Monday night’s Premier League fixture was always going to be a tight encounter. Leicester and West Brom represent two of the most defensive minded sides in the Premier League and neither team possesses a great deal of quality in possession.
It was the home side who took the initiative, commanding the lion’s share of the ball but with very little penetration. The Baggies remained resolute, cutting off passing lanes and robbing Leicester of any space in the final third.
Here are 3 tactical points to take away from the fixture.
Kelechi Iheanacho doesn’t suit Leicester’s style
The Nigerian striker arrived in the east-Midlands with a £25 million price tag and a big reputation, However, his performance’s thus far have left a lot to be desired. Iheanacho is a predatory player who relies on instinct and quick movement. This means, though, that he requires his teammates to create chances for him so he can showcase his quality finishing.
With Jamie Vardy firmly the first choice when it comes to leading the line, it is Shinji Okazaki’s place in the side that Iheanacho is competing for and you would be hard-pressed to find two more contrasting forwards. The Japanese international is industrious, hard-working and helps to link play between Vardy and the midfield.
This, though, is a role in which Iheanacho struggles, a fact which became very much evident last night. Iheanacho is by no means a poor player but his inclusion raises questions as to what exactly he was brought in to do in the side. Manager Craig Shakespeare is yet to play to his strengths and, until that changes, expect the former Man City star to continue to struggle.
West Brom should do more with Jay Rodriguez
Jay Rodriguez is another forward who is blessed with ability and, although he is comfortable playing out wide, you feel he’d be more suited to a secondary striker role. Tony Pulis’ 4-5-1 may have frustrated the Foxes, but it also left Salomon Rondon incredibly isolated.
With Rodriguez and Nacer Chadli pinned in their own half for long periods of the game, they lost a creative outlet on the counter. It’s no surprise to see Pulis adopt such a conservative approach, especially away from home, but it’s often to the detriment of his more attacking players.
Perhaps what is needed for West Brom is a change of formation. Teams can remain defensively resolute in a 4-3-3 and a more advanced role is something both Rodriguez and Chadli could have benefitted from. With England boss Gareth Southgate admitting recently that he is considering including Rodriguez in his plans, you can bet the once-Three-Lions regular will be desperate to remind his country exactly what he’s capable of.
Leicester must start with a back three
Another game, another 4-4-2 for Leicester. It’s clear fans are becoming increasingly frustrated with their side’s lack of tactical flexibility, a limitation that has been there all season. After falling behind courtesy of Chadli’s free kick, Shakespeare opted to switch to something of a 3-4-1-2 and it worked.
The move to a back three allowed star defender Harry Maguire more freedom in possession and crucially gave Riyad Mahrez a free role. The 2016 PFA player of the year thrived in behind Vardy and Islam Slimani, causing West Brom a headache before scoring the equaliser.
Moving forwards, a back three needs to be used, whether that be in a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2. Since N’Golo Kante’s departure, Leicester have struggled to find a formula that works. A change of formation, however, is surely the obvious option.
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