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Key matchups to watch for: Southampton vs Leicester City

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Just give it Vardy

Leicester City v Newcastle United - Premier League Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images

Leicester City bounced back well from their second loss of the season, and look like comfortable favourites as they visit 17th place Southampton. Here are some areas the game could be decided.

1. Defensive shape

Throughout the season so far, Saints’ manager Ralph Hassenhutl changed his formation regularly, but quite strictly kept to a back four at home and brought in a third centre back when away.

With this game being played in Southampton, it reasonable to expect that the Foxes will come up against a four man back line, which would be good news for Leicester.

Southampton 1-2 Liverpool

Southampton 1-1 Manchester United

Southampton 1-3 Bournemouth

Southampton 1-4 Chelsea

The Saints are yet to keep a clean sheet at home

The Foxes contested a back three in their first game of the season at home against Wolves and were almost entirely neutralised for what turned out to be a 0-0 draw. Since then we’ve only come against one other, against Sheffield United where we relied on a spectacular Harvey Barnes goal to get the win.

According to understat.com the only worse performances by xG were the losses to Liverpool and Manchester United, two of the best defences in the league at the moment. Southampton are far from that, and would be wise to bring in an extra defender.

2. Don’t get frustrated

Despite playing with less possession in nearly every game, Southampton have played only an average of 25% of games in their own third of the pitch so far. Only Liverpool and Manchester City have been better at staying away from their own goal.

Meanwhile, Leicester are a little under the league average for time spent in the opposition third of the pitch. If the Saints set up to frustrate us as expected, we could see long periods of possession with our defenders camped at midfield, without any progression into dangerous areas.

Leicester City Training and Press Conference
I’m sure there’s a metaphor in this fog somewhere
Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

As I mentioned above though, the Southampton defence still isn’t very good, conceding 16 through the first 9 games. If the Foxes remain patient, the chances absolutely will come, but we will need to see Soyuncu -> Evans -> Soyuncu -> Evans a few times.

Patience doesn’t just mean early build up, though. The Foxes are still comfortable leaders in % of shots taken outside the penalty area, with Maddison and Tielemans the main culprits. More often than not, I’d rather see them pass backwards than line up another speculative long range shot.

3. Take risks to find Vardy

This ties into the above point, really. Jamie Vardy got himself back among the goals against Burnley, but managed just two touches inside the penalty area. Sure, he turned those touches into two shots, one on target and one goal, but we shouldn’t rely on his absurdly clinical finishing.

While our best striker’s chances were greatly limited, ten promising attacks against Burnley were ended by speculative shots that never particularly tested Nick Pope. Seven of those came from James Maddison and Youri Tielemans, the two best equipped to find Vardy.

The way Burnley played, and most likely the way Southampton will play, does limit space for Vardy to run into, which takes away his biggest off the ball strength. Still, he is there and every touch he gets in the box has a good chance of being a shot on goal.

If you have to risk giving away possession to get the ball into him, so be it. Our long range chances combined for about 14 of an expected goal against Burnley (per understat), so you’re basically giving the ball away by shooting from there.