Middlesbrough are the latest side to halt the Leicester City promotion locomotive. Let us have a look at what Enzo Maresca got wrong with the Foxes.
The King Power travellers fell to defeat once more as their seemingly ceaseless winning run comes to a grinding halt against Leeds United and now Middlesbrough. Both losses by a single goal margin, both with dominating possession statistics for the Foxes. A disappointment for supporters for sure.
We are now starting to see an issue with MarescaBall which has been seldom considered during the winning run: what happens when you do not translate possession domination into chance creation. We can see the result of this here. Over 66% possession, 12 shots, but only four of those on target and an xG of only 0.8. Those are abysmal stats for a side looking to maintain a constant promotion charge.
Leicester City’s plan A (and that is it)
I have written about this briefly beforehand, but it has come to the foreground more prominently here. The Italian head coach plays the Foxes in a positionally fluid 4-3-3 which in-possession transforms into a 3-4-3 with a fullback like Ricardo Pereira moving into midfield to support defensive midfielder Harry Winks. This allows for effective recycling of possession and control of the centre of the pitch.
The pitfall comes when Leicester loses possession. Their centre-backs – until Callum Doyle returns anyway – are not the pacy type, and a long ball onto explosive wingers simply devastates our defence. Beyond that, we remain most vulnerable during either counter-attacks when our midfielders and forwards struggle to track back, or set-piece scenarios such as that which struck against us at the Riverside Stadium.