The King Power club’s Enzo Maresca has shone while with the Foxes. In spite of initial pessimism of signing a failed head coach who’s only claim to success was working with Pep Guardiola, the Italian head coach has completely transformed the culture and direction of the East Midland’s side. Top of the league, and only challenged by an insurgent Ipswich Town.
Anyway, their most recent travels, they faced off with ‘West Brom’ which saw Leicester retain their one point lead at the top of the table. However, the tie is not just the slim scoreline. It contains one positive and two negatives which Maresca will have to address should the Foxes continue their stint at the summit.
Leicester City’s emphatic midfield
In previous editions, we have discussed the dynamic duo which form the backbone of Maresca’s system: Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall - the ‘dynamo’ - and Harry Winks - the ‘clockwork’ - have become integral to how Leicester City create and defend. However, they are now adding a further dimension to their game.
"Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall is improving in the right way in the last third. We needed him to be more clinical in terms of assists and goals"- Enzo Maresca via BBC Sport
‘KDH’ is offering more of an attacking threat. Maresca’s comments merely exemplify this. In partnership with Winks, we have seen swift counter-attacking football and an emphasis on getting forward to progress the ball and create a chance. This is what led to the second goal against WBA: the Foxes won the ball, Kelechi Iheanacho released it to the dashing KDH, and Winks blitzed away from defenders to set himself up a tap in.
Leicester’s midfield is where games are won or lost. If either of the duo play poorly or are not properly substituted when rotated, you see the Foxes struggle to maintain possession, pass through compact defensive lines, or even create devastating chances. The two represent the perfect stylistic suiting for the Italian head coach to use. Luckily for supporters, these two are exactly what we need.
I feel like a broken record at times. The fluid style deployed by the King Power side can either impose possessive and progressive domination, or it might instead lead to a lack of chances and letting in chances late in fixtures. It is that latter we concern ourselves with here: in the past five fixtures, we have seen late goals conceded against Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday, and now West Brom.
These occurrences are concerning in that although against the vast majority of Championship teams we should be fine, against upper Championship and Premier League teams this systematic fragility to conceding goals would be unwelcome. I suspect the quality of our squad cannot be directly contributing to these occurrences, so we must dig into how the system it laid out and what led to the WBA goal.
A long-throw into the box, a desperate scramble, and a lack of leadership and responsibility. These are what led to the late equaliser. Defensively, set pieces are our weakest moment: we are not in control of the flow of the ball, therefore cannot dictate where the chance will come from as can be done in open play. Also, in the mind of each player, the thought is always that ‘someone else will cover it’ and they must always be prepared to start rushing forward. Hesitation ensues as the players decide whether to prepare for a counter or try to defend.
Enzo Maresca’s system performs best when the opposition are disorganised following a turnover of possession. The quality and pace of Leicester’s midfield and wings can swiftly progress and create a chance and if they can do this often enough, they will often come away with a goal or two. Therefore, talents such has Mads Hermansen and Wout Faes left James Justin to try and deal with the chance as they had to think how they could contribute to the counter: a long ball and a backward pass option.
Both winning and losing by slim margins are not necessarily good things. This means we are consistently conceding one or two, while only consistently scoring one or two despite having the most expensive squad in the division. The quality in our squad should logically tend towards multi-goal victories and minimal concessions.
Again, this is a most concerning trend which we have seen over the last five matches. Losing to a rival, an alright team, drawing to a nigh non-entity in the Championship, and only just brushing past midtable opposition. Only against Watford did we catch of glimpse of what a Leicester City win should look like, although arguably even that is contentious with the Foxes needing a penalty to gain the two-goal margin.
"It is a huge win. We are trying to build something here, not just on the pitch, but off it too"- Enzo Maresca via BBC Sport
It feels like a huge win because it takes courage to win it in the final minutes of a tightly contested affair. However, should Maresca’s team really have been pushing it that close by losing concentration and being given a rough hand of cards by the head coach? The answer is most certainly ‘no’.
Despite only be rivalled by Southampton on possession statistics, the King Power locomotive has only scored 34 goals: on par with Leeds United, and behind Ipswich. That would ordinarily be a good stat, but when that includes only five in the last five while conceding four. Those numbers are too close for comfort: all it takes is a poor run of form, one mistake, a bit of bad luck and those slim margins turn against Leicester.