased the problems of being too vertical perfectly. Trying to force a final ball at every opportunity, results in frequent turnovers, something Leicester City are not good at dealing with. Instead, the direct option should be an alternative, to mix things up against stubborn opposition who are pressing extremely high. This is unlikely to be the case often in the Championship, however.