In essence, the King Power club faced a defensively resilient and compact team which had no interest in getting into a tit-for-tat battle with a team top of the league. Instead, Middlesbrough would defend well only to seize the initiative at opportune moments. Remember, they had more shots on target than did Maresca’s side; they created better chances than we.
If only the Foxes could alter their playstyle when this happens. A more solid and structured approach reminiscent of the early days of Brendan Rodgers could have been more useful against this opponent. A classic 4-3-3 with two overlapping fullbacks to help create overloads on the wing and construct opportunities in the centre through crosses and inward runs. We did not have this as an option, so we failed to create anything worthy of taking a shot.
A ‘plan b’ is what Maresca needs to develop. Resting on a single system invites trouble when the situations we run into are not favourable. That being said, there is more to the defeat than just that.
Strength in depth (but not style)
The Foxes have the best squad depth in the division. Period. The best first team, and arguably an upper table second team. However, there is a major concern underlaying this supposed superiority: a lack of stylistic depth.
What I mean by that is that when the Portuguese fullback is injured or out, there is no one who performs his role in a familiar fashion. When any of our core midfielders are out, no one can fill the shoes and keep the system running smoothly. When a forward is out, we do not have a ready made replacement.
Hamza Choudhury and Kelechi Iheanacho cannot play the same as either Wilfred Ndidi or Jamie Vardy, so the way the system works must invariably alter to suit these different players. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but when you have a ‘Plan A’ and nothing else, and that plan works best with a certain set of players, changing those players can cause issues.