Three, two, one…
The new season is just over a week away*. Here are four things to watch for in the upcoming season.
*Editor’s note: who the hell knows
Wins at home
Pssst…Hey you! Yes, you. The Foxes like seeing your face. (I don’t get it either, but they really do.)
Last season was… rough. The Foxes managed to stay up, but it was challenging. Of their 22 matches only four were wins and one a draw. Of note is that three wins and the draw were at home. Playing devils advocate one could say they also lost seven times at home. Four of those seven were under Morgan though, with only three home losses under Bedford. The take away here is that home field advantage is a real thing for the Foxes.
First home match is against Tottenham on September 18th. (wink wink)
Will the recent Euros win for the English women’s team lead to increased attendance around the country? And more importantly for Leicester City? Reports vary, but at minimum season ticket sales are up from last year for Leicester. Reported figures are from 22% to double from last year. This trend is seen across the league, and the Championship.
This brings us back to the first point. The Foxes play best at home. King Power is set to host all home matches. Season tickets are cheap, at only £42 for adults 18-64. As an American, this is mind bogglingly cheap. This is a little more than what it costs per match for most NWSL seats.
Expect more possession.
Looking at the entire season, the Foxes’ average possession was 37.7%, and all of their points came when they had 37% possession or better. Two of the wins had 56% and 58% taking the 2nd and 3rd ranks for possession. Possession rates were higher under Bedford, and typically led to better outcomes. Even the games lost had higher possession and were only lost by a single goal. This could point to some unlucky moments that are just part of the game.
Possession was a bit of a mix for the past season. For instance, in the away match against Aston Villa the Foxes had their 4th highest rate of possession at 49% but this did not translate to a win. This was under Morgan though, perhaps indicating Bedford’s possession intentions more easily translate in the WSL.
Another way to look at possession are the completed passes, in particular short and medium distance passes. In matches with the most completed short passes and medium passes, indicating a modicum of possession, the Foxes were the most successful. Looking at the top half of short pass completion (11 matches), these contain all four wins. Again, most of the losses in these 11 matches are by one goal, the two matches with >1 goal difference were under Morgan’s reign (Manchester City and Tottenham at home).
Possession for possessions sake isn’t the point here, it’s that when the Foxes have a string of tidier shorter passes progressing their way up the pitch, they are more successful in obtaining points from the match. Regularly deploying a direct long ball as their attacking strategy has low success rate for this squad. We aren’t talking crazy levels of possession rates needed, the average possession for the four wins and draw was only 45.5%. Expect to see more build up from the back and faster short exchanges on the counterattack.
Expect to see a higher press than previous seasons. Bedford’s past in the youth program is a reason I suspect continued pressure higher up the pitch. Believe it or not, teenagers have more energy. They’re also more likely to crack once under defensive pressure, leading to a turnover in a very convenient position. She likely saw good results with this in the U17s and will deploy regularly at Leicester.
It may not always be a high press, but games where pressure was applied higher up the pitch more often lead to a point or more from the match for the Foxes. When Leicester tried to absorb the attack in their defensive area, it not only led to zero points gained but often led to an annihilation by the opposition. As painful as it may be, recall the 5-0 loss to Arsenal, the 4-0 loss to Manchester City, and the 9-0 loss to Chelsea. Those were matches where Leicester sat back for the bulk of the time.
Likely won’t be a constant urgent pressing from the team, as last season showed matches with total higher pressure had no points taken except for the West Ham game. Total pressures didn’t seem to equate to a specific trend of win, loss, or draw for the Foxes. The matches with the highest count of pressures and the lowest were both wins. The area of the pitch the pressure was applied was the bigger indicator of points taken or dropped.
It won’t be Klopp level pressing, but neither will it be Sean Dyche level of absorption.
Those were your four things to keep an eye on this season. If you’re feeling impatient for the season to start, some of the Foxes will be in action with their national teams. World cup qualifiers will occur over the weekend and into early next week.