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[av_heading heading=’THE TACTICAL SECRET BEHIND LEICESTER CITY’S SUCCESS’ tag=’h1′ style=’blockquote modern-quote modern-centered’ size=” subheading_active=” subheading_size=’15’ padding=’10’ color=’custom-color-heading’ custom_font=’#ffffff’][/av_heading]

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Author: Mattia Fontana

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It seemed like it was just a dream, an illusion. And yet, Leicester is still leading the Premier League at the decisive time of the season. Much has been said about the impact on the Foxes structure by Claudio Ranieri, a figure like Jamie Vardy, the talent of Ryad Mahrez and the unique physical qualities of N’golo Kanté. But is there a tactical secret to the success of the Foxes? And, above all, how is it possible that a team lying in eighteenth place for ball possession and nineteenth for percentage of completed passes is still in Premier League?

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The secret of Leicester’s game structure lies entirely in the ability to fall back (and do it in an orderly way) with at least nine of the eleven on their own midfield, to then quickly mount an offensive return. In the first play, you can see how Mahrez and Albrighton are basically lined up with the defence. The movement of the two halfbacks (Drinkwater e Kanté) to maintain the numerical superiority of the team and counter-attack is fundamental. It is not by chance that Leicester is at the top of the stats for intercepted balls and second in completed tackles. However, the Foxes also know how to recover the ball in the rival’s midfield.

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Drinkwater recovers the ball at midfield, looks up and immediately sends Vardy. He dictates the pass by going deep, receives it and then draws a penalty kick (taken by Mahrez and saved by Boruc). Vardy is not only the leading scorer in Premier League, he is also the player who has drawn the most penalty kicks since 2014. Much of this is the result of his constant movement and his obsessive attempts to go deep. Leicester is the number one team in goals scored on counter-attacks and that is no coincidence. But at the same time, this strategy of always going deep stems from a low percentage of completed passes.

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Conclusions:

  • Leicester’s playing style is a careful mixture generated by a return to the fundamentals of British football and the defensive and counter-attack phase that is typically Italian, with the addition of a dominant athleticism.
  • The most interesting characteristics are their ability to associate high pressing with a low defensive phase intended purely to cover the open spaces. From an offensive point of view, Ranieri has instilled the traditional Italian counter-attacking system (long pass and fast forwards looking for the open spaces) in a setting of British physical dominance, eliminating the striker’s role.
  • The fact that a team has managed to climb to the top of the championship standings, despite having the worst percentages of ball possession and completed passes, goes to show that there is no single type of football and that, even in the most complete league in the world, there is still room for fresh ideas and tactical reworking.

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Mattia Fontana

Mattia Fontana, Eurosport Italia editor.

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