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Leicester City 0-3 Chelsea, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

3 points against a lowly Leicester

Smiles all around
Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images

In the previous two seasons, Leicester have (unsuccessfully) battled against Chelsea for the fourth spot in the Premier League and defeated us in the FA Cup final only about 6 months ago. That latter game would lead to Daniel Amartey becoming a nemesis of all our club’s supporters.

Last season’s identical fixture was the last in the league with Frank Lampard at the helm. However, as this game would strongly affirm, this is neither the same Leicester nor the same Chelsea team.


Both managers opted for three at the back and, although this is tried and true for Thomas Tuchel’s players, Brendan Rodgers has endlessly tinkered with lineups this season. Injuries have forced some of those changes. But still he has adjusted formations based on opposition, playing with four at the back against Manchester City and Leeds, or with three as against Arsenal or Chelsea. These adjustments haven’t gone well for them, as they have conceded in every match except their season opener.

Both Caglar Söyüncü and Jonny Evans, making two of the three men in the Foxes backline this weekend, had a day to forget. Evans in fact had a few blunders for our first goal. He was the player who turned the ball over initially after a horrible touch from a simple pass, all while under minimal pressure. He cleared the ball straight out for a throw, which subsequently turned into our corner.

Johnny Evans has to do better

Leicester’s zonal marking for the corner is peculiar, in that they have essentially formed a line across their six-yard box with fullback/wingback Timothy Castagne covering the near post. Chelsea have been quite creative this season on set pieces and devised a brilliant routine that worked flawlessly, earning us the breakthrough goal.

Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel leaves Antonio Rüdiger unchallenged inside their six-yard box, a glaring deficiency in this system. Jorginho does a tremendous job of clearing a lane by blocking off midfielder Wilfred Ndidi as Rüdiger runs to meet the ball. Evans is left marking nobody, Castagne abandons his job marking the near post for a header he will never reach, and Schmeichel does not direct his own back line to pick up Rüdiger’s run. His well-placed, glancing header puts us in front.

Another well-drilled set piece

The goal comes down to Leicester’s poor coaching on set pieces and/or poor execution/communication — to be fair, likely a bit of both. Rüdiger won’t care as this is already his second of the season. Now half of his entire PL goal quota, over four-and-a-half seasons in the competition, has come against the Foxes.

Leicester began the game with little of the ball and a high press. However, our comfort in possession — specifically in defence and midfield — determined the flow of the game. Despite attempted pressure from the Leicester players, our midfield and wingbacks were doing a great job of making triangles and playing around them.

Both Jorginho and N’Golo Kanté were outstanding, controlling the tempo in different facets. The Italian-Brazilian dictated play on the ball with calm and precise passing, while the Frenchman drove into space and smothered his formed team defensively.

Although both Boubakary Soumaré and Ndidi are decent players for Leicester’s midfield, the gap between them and their backline, specifically on their left flank, is a large part of what lost them this game. Chelsea often recycled possession through our right flank, and our second and third goals were direct results of that.

Kanté exploited this repeatedly and, after a deft turn and layoff from Reece James, he carried the ball into the acres of space provided between their out-of-position midfielders and defence. Being afforded the chance to carry from just about the midfield line all the way to their penalty box, Kanté fired home a beautiful effort placed just inside the near post.

Nobody steps to pressure Kanté

At this point Leicester were being thoroughly outplayed, and statistics in the 30th minute told a grim tale of Leicester with only 100 passes attempted and 64% accuracy. They couldn’t keep the ball when they had it, nor could they prevent any of our front seven players from finding space and threatening goals. Play was so routine for Chelsea that even Édouard Mendy tried to pitch in with a near assist to Kai Havertz in the 44th minute.

The heat maps of both our entire team, but specifically of our attacking players, show just how relentlessly we attacked on the right. The attacking positions paint the picture even more clearly, as over half of our attempts came from that side.

Top left: all players. Top right: Mount, Hudson-Odoi, Havertz, Ziyech. Bottom: attacking sides

The only stat that Leicester led going into the break was fouls, having already committed 11 and earning three bookings before the break. They couldn’t hack through our superb play, and the second half would continue with more of the same.

18 fouls, probably half by Amartey

Rodgers made two changes at the break — striker Kelechi Iheanacho and attacking midfielder James Maddison came on for attackers Ademola Lookman and Harvey Barnes. However the substitutes had very little impact in the game.

On the other hand, Chelsea made two subtitutions in the 63rd minute (Christian Pulisic for Havertz, and Hakim Ziyech for Mason Mount) to show what impact subbing really looks like.

Although Pulisic scored the goal, it was almost entirely made by Ziyech. In the early stages of the build-up, Ziyech can be seen urging Trevoh Chalobah to carry the ball forward into that same space Kanté had exploited earlier for his goal. Chalobah obliges and feeds a perfectly weighted through ball onto an equally perfectly timed run by Ziyech. After turning Söyüncü inside out with a nice step over, he sets Pulisic up with an easy tap in.

Ziyech making Pulisic’s goal easy

There should have been an additional three or four goals, but we were not able to keep ourselves onside in the final 20 minutes. Regardless, this was the perfect return from the last interruption to the schedule until after the hectic festive season.

Next up, a crucial battle at the Bridge against Juventus in the Champions League. KTBFFH!

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