Enzo Maresca’s revolutionary Leicester City continued their ongoing march to the top. Here are the positives and negatives we noticed from a tight run match.
Some believed QPR would be pushovers and that the Foxes would crush them under their steel-tipped marching boots as they look to keep their title charge on full bars. This is not totally inaccurate, but the scoreline certainly reflects a less dominating performance – at least in terms of chance creation.
The King Power club struck first with a goal from summer signing Stephy Mavididi, which was equalised after defenders switched off for Andre Dozzel to bypass Mads Hermansen and Hamza Choudhury who had just defended the previous shot on target. Leicester found the win through a stunning goal from another summer signing: Harry Winks.
Leicester City’s defensive fragility
As mentioned in our previous iterations, ‘Marescaball’ is not infallible. Quite the opposite really: the perfect counter would usually be a high-pressing counter-attacking style based on using pacey forwards to out run an undermanned defence. This seldom happens, but when we do see teams break the midfield line on the turnover, this is when Leicester are at their weakest.
This was true against QPR. The home side did very little throughout the tie, relying on a high press but lacking the quality to retain possession or any progression thereafter. We saw the Foxes notch up – checking notes – 79% overall possession across the fixture. That is absolutely ridiculous. That means that for this 97 minute affair, Maresca’s men held the ball for 76 minutes.
This being said, those 14 minutes were enough for QPR to construct nine shots, three of those on target, two in the same passage of play, one of those going in the net. That was enough to peg us back, and were it not for a cracking shot from ‘Winksy’ we would not have been talking about the team about the smash the record for most wins at the start of a season.
The fragility comes from two of the crucial factors which make up this total football approach the Italian head coach has brought to the Midlands: positional fluidity, and the high press. Leicester City sit mostly within the opposition’s half, only falling back when necessary to defend long balls and splitting through balls. The consequence of this high press is a question: what happens when you break the press?
The Foxes midfield is strong. Comprising of Premier League level players. When QPR got passed this, the midfield were scrambling not knowing exactly where to position themselves – fluidity – and defenders were exposed. Yes, Choudhury performed an excellent block, but no one else was aware enough to stop the second chance. LCFC were lucky on the first shot, caught lacking on the second.
This has to improve if the winning run is not to come to a shocking and grinding halt against teams who can exploit the lack of pace at the centre of our defence and create numerical overloads swiftly on the wings. We can expect our meeting with Leeds United to be similar to our one with Sunderland: edgy and close run.