Liverpool – Leicester City: Leicester trouble Liverpool with excellent defensive work and come back from early blow (1-1)
The title race in England is still partly open, as Liverpool failed to capitalize on Manchester City’s loss against Newcastle United. A very unexpected result, moreso because Sadio Mané scored as early as the second minute, putting the wind in Liverpool’s sails. But Leicester hung on and worked themselves back into the contest, allowing them to salvage a deserved draw.
Tactical analysis and match report by Om Arvind.
Liverpool hosted mid-table Leicester City on the 24th matchday of the season, following Manchester City’s shock loss to Newcastle the previous day. City’s slip-up gave Liverpool the opportunity to reopen a seven-point lead at the top of the table, placing crucial importance on this Premier League encounter.
Jürgen Klopp did not have a full squad to choose from, with first-choice right back Trent Alexander-Arnold failing to recover from an injury in time to play. James Milner was also unavailable due to an indirect card suspension.
Klopp still managed to select a strong eleven – especially in attack. Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané, and Xherdan Shaqiri made up the offensive quartet in Liverpool’s 4-2-3-1. Naby Keïta and Georginio Wijnaldum formed the double pivot 4-2-3-1 is one of the most frequently occurring formations in football. The two most defensive midfielders are called a ‘double pivot’. behind them, while Joël Matip and Jordan Henderson filled in at center back and right back, respectively.
Leicester manager, Claude Puel, was also missing a couple of players – most notably Daniel Amartey and Rachid Ghezzal – but was still able to select a capable team. Jamie Vardy was partnered alongside Marc Albrighton at the tip of the 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 formation. Below them were wide players James Maddison and Demarai Gray and central midfielders Wilfred Ndidi and Nampalys Mendy. In defense, Harry Maguire and Jonny Evans anchored the defense, squeezed between talented fullbacks Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell. Kasper Schmeichel started in goal.
Liverpool dominate the early portion of the game
Jürgen Klopp is well known for being a great motivator just as much he is recognized for being a shrewd tactician, and that showed in the opening minutes of the game. Clearly aware of City’s result and likely prodded on by their manager, Liverpool roared forward the second the whistle touched Martin Atkinson’s lips.
Leicester were immediately forced back into their own half, defending in a compact 4-4-2 defensive shape. The organization was good – which would become apparent later in the match – but Liverpool were not to be denied. In only the second minute, Mané scored a low effort from the left-hand side of the box. He was rather fortunate, since Leicester had flubbed an interception directly before the shot, but the initiative and fast passing that led to that dangerous situation was a standard to be replicated.
For the first ten minutes or so, it looked like Liverpool could do so.
Liverpool’s 4-2-3-1 formation attacking Leicester’s 4-4-2 defensive block A defensive block is the compact group of defenders that defends a particular zone, either their own half in a medium defensive block, or the zone around their own box in a deep defensive block.
Firmino and Shaqiri dropped exceptionally deep to overload Leicester’s midfield before playing the ball wide. Since Firmino received the ball more than Shaqiri, Liverpool’s attack skewed left, where Andrew Robertson tried to combine with Mané.
In the opening minutes of the match, the left winger played in a relatively wider position, trying to release Robertson down the flank. Salah mimicked Mané’s positioning, especially when Virgil Van Dijk tried to play switch passes to Henderson on the far side.
When the ball was lost, Liverpool would collapse around their opponents using Klopp’s patented counterpressing After losing possession, a team immediately moves towards the ball as a unit to regain possession, or at least slow down the pace of the counterattack. strategy. In the rare instances where Leicester broke away, Liverpool hurried back and were ready to launch a counter of their own. That, combined with everything mentioned before, allowed the home side to create three shots in five minutes and maintain 86% ball possession in the opening stages of the match.
