This was a Premier League match where we saw a few interesting things to pick out, and a lot of tactics and strategies worth giving some analysis to. With manager Marco Silva under huge pressure, Everton came to the King Power Stadium and played a different style of play to what they ordinarily prefer using. When Everton took the lead, it was clear that something had to change for Leicester City, and it did. In this tactical analysis, we will look at how Everton managed to go in at half-time ahead, and how Leicester changed their formation and strategy to come from behind and win the match.

Lineups

Premier League 2019/2020: Leicester v Everton - tactical analysis tactics

Leicester were unchanged from their last match, a 2-0 win against Brighton at the Amex Stadium last Saturday, and used the same formation. Attacking midfielders James Maddison and Youri Tielemans were deployed behind star frontman Jamie Vardy, who had scored in Leicester’s last five games – his and the Premier League record for scoring in successive games is 11, set by him in their title-winning season. Ayoze Perez and Harvey Barnes again provided the width either side of him. As for Everton, they switched to a wing-back formation for this one after they were on the end of a 2-0 loss against struggling Norwich last time out. Michael Keane, Alex Iwobi, and Dominic Calvert-Lewin came in for them, with Morgan Schneiderlin and Cenk Tosun moving to the bench and Theo Walcott missing out altogether. This wing-back formation frustrated Leicester City.

Everton working together

Everton’s strategy was designed to keep Leicester City’s full-backs Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell in their own half of the pitch and starve striker Jamie Vardy of service. They did this by getting their full-backs further up the pitch, which meant Ricardo and Chilwell couldn’t advance too far for fear of leaving space open at the back behind them. This was strategically smart from the Toffees. However, when the Foxes did manage to move forward, Everton reverted to the defensive side of the wing-back formation, which is to form a backline of five players. Whilst Leicester City may have been able to find space, they couldn’t cross the ball in. Everton’s players each marked one man, with two men marking Vardy in the D as he was the biggest threat.

The attacking side to the tactic was Everton having an extra two men when attacking, and this also allowed their wingers, Richarlison and Iwobi, to drift inside and play more central, which in turn helped Dominic Calvert-Lewis as the striker. In fact, Everton’s goal is a perfect example of how this helped, because Iwobi passed the ball from the middle of the pitch out to the right wing-back, Sidibe, who then crossed in for Richarlison to score. This is how the tactic should work when executed perfectly.

When Leicester City did get forward, Everton were organised.

Premier League 2019/2020: Leicester v Everton - tactical analysis tactics
Everton’s two defensive lines can be clearly seen, as Leicester were continually frustrated throughout the first half

The images demonstrate Everton’s organisation when Leicester City did come forward, all working together to frustrate Leicester. Vardy is in the middle of the back five, as mentioned, but Ricardo, again in possession, can’t get the ball into the box for him, because both he and Perez are being closed down by the Everton players, as shown by the arrows. You can also see Maddison and Tielemans in the middle of the two lines, but Everton didn’t have to worry about that as long as they ensured the ball couldn’t reach them from the wide players. This happened time and time again during the first half.

Premier League 2019/2020: Leicester v Everton - tactical analysis tactics
Everton’s Alex Iwobi plays the ball in front of Djibril Sidibe, setting up Richarlison’s opening goal

The image above shows Everton’s goal. You can see the tactic in motion – Iwobi in the middle plays the ball out to Sidibe who crosses in for Richarlison. The small arrow shows the path of the ball after being passed, and the larger arrow shows Sidibe’s run, and you can see how Leicester have been caught out because they have been all dragged to the near side of the pitch, leaving Chilwell in particular under pressure to get back across before Sidibe gets there, which he doesn’t manage to.

Foxes ‘switched the momentum’

In the second half, Leicester City played for a little while trying to be quicker with their passing, before manager Brendan Rodgers made a substitution that switched the momentum to the Foxes for the rest of the match. He brought on Kelechi Iheanacho for Perez and played him alongside Vardy in a front two. This meant that Leicester could now change the way they made runs, to help generate more service for their two strikers. By playing Vardy and Iheanacho in this way, it meant Everton’s defenders now had to move sideways to cover the strikers’ runs, which meant the gaps in between them were becoming wider and wider.

