It was an unexpected result at the Etihad when Leicester overcame Pep's Manchester City 5-2. A hattrick from Vardy and Maddison’s brilliance at the end secured Leicester a decisive victory, This happened to be their first win at the Etihad since February 2016 which was the season when Leicester against all odds infamously won the Premier League title.
Leicester started the game playing 4-1-4-1 but turned into 5-4-1 without possession to not let City players spread the play. At the start of the game Leicester were on the back foot and with an early bit of skill to give City the lead, Leicester were under the pump for most of the first half. But with their formation and their defensive shape, Leicester were able to avoid any infliction of further damage. Infact as the first half went on Leicester were increasingly becoming comfortable defending against City and never looked in any trouble for the rest of the game.
Leicester were unable to get hold of the ball at start and whenever Barnes or Vardy had possession of the ball in City's half, they were isolated and crowded by City defenders and forced to turn over possession. This started to change though as City's fullbacks started to aggressively move forward in pursuit of a 2nd goal which created some spaces for both of them. This was exploited very well during counter attacks. Tielemans and Praet did a great job trying to find Vardy and Barnes with fast paced long balls which created problems for City defenders and eventually resulted in Leicester getting a penalty. It was duly converted by Vardy. His 7th goal in last 10 encounters against City.
After getting that well deserved equaliser Leicester were brimming with confidence. This was particularly evident with the increased licence with which their full backs James Justin and Castagne were pushing forward. With the full-backs bombing on, there was now a sharp Interchange of positions between Justin and Barnes on left side and Castagne and Praet in right side which was proving exceptionally hard to defend against. Despite Leicester only having 28% of possession because of their clear cut plan of striking first and striking fast they continued to create a plethora of chances.
City were trying to stretch the game and try to pull Leicester's low block defence out of possession and create regular pockets of space in the midfield for the likes of KDB and Foden to operate in. In practice, De Bruyne was well marshalled by Leicester's Tielemans and Mendy in the midfield, similarly Foden was not given much space to work with.
Kyle Walker carried out his tactical responsibilities dutifully but the same could not be said about Benjamin Mendy on the other flank. Whenever he was in possession of the ball, he was pushed backward and forced to recycle the ball back to Rodri or Ake. Walker on the other side was able to penetrate behind Leicester defence at start, but after some time he was well covered and couldn't do much in the game. His accuracy when trying to play long balls to shift flanks became poorer as the match progessed.
. Sterling was a little proactive in the first half but as soon as Leicester equalised he was no where to be seen. To summarize City's performance, it was 1-dimensional overly dependent of their full backs to deliver good crosses and without a lack of a proper striker who can anticipate and use his awareness and positioning to get into good positions.
In the first half, City had a very strong central defensive base due to Rodrigo playing alongside Fernandinho. This meant that if the full backs went forward, there was two pivots who could each cover their respective full back. With Guardiola going for broke in the second half, the City midfield lacked defensive stability and lacked a solid structure to deal with the laser fast Leicester counter attacks. With Leicester's attacks mostly coming down the flanks/half spaces, City had exposed their full backs and this would prove to be their downfall.
Leicester had somewhat of a similar start to their campaign last season but had the most anti climatic finish to it. After staying in the top 4 for most of time and even having an outside chance to win the title, Leicester managed to get the results and were overrun by most of the teams. Eventually they lost the final spot to United on the final day and had to satisfy with Europa League this season. This could be a different this year with the start they have winning all their 3 opening games and other teams having problems in their tactics this could be their year to qualify for Champions League.
After looking at City's performance last season and with all the resources they have, this is far from what we expect. Against Leicester too we can see that City only had one strategy which was well studied by their opponent. Pep needs to have a Plan B or Plan C because your plan A would work against slow defenders who are not quick to react but when you face a team like Leicester who are well drilled and their defenders are young and quick it is difficult to open them up.
Manchester City: Ederson, B. Mendy, N. Ake, E. Garcia, K. Walker, Rodri, Fernandinho, K. de Bruyne, P. Foden, R. Mahrez, R. Sterling
Leicester City: K. Schmeichel, T. Castagne, C. Soyuncu, J. Evans, D. Amartey, J. James, N. Mendy, Y. Tielemans, D. Praet, H. Barnes, J. Vardy.