As we progress deeper into the last half of the season, thinks are sure to become increasingly entertaining. With their ongoing play in the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League fixtures returning soon, the Foxes have a lot of football to play. Lucky for us, that means there’s plenty of football ahead of us, and we will have plenty of issues to discuss in the coming months.
This past weekend, we saw Chelsea stop by the KP Stadium, handing the Foxes a 3-0 loss in the process. The match certainly left some thoughts for us to digest this week, so without further ado, let’s get to that.
For a man that has been titled “the Tinkerman”, Claudio Ranieri has been extremely consistent with the side since arriving at Leicester City. Yes, we have seen a variety of players in the lineup, but the formation itself has been a model of consistence stretching back to last season. After all, the Foxes did win the title with that formation last year. However, as we all know, things have not been the quite the same as last campaign.
In the past couple weeks, we have seen Ranieri get to tinkering a bit in hopes of solidifying the side – providing two new formations for the Foxes. Against Everton in the FA Cup, we saw the Foxes utilize a 4-3-3, while this past weekend against Chelsea the Foxes utilized a 3-5-2. Both formations had various levels of effectiveness, but one of the aspects that I think is important to recognize is Ranieri is tinkering. It could be very easy for him to keep going with what the Foxes have been doing and hope they grind their way to some points with what they have been doing. Instead, Ranieri is going for it, and it has been good to see.
When considering their effectiveness as formations for the side based of results, we have seen relatively mixed results (granted it is a small sample size of each formation, with one match a piece). The 4-3-3 yielded the best results, with a win over Everton in the FA Cup, and while there were many factors to consider with the outcome, there was one real positive – the midfield.
The combination of Nempalys Mendy, Danny Drinkwater and Wilfred Ndidi provided a more cohesive midfield for the Foxes, not allowing the space that teams have found at times in the Foxes’ defense so far this season. Part of this is the formation of a 4-3-3 – it automatically introduces an additional player into the middle of the pitch, causing it to be more congested for the opposing team.
However, the combo that the Foxes utilized of those three players worked well, and provided an effective midfield on both sides of play for the side. Furthermore, with the right three up top, it could create an electric attack as well. One thing to note – while Ahmed Musa has been relatively quiet this season, his pace was immediately noticeable during the match against Everton in the formation after he came on for an injured Leonardo Ulloa, scoring two goals to propel the Foxes onward in the FA Cup.
When considering the 3-5-2, it obviously did not earn the same result, but there were some takeaways. The midfield combo of Mendy, Drinkwater and Ndidi continued, and while it was not as effective overall, this combination continued to show positive signs for Leicester City.
Where the Foxes struggled was more so on the back line. Wes Morgan, Robert Huth and Christian Fuchs are great pieces for the Foxes, but perhaps not the ideal combo for a three-man backline right now. Crosses, pace and precise passing of Chelsea exposed them over the weekend, and if this is the formation, some adjustments on the backline would be needed. Perhaps the most logical adjustment could be inserting Luis Hernandez in the back three, and move Fuchs out wide to wing back.
This could be a simple adjustment for the Foxes with this formation that may help it be more effective. Furthermore, the added benefit with this formation and system? It’s familiarity. Many players on the squad when Nigel Pearson was manager, and employed this system frequently.
Bottom line – each had their own positives, as well as drawback. With continued refinement, they could both be viable options for the Foxes as occasional change-ups or long term formations. Interesting to see how this plays out.
Before we go into this, let me just say this – let’s not get overly hyped. Ndidi deserves time to adjust and acclimate himself to the club and the system. After all, he is only 20 years old. Still quite young for a footballer. We should not place the extremely heavy burden of expectation on his shoulders. That being said…
EVERYONE: HE IS PRETTY GOOD.
(calming expectations again)
Ok, back to a rational tone. As mentioned, Ndidi is new to the side and young, but thus far has been a great addition. With rumors flying months before the transfer window about Ndidi, expectations were bound to be high. Thus far, he has fit into the side easily. He looks confident and poised, which after such a change to a new team, I did not expect to see so soon. Even more so, at times, that type of presence has not been present in midfield. It is a welcome addition.
The results have been a win and a loss with Ndidi starting thus far, and it is way too soon to draw any sort of conclusion. He is undoubtedly an interesting player to continue watching for the side, and I certainly look forward to see his progression.
On a more editorial note – ever since Leicester City revealed the new kits for the year, I have been fond of the collection for the year. However, there has been one combination that I was hoping to see. This:
With those blue pinstripe, it begged for this combination to happen. Take the pitch with this look more often. It looks fantastic (as do the other combinations too). Love a good kit!
Up Next: The Foxes travel to St. Mary’s Stadium to take on Southampton F.C. on Sunday.