Leicester City’s Tactical Set-Up Meets Vincent Kompany’s Magic
Brendan Rodgers came to Manchester with an astute tactical setup. The 46-year-old coach has been around the block and understands that conventional wisdom doesn’t work against a side like Manchester City. Leicester City’s tactical set-up was ready to have everything thrown at it by Pep Guardiola’s side.
Vincent Kompany‘s Magic Trumps Leicester City’s Tactical Set-Up
The Tactical Set-Up
Leicester City’s tactical set-up starts with the forwards. People think that to beat a team that possess like City, it’s about the defenders, but defending against City starts with the wide forwards, players who usually hate defending. They have to not only have the energy to press the full-backs, but they have to get back and cover their own full-back in defence as well.
So, Rodgers stuck Marc Albrighton on the right wing to defend against Raheem Sterling. Albrighton has always been much better at tracking back than doing anything going forward. The other big selection for Rodgers was the inclusion of young defensive midfielder Hamza Choudhury. The Leicester academy product was there to provide defensive solidity and do the jobs around Wilfred Ndidi.
The two had a marvellous game in midfield controlling the Manchester City play. In the first half, Bernardo Silva was getting too much space, so Choudhury doubled up with his full-back. Then Phil Foden started getting into the space Choudhury was leaving. So the young academy product adapted and chose his spots to go out and help; he was brilliant.
The Possession Set-Up
The other part of Brendan Rodgers’ plan was to possess the ball more than teams typically do at the Etihad. It could be argued that getting a 61-39 split isn’t a very good job of that, but 39% possession is more than most teams get in Manchester. Well, at least in the blue half.
However, it’s about what they were able to create with that possession. Early on there was at least a small threat to their attacks. James Maddison is a pretty good young player and he will rue the shot he failed to curl into Ederson’s net, bot as much as Leicester substitute and ex-Manchester City player Kelechi Iheanacho will rue the chance he missed by a country mile.
Leicester are going to be a real thorn in the side of the big six next season based on this evidence. Ndidi, Choudhury, Harry Maguire and Ricardo Pereira were outstanding in this game and gave Manchester City all kinds of trouble. They deserved to walk out of the Etihad with at least a point. It’s funny how football works.
The Manchester City Side
Pep Guardiola completely changed the game in the second half when he brought on Leroy Sane for Phil Foden. Instead of pushing Sterling out wide and Bernardo Silva into midfield, Pep made a different move. He moved Sterling up near Sergio Aguero to play off the striker. He kept Bernardo on the wing, which allowed him to keep up his high pressure.
The move began an endless barrage of attacks down the City left-hand side. Sterling and David Silva were given license to float around the left-hand side of the box, using Sane and Aguero as focal points to play off of. It forced the Leicester midfield closer to their defence, loosening up the central/right section of the attacking plain. Guardiola’s tactical plan was to open up space for Bernardo Silva in that area.
In the end, the space that he opened up wasn’t used by Bernardo Silva, rather it was Vincent Kompany. Let’s be clear, none of that makes a difference without the wonder-hit from Kompany. The captain pulled out one of the strikes of the season to give City the lead. It was made easier for him by the tactical change Guardiola made, but he hit a rocket.
This was the not the first game this season that Pep Guardiola pushed Raheem Sterling into the centre of the field. It’s been something he has used in bits and cameos, the League Cup final against Chelsea or the Champions League quarter-final second leg against Tottenham Hotspur for example, but it is a role that could become much more prevalent for Manchester City.
It is something Guardiola has done in the past, specifically in the second half of his time at Bayern Munich. He had Douglas Costa on the left, Arjen Robben on the right and Thomas Muller floating between the midfield and forwards. With Robert Lewandowski as a focal point, Muller would dart into the box when Costa had the ball, and float to the right when Robben got it.
Guardiola clearly thinks that Raheem Sterling could play that position just like Muller did, and this is a lab to try it. It was a clear change from the football of the first half and threw Leicester in flux a little bit. Whether that is sustainable going forward is questionable, though.