This was a match where we saw a few interesting things to pick out, and a lot of tactics and strategies worth drawing attention to. Everton, with manager Marco Silva under huge pressure, came to the King Power Stadium electing to play a wing-back formation, with on-loan right-back Djibril Sidibe and France left-back Lucas Digne deployed further forward. During the first-half, Leicester were frustrated by this, and when Everton took the lead, it was clear that something had to change for the Foxes, and it did. In this article, I 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.
Everton’s strategy was designed to keep Leicester’s full-backs Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell in their own half of the pitch and starve striker Jamie Vardy of service. This was clever from the Toffees, because it meant Leicester couldn’t get too far forward for fear of leaving the space open behind them.
As Image 1 shows, when Leicester did get forward, they may have been able to find space, but they didn’t have the time to cross the ball in. The image shows how Everton’s players each marked one man, with two men marking Jamie Vardy in the D. The square is where Ricardo Pereira is looking to put the ball, but no teammate will be able to get there whilst Everton were playing this strategy.
Another example of Everton’s organisation is shown here:
Image 2 shows Everton’s back five and four midfield players sitting back and all working together. Jamie Vardy is in the middle of the back five, but Ricardo, again in possession, can’t get the ball into the box for him, because both he and Ayoze Perez are being closed down by the Everton players, as shown by the arrows. You can also see James Maddison and Youri 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.
The wing-back strategy also meant that Everton had an extra man when attacking, and their goal directly came from this. Image 3 shows how Djibril Sidibe was played in behind the Leicester defence, before he crossed in for Richarlison to score from.
The small arrow shows the path of the ball after being passed by Iwobi, 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 (and he doesn’t manage to).
In the second half, Leicester played for a little while trying to be a bit quicker with their passing, before manager Brendan Rodgers made a substitution that would switch the momentum to the Foxes for the rest of the match. He brought on Kelechi Iheanacho for Ayoze Perez, and played him alongside Jamie 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.
In Image 4, 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 tactic worked for them, and Leicester were by far on top during the second half. This also relieved their defence as, because Everton were now under pressure from Leicester’s attack, the two wing-backs had to constantly drift back, which means Ricardo and Chilwell could now join the attacks, and Leicester could serve their front men with chances – and this all came because the Foxes made this one tactical swap.
The three centre backs were also being split, because of Vardy and Iheanacho playing wider, and that created gaps for Maddison and Tielemans to run through, as will be shown later.
Image 4 is actually the buildup to Leicester’s equaliser, because Ndidi then passed the ball to Iheanacho on the far side of Everton’s defence, who then crossed in for Vardy to tap in, so the strategy worked for them.
Now I have explained how Leicester managed to force Everton’s wing-backs, Sidibe and Digne, to track back more often than they would like to, I can say that Leicester’s first goal was scored simply because they weren’t able to get back in time, and that allowed Leicester the time to get in the box and score, and also because they upped the tempo of their passing in the second half to ensure that Everton wouldn’t have time to get back and help. Simple as that.
I mentioned before how Leicester could now get their attacking midfielders into key areas, and that is clearly shown in the next image.
You can see from Image 5 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.
This tactical success is highlighted even more by this final image, which shows how Leicester are now in complete control.
Image 6 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 remember how in the first half Everton were marking one player on one player? Now, look where Tielemans is (in the square), 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 word 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.
Images taken from Wyscout football analysis website. Annotations done using Paint 3D.