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Key battles to watch for: Leicester City vs Watford

There will be opportunities for the Foxes to take over this game

Leicester City v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

It’s the start of a new era for Leicester City. Claude Puel is gone, Brendan Rodgers is at the helm, and a chance to rise up the table beckons with a visit to Watford. It will be interesting to see what changes, if any, the new boss will have been able to implement in the last few days. In his introductory press conference, he highlighted a need a play with more intensity and to defend with more pressure.

We’ve broken down some of the key areas and individual match ups that could decide the outcome.

1. Work the keeper (not you, Wilf)

Going back to the start of our recent run of losses against Southampton, Leicester City have taken an outrageous 127 shots. That’s an average of 18 per game (despite only taking five against Liverpool), which is more than even Manchester City have averaged.

In that same period, we’ve hit the target less than 13 of the time, scoring barely over one goal per game. They simply have to get better at forcing the goalkeeper to make some saves.

Part of the problem is still that we haven’t been patient enough to carve out high quality chances, and instead shoot from distance, usually blasting the ball well over and wide. This reached a ridiculous peak against Crystal Palace, where the team took 27 shots, 16 from outside the box, creating slightly less than one expected goal.

2. Take advantage of set pieces

Watford give up the 2nd most fouls per game and, accordingly, the 2nd most goals from set pieces in the Premier League. With the frequency that James Maddison draws fouls, aided by Gray and Barnes, the Foxes will get plenty of chances to add to that tally.

Despite having Harry Maguire, the world’s preeminent Mt. Everest impersonator, to aim for, the Foxes have managed just six set piece goals all year. Maddison’s delivery has been pretty good, but has really dropped off over the last couple of games.

Leicester City v Southampton FC - Premier League
Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

We’ve had enough trouble putting the ball in the back of the net this year. A team this happy to give away fouls isn’t going to allow intricate build up play or fast breaks too readily. When they do give up those fouls, its imperative we make them pay for it.

3. Exploit wide areas

Watford have established a very effective, but very narrow system. The midfield is generally packed with four, but no established wide players. Fairly obviously, this allows them to control the centre of the pitch at times, and they create more chance down the middle than most, but also leaves them vulnerable out wide.

Last time out against Liverpool, they conceded five. It’s easy to lose badly to such a good team, but what’s most interesting to me is that all five assists came from their fullbacks. Two of those came from set pieces (see above), but it’s still a crazy number.

Music to the ears of a Leicester City fan. TAA and Robertson are one of the very few fullback pairings in this league (or any) that can compare to Chilwell and Pereira going forward.

Again, it will be interesting to see what we do differently under Rodgers, but regardless they should be able to set their fullbacks free to cause havoc among the Hornets.