As far as the Leicester attack was now concerned, this now allowed them to stretch Everton’s three centre-backs, until there were gaps for the midfielders, Maddison and Tielemans, to run through and begin to get shots away. This tactic worked for them, and Leicester were by far on top during the second half. This also relieved their defence as the two wing-backs, now facing their own pressure from Leicester’s attack, couldn’t now put pressure on Ricardo and Chilwell to stay back, and instead it was them who had to come back and help out their defenders. The knock-on effect of this was that Leicester could now attack as we have seen them do all season, with Ricardo and Chilwell providing a threat from the wings, allowing the other players to concentrate on playing more centrally and being available for crosses. This all came because of this one tactical swap made by Rodgers and Leicester City.

If Everton’s wing-backs didn’t track back, then they risked doing what they had tried to get Leicester to do in the first-half – leaving space in behind them which would put the rest of the defence in an incredibly vulnerable position. This is how Leicester’s equalising goal was scored, in fact – because they weren’t able to get back in time.

Premier League 2019/2020: Leicester v Everton - tactical analysis tactics
Now Leicester had two options every time they advanced forward

In this image, which is the buildup to Leicester City’s equaliser, Wilfred Ndidi is in possession, and now has two options to play the ball to. Vardy and Iheanacho are both circled and can be clearly seen on either side of the Everton back three, whereas when Vardy was up there by himself, he was in the middle of the defenders. This is the tactical alteration made by Leicester, and the effect it has allowed them to make.

Leicester ‘began to take full control’

This is how Leicester City began to take full control of the match. You can see below that, whilst Everton have six players back to help out, Vardy and Iheanacho (both circled) were still stretching them by playing wide, and in this case, it was Maddison (in the middle of the D) that was able to get through them and onto the end of Vardy’s cross. The path of the ball after Vardy crossed it in is shown by the blue arrow, whilst Maddison’s run to meet it is indicated by the black arrow. Whilst a goal didn’t come from this particular instance, it was clear that the confidence was back amongst the Leicester players, and this theme of the strikers playing wide and the midfielders moving into the box was constant in the second half.

Premier League 2019/2020: Leicester v Everton: tactical analysis tactics
Playing the strikers wide allowed the midfielders to get into the box more often for Leicester

This tactical success is highlighted even more by this final image, which shows how Leicester are now in complete control.

Premier League 2019/2020: Leicester v Everton - tactical analysis tactics
Leicester were in full control after Iheanacho came on

This shows how Vardy and Iheanacho (both circled) are continually playing wide in order to stretch Everton and create gaps, but there is something else in this image to point out. Look where Ricardo is, at the top of the image, being marked by two Everton players, as shown by the lines. This might sound like a negative, but we have to remember how in the first half Everton were marking one player on one player. Now if we look at where Tielemans is (in the square), he is unmarked and ready to receive the ball and cross it into the box.

It was interesting to hear Brendan Rodgers talking afterwards about how they realised they were being frustrated in the first half and had an alternative shape that they could fall back on if they needed to – and this was it. It shows how tactically astute you have to be in the Premier League, and have two or three different systems worked on so that, should you be unable to break down an opponent, you can try something else.

Finally, a quick work should be had on VAR which had two big incidents to deal with in this match, and I thought it got both right. Firstly, Holgate did have a little hack at Chilwell, but without any visible contact, so whilst the Everton defender needs to be a little bit careful, it wasn’t a penalty in my opinion. Secondly, the second Leicester goal from Iheanacho was onside as Everton were just ahead of him, so that was the correct decision as well.

Conclusion

This is why the Foxes are former champions. They know how to win games, and this is a perfect example of how important it is to have a Plan A, B and even perhaps C for when games are not going your way, as it wasn’t for Leicester City here. It also shows just how important each substitution is, and how influential your fringe players can be when they want to make an impact. This was a really interesting game to watch, because of the tactical battle going on between Silva and Rodgers on the touchline, but then this also proves why Leicester are second and Everton are struggling.


Total Football Analysis Magazine #16: December 2019

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