Leicester City 1-2 Middlesbrough: What Enzo Maresca should have done differently

Leicester City fell to defeat in a disappointing result which sees their lead at the summit diminish. Enzo Maresca may have made mistakes in the lineup and in-match decisions. Here is what our revolutionary should have done.
Leicester City v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet Championship
Leicester City v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet Championship / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

33 games played, 78 points gained, nine points clear at the summit of the Championship. To those critical of the Italian head coach, remember that. The Foxes are at the top, winning most games, and Maresca is the architect of this revolutionary transformation of the side which was relegated in poor fashion.

Yet, this triumphant reality can be sobered by a critical analysis of what could be done better. The Middlesbrough humblings are one of those moments we can look further into. A 1-0 loss and a 1-2 defeat to the same team despite our supposed superiority: clearly there is more to the story and certainly more Maresca can improve.

Leicester City’s strongest XI

Let me pose this question: when your team is consistently winning, do you reinvent or alter the existing XI? The answer is obviously no, unless forced to due to absence. However, Leicester chose to start playing Dennis Praet over Yunus Akgun, and then split the rest of the team up during the match.

The King Power side need to identify their players, and build separate teams to play at times. The primary XI should never be broken up due to managerial preference of the day. Think about not starting Callum Doyle after his return from injury, and not choosing Akgun who had forced his way into the XI after Cesare Casadei departed.

A better decision over the Belgian could easily have been Kasey McAteer who performed excellently in that attacking midfield position in recent matches. Again, Praet is a curious choice to throw into the side, when better choices are present.

Questionable Substitutions

During the fixture, Maresca brought on Akgun, Tom Cannon, Kasey McAteer, Marc Albrighton, and eventual goal scorer Jamie Vardy. This meant taking off Abdul Fatawu, Stephy Mavididi, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Dennis Praet and Patson Daka. Three of those are represented in the top five for xG and xA, one of those a climbing star up front.

To bring off your most creative, highest goal-scoring, and defence-terrifying players when you are under pressure is simply poor judgement. Possibly the head coach felt an air of complacency and took off the biggest players to send a statement. Whatever the case, we do not need statements, we need even more results.

This is the most competitive season of Championship football in the history of the competition, with four teams at the same time breaching the 60 point mark. That is remarkable. In such a climate, only consistency and good game management can return the ultimate prize: it is something we usually do not need to rely on to win, but against Middlesbrough we showed that you do need it.

Leicester City’s Enzo Maresca must change his perception of substitutions and look to keep up the pressure on teams regardless of the scoreline. I would have taken Praet and Daka off at half time (the former a lacklustre showing, the latter not performant) for Akgun/McAteer and Vardy so we still have most of the best players on the pitch.

Massive changes should only be a last resort. In that case, I would have retained Mavididi and KDH for their clear impact, and possibly still brought on Cannon but then maybe Callum Doyle to help uplift the backline, bring it energy, and ensure we can progress from the back better. This was one failing point.