Leicester City dominated the majority of their semifinal first leg against Aston Villa, but in the end were only able to salvage a draw. Here are some things we can take from the performance.
1. Finishing school
With the score level after the first leg the tie looks well balanced, but I’d still give a big advantage to Leicester. They’ve comprehensively outplayed Villa twice this season and should be expected to do so again.
The Foxes barraged the Villa goal almost non-stop, especially in the second half, but looked back to their wasteful worst at times. Despite a dominant performance mostly played in the visitors’ half, our 21 shots lead to just as many goals as their three.
FT: LEICESTER 1 Aston Villa 1— The LCFC Stat Man (@TheLCFCStatMan) January 8, 2020
Possession: 70% v 30%
Attempts: 21 v 3
On target: 6 v 1
Corners: 11 v 0#lcfc #LEIAVL pic.twitter.com/2k4nb4jd97
James Maddison was a constant threat, with more shots, shots on target and key passes than the entire Villa team put together. His finishing was poor though; he struggled to find the target, and seemed to hit the keeper right in the gloves whenever he did.
One man who did not struggle was Kelechi Iheanacho - he had one shot and one goal, taking him to eight goal contributions from eight games this season. The young Nigerian is definitely deserving of a little more time, especially if the team is struggling to find the net.
2. Too many CBs spoil the broth
With the Foxes struggling a little for CB depth, it was slightly surprising to see Rodgers stick with the formation that put as many as possible on the pitch. Fortunately, Christian Fuchs is apparently an excellent CB; calm and capable at the back, and confident in bringing the ball forwards.
Unfortunately, it just wasn’t really the game for three at the back. In the second half in particular, there simply wasn’t work for all them, while the compressed game put more pressure on Leicester’s creative players, with fewer options to give it too.
Youri Tielemans appears to have been Space Jam-d.— Joe Brewin (@JoeBrewinFFT) January 8, 2020
The most obvious victim of that added level of difficulty was Leicester City’s record signing Youri Tielemans. The young Belgian also struggled playing deeper without Wilfred Ndidi, and never quite looked up to the pace of the game.
Tielemans misplaced a whopping 11 passes, and was often fought off the ball a little too easily. Personally though, I think his struggles call for patience rather than condemnation. He creates magic at times precisely because he’s willing to risk losing the ball and we know he’s more then good enough.
3. Hamza’s opportunity
Wilfred Ndidi is expected to be out until February now. It’s always a huge blow to lose a player of his quality, and the Foxes really seemed struggle without him in the second half. After that though, Rodgers introduced Hamza Choudhury, and his impact was immediate.
Hamza Choudhury made a huge difference, it’s my fault that I didn’t start him tonight. We could see that we needed him and he gave us our identity back. Wilfred Ndidi is so good for us, he’s colossal, and we were too slow and not aggressive without him or Hamza - Brendan Rodgers sung Choudhury’s praises post match
The young midfielder added some energy and a willingness to chase down the ball that had been missing in the first half. His alertness and ability to possession over quickly were key to setting off the break from which the Foxes scored their only goal.
His play was also key to the balance of the formation. This team is used to playing with Ndidi behind them, and it was clear that some players were a little unsure of their roles without him.
What Choudhury gives you is that he can sniff out danger, he destroys it and can make a tackle, but he’s also really good on the ball. Why not give him a game? - Clinton Morrison believes Choudhury is worth an England call up
With Hamza on, even Tielemans’ play had a noticeable uptick. It wasn’t just his defensive contributions, but also the provision of an obvious short pass for defenders looking to play it forward. With Ndidi missing significant time, this is a great chance for the young player to make his mark.