While the performance hasn't been all that we’d hope for after a promising preseason, Leicester City suddenly find themselves in quite a good way. Back to back league and cup wins in a matter of days leave us with 3 wins from 4 games. Liverpool, of course, are 3/3 so far and flying high, so should pose a strong challenge.
We’ve broken down some of the key areas and individual match ups that could decide the outcome.
1. Calm against the press
As impressive as their fearsome front line may be (more on that later), the stand out feature of Klopp’s Liverpool has always been their high intensity pressing style. The new look Foxes under Claude Puel will look to pass it out from the back, and with the likes of Maguire, Chilwell and Pereira certainly have the capability to do so. The question is, will they maintain their composure under the intense scrutiny Liverpool can provide, or will they fall back into old habits and hoof it long?
That tactic used to work well for us, of course, but relied so heavily on the pace and work rate of Jamie Vardy. In his absence, and with a group of forwards lacking in size, long balls to Virgil van Dijk will do nothing but recycle possession back to the team in red. When you’re already under pressure, there’s nothing worse than the ball just bouncing straight back every time you clear.
2. Cut out the mistakes
Salah, Mané and Firmino have already accounted for 5 goals and 3 assists through the opening 3 games. That’s as many as our last 2 opponents, Southampton and Wolves, combined.
As great as it would be to see us passing it out between them and creating our own chances, the first thought has to be to make no mistakes. Giving the ball back to these guys high up the pitch is just not something you can get away with. As impressive as the surging runs and passing from guys like Maguire and Chilwell has been, they still have a mistake in them too. Even then it’s hard to keep them out anyway, but as Brighton have shown, it can be done.
Nonetheless, Puel may consider keeping Amartey at RB and maybe even bringing in Fuchs rather than sticking to his previous home line up.
3. Get ball in box, shoot
Some will say this detailed tactical analysis oversimplifies things a little. I’d say Leicester are winning games, they’re playing nice football with the 5th best pass completion % and the 3rd most completed dribbles in the league, and they're currently 19th for xG.
When you look at, it’s pretty clear cut too. Their 9 shots per game is better than only Huddersfield and Brighton, but much more worryingly is that over half of those have come outside the penalty area.
This is an accusation that’s been levelled at Puel before, and any manager who wants to play a more controlled build up style, but at some point the ball HAS to go into the box. Especially when we’re playing a striker like Iheanacho, who’s strongest ability is finishing.
Things do look like they’re about to click though. Many of our best attacking talents are still young and learning their way in the league, but it’s so often looked inches away from working perfectly. Inches away isn't good enough, of course, when it means your striker gets no service, but a very slight improvement could make this group very hard to defend, and I still back Puel to get it working.