Things settle down and Leicester rebound
Unfortunately for Anfield, Liverpool’s attacking opportunities soon dried up, as Leicester recovered from their early blow and defended extremely well. Even though Firmino, and to a lesser extent Shaqiri, provided easy overloads against Leicester’s midfield, Liverpool soon found it difficult to progress the ball into dangerous areas. Vardy and Albrighton did a good job of marking Keïta and Wijnaldum, preventing them from latching onto wall passes A one-touch pass that quickly sends the ball back to sender. In the meantime the sender has quickly moved into free space, and he momentarily escapes pressure. and springing vertical deliveries.
As a result, Liverpool could only go sideways, which Leicester were more than happy to see. As soon as that happened, Puel’s men constricted the space between the lines and made passes back into the center very difficult. Mané and Salah reacted by positioning themselves even narrower as the half wore on, but it made no difference. Ndidi and Mendy were alert to most of the danger and combined to complete seven tackles and five interceptions.
The competent defense seemed to inspire competent attacking, as Leicester’s tricky players – such as Demarai Gray, Ben Chilwell, and Ricardo Pereira – began to dodge pressing actions and launch counterattacks. These occasionally turned into sustained spells of possession in Liverpool’s half, creating some breathing space for Leicester and putting the home side on the back foot.
Leicester fashions two dangerous opportunities
Getting on the ball more frequently seemed to inspire more bravery from the away side, who started to selectively press on throw-ins and when the ball was passed back to Alisson. In the 24th minute, the latter initiative nearly resulted in a goal, when Maddison inexplicably headed the ball wide from point blank range.
It was not a missed chance they were made to rue, however, as Leicester managed to score on the stroke of half-time. The goal came from their astute defending – they pounced on a Robertson miscontrol – and counterattacking. After Pereira won a foul against the aforementioned Robertson, Leicester attacked from a set-piece. The initial cross and shot were batted away, before Chilwell headed the ball back into the area for Maguire to make it 1-1.
Leicester make positional changes and start the second half on top
Just like Liverpool had done in the first half, Leicester City emerged from the tunnel as the better team. They won the majority of their fifty-fifty duels, launched counterattacks, and enjoyed spells of possession. This resulted in a half-chance in the 50th minute, when Chilwell did brilliantly to retain the ball and feed Maddison in the box. Keïta reacted immediately and impeded the Leicester attacker, allowing Liverpool to clear the danger.
Inevitably, Klopp’s men eventually re-asserted their control over the ball and soon began to attack Leicester’s medium block A medium block refers to a team that retreats in their own half out of possession, generally only disrupting their opponents some way into their own half.again. Unfazed, the visitors were even more secure in defense than they were in the first half.
Part of this may have to do with Puel’s positional switches at half-time; he moved Gray to the left, brought Albrighton to the right, and put Maddison up top with Vardy. It is possible that Puel was concerned with the overlapping runs of Robertson and Henderson and made these adjustments so that Leicester were better suited to covering the flanks.
It seemed to work, as Liverpool failed to register a single shot until the 73rd minute.
Klopp makes substitutions and sparks a mini-resurgence
Having seen enough, Klopp subbed off Keïta for Fabinho and Shaqiri for Adam Lallana. The fresh legs seemed to have an effect, as Liverpool soon registered signs of life and began to fire off attempts on goal. Their best chance came soon after, when Firmino dribbled into the box and tested Schmeichel from a reasonably tough angle. Liverpool’s other moments of danger came from corner kick routines or good crosses that were blocked expertly.
While an improvement, it was not enough, and Liverpool had to settle for a draw when the referee blew the final whistle.
Liverpool fans will undoubtedly be disappointed with the result. Though their team still gained a point over Manchester City, two more could prove massive in the tightest Premier League race in years. There is no question that this was a missed opportunity.
Unsurprisingly, Leicester will be far more pleased with the draw and their performance. They defended energetically and in an organized fashion and responded positively to going down early. Few Liverpool fans will argue that they did not deserve something tangible from the match.
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