We return to Premier League action against Leicester City on Saturday, and ahead of the game Michael Cox analyses the champions' strengths, key men and the areas we could target:
- Follow our live audio of the Leicester match
- 'It will be a big game with lots of tension'
- Wenger on Vardy, Mahrez and Leicester City
- Wenger on Mustafi, Lacazette and transfers
Claudio Ranieri’s title success last season ranks as one of the most incredible stories in the history of English football. The Italian was known as ‘the Tinkerman’ during his spell at Chelsea due to his love of squad rotation and tactical changes, but with the Foxes he settled on a simple shape and a regular starting XI.
Following last season’s success will be extremely tricky, but Ranieri has plenty of Champions League experience, can rely upon an excellent defensive shape and has only lost one major player with N’Golo Kante going to Chelsea.
While Leicester’s system is generally described as a 4-4-2, realistically it’s a little more complex than that. Jamie Vardy stays up front, but last season Shinji Okazaki played a significantly deeper role, contributing more in terms of work rate and ball-winning than goalscoring threat, so it’s more of a 4-4-1-1.
The Foxes also concentrate on staying extremely compact, to prevent opponents finding space between the lines, and are usually very narrow too: allowing space down the flanks, and defending crosses with two towering centre-backs.
Leicester’s counter-attacking speed last season was extraordinary, with Vardy chasing long balls over the top and Riyad Mahrez, PFA Player of the Year, dribbling dangerously from the right. The signing of Nigerian attacker Ahmed Musa, fielded alongside Vardy in the opening day 2-1 defeat to Hull, provides yet more pace.
Leicester’s deep defensive block and their excellent ball-winning skills contributes to their excellence at turnovers - last season, no Premier League side completed more tackles or more interceptions.
While Vardy is Leicester’s most prolific goalscorer, Mahrez is more of an all-round threat. Last season he was deadly in front of goal, created a succession of chances and, most crucially considering opponents are increasingly putting men behind the ball and playing defensively, he can dribble past players too.
Areas To Target
Last weekend, Leicester’s front four was comprised of four speedsters - Vardy, Musa, Mahrez and Demarai Gray - and they found it difficult to break down a side sitting very deep. They also lack height, and therefore can be vulnerable when defending set-pieces.
More quizzes to follow soon!
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