Enzo Maresca’s Leicester City marches on. An initially dicey fixture met with a surprise hero and new gem led the Foxes to a 1-3 victory over Swansea City.
Leicester City’s Danish Surprise
Travel back in time two years and tell a supporter that Jannik Vestergaard would be a starter, they he would be playing well, and that he would have just scored a belter to save the King Power club from first half humiliation against Swansea City in the EFL Championship. What a tale that would be!
Of course, this is a story of revival for Vestergaard. The Danish international defender was rejected by Brendan Rodgers who saw his lack of pace as a negative in his brand of football. Now, Enzo Maresca – who’s style of play is more similar to that of Mikel Arteta and Pep Guardiola – has the player an integral part of this promotion sprint.
At the time of writing, Vestergaard has accomplished much for Leicester: he has recovered the ball 5.4 times and game and made 4.7 clearances per game. These are astonishing numbers for a player not in the team for his defensive attributes. He is there to pass well, and to be fair he is evidently doing this too.
Over 100 touches for the Foxes, over 90% passing accuracy, and 75% dribble success rate. What we have witnessed has been a masterclass in career resurgence. In the Championship, the Danish centre-back has helped Maresca’s side regain, retain, and progress the ball. Certainly this is nothing but a great thing, even if it sidelines Harry Souttar and even Conor Coady.
Wastefulness and Domination
What is ‘Marescaball’? A clear definition would likely consist of several elements. Firstly, Leicester City play in a positionally fluid and rotational pattern: fullbacks pulling into midfield, midfielders dashing out wide, etc. Second, the wings are viewed as crucial points of explosiveness and numerical overload, where fullbacks, wingers, midfielders, and sometimes strikers penetrate defensive lines. Thirdly, it revolves around controlling progression and of course excessive possession.
There are three inevitable outcomes of this approach: chances galore, possession domination, and defensive fragility. Let me explain briefly. Overloads, explosiveness, and rotation make marking and compact defensive structures hard to maintain so the Foxes create a high number of chances. By virtue of incessant passing and recycling, possession stats should be high. Finally, with most players in attacking positions, explosive counter attacks could be fatal, and the side are not immune to desperate fouls and set-pieces.
Against Swansea City, Leicester garnered over 60% possession, over 17 shots, and conceded from a corner. Despite all this domination, despite all these chances. The Foxes needed a hero in Vestergaard and one goal out of many chances to take the lead against the hosts. Maresca’s system is not infallible, the players are not immune to criticism.
It is clear that the King Power club lacked a clinical edge for much of the first half and most of the fixture. They created plenty of opportunities, but failed to make that sheer domination count. They controlled the match, everything was going as they wanted, and yet they struggled to make it count.
This must be addressed should Leicester City wish to develop into a force capable of thriving in the Premier League should they be able to maintain current standings and gain promotion. Sometimes, creating less – more clinical – opportunities is better than throwing the kitchen sink at a match and hoping he ball lands behind the opposing goalkeeper.
Top of the League are Leicester
With Ipswich Town not playing their match, Preston North End drawing, and the Foxes finding triumph after triumph in the league, the Foxes are well and truly steaming ahead. As things stand, Leicester are five points clear of their nearest rivals, who are themselves seven points clear of third with a game in hand. This means Maresca has us 12 points daylight for guaranteed promotion with only 12 matches played.
How can anyone not say it now? Top of the league are Leicester, the best side the Championship has ever seen, with the most expensive squad it has ever had, and its most creative and inventive head coach. This is a new chapter for the Foxes, and there is nothing holding us back.
The steam train keeps going, the players continue to march, and there are more players yet to come back from injury and a whole January transfer window on the horizon. Leicester City could improve further and finalise their situation: dominate the league through chance creation.