#LEIMUN: END OF THE ROAD?

 

A huge encounter on Saturday. Both managers feeling some pressure. Rodgers in danger of this season running out of steam before he's even had a chance to catch breath, besieged by a devastating injury list that shows no sign of abating.

As for Solksjaer, the media is ratcheting up the pressure with daily soundbites on the goings on in the United dressing room and more importantly what goes on in the training ground. The PE teacher nevertheless always seems to secure a result when his neck is on the line.

In terms of selection issues, Leicester have two long term absentees in James Justin, Wesley Fofana and now a third in Wilfred Ndidi which has rocked the athletic modern foundations that Leicester City's backline was built on. An experienced head, Jonny Evan's does provide a much needed boost as he returns to the squad. As for United, Varane and Maguire are out but Rashford is due to return to the matchday squad.

Anyway without further ado, let us dive now into the tactics and key battles which could decide Saturday's fascinating duel!


 
LEIMUN
EXPECTED LINEUPS...
 

LEICESTER IN POSSESSION

BUILD UP PHASE

The loss of Wesley Fofana has hit this Leicester City side hard, especially in the build up phase. The young Frenchman oozed composure beyond his years on the ball, pulling out wide to collect before striding forward to inject momentum into Leicester's possession. His ability to pass between the lines with pace allowed the likes of Tielemans to elude opposition markers with a single turn or seek to make runs in behind their midfield markers. Vestegaard is not an able replacement in this regard and lacks the same level of fleet footedness.

This is reflected by the fact that Leicester are averaging 30 losses of possession in their own third when playing against sides who take the game to them (Napoli, Man City and more concerningly... Crystal Palace). Another major loss has been James Justin. He is a very astute ball-playing full back who is not fazed by pressure and makes good decisions on the ball. He also has better footwork than the one-paced Ryan Bertrand who seems to have built a rather impressive CV despite being distinctly average.

United's pressing game has been solid this season despite the furore surrounding Ronaldo and his unwillingness to do the dirty work. Averaging 9.55 PPDA, they are only slightly behind Man City and thus they would be advised to put pressure on this rather below average Foxes backline. Furthermore with Ndidi out as well, Leicester lack a natural conductor who can drop deep to collect it off the centre backs. Their game will only come alive if they can find consistent routes to Iheanacho.


 
Leicester Buildup
LEICESTER BUILD UP STRUGGLING WITHOUT FOFANA, JUSTIN AND NDIDI
 

THE FINAL THIRD

Leicester's goals against Palace were against the run of play and quite frankly smash and grabs. Rodgers seems to be confused about the identity of his side and how to evolve this side to the next level. There is still a worrying overreliance on Vardy, a player who still excels in the transition but is perhaps not the type of forward Rodgers needs to build around if they want to match up to the best sides in the league in terms of sustained final third domination.

His struggles with the usage of Maddison, both on a personal and tactical level and the loss of Gray - and his subsequent revival at Everton - are reminders perhaps that Rodgers has a track record of landing on a brilliant Plan A, starting red hot but then struggling to build on that and rejig his project once it gets found out or certain elements need refreshing. He is under pressure to not finish with this Leicester City tenure on a damp squib.

With no Maddison, and no Ndidi... Leicester City's build up can lack structure. Hamza Choudhury is a neat and tidy passer but he is not adept at controlling the build up phase. He is reminiscent of United's Scott McTominay - a player who can participate in the build up phase and be relied upon to not lose the ball but not someone who can pen the narrative of the build up. Tieleman's can at times do this but he does it in patches and can drift out of the game - this is not going to cut the mustard against United.

Against the low block of United, Leicester's best route to goal is through their right flank. Castagne/Pereira and Lookman have that unorthodox, multifaceted threat to keep United's defence guessing. With Shaw in dodgy form, this could be a flank which bleeds chances and if any crosses do come inside the box... Leicester could target the vulnerable Lindelof who can switch off in these type of situations.


 
LEIFINAL THIRD
LEICESTER'S RIGHT FLANK IS KEY IN THE FINAL THIRD
 

TRANSITIONAL PHASE

With the likes of Vardy, Barnes and Iheanacho - this Leicester City has not lost its ability to hurt teams on the counter. Bailly has a good record against Vardy and the Ivorian will be licking his lips at facing the Englishman but Vardy will not be the only threat. Lindelof who can always be vulnerable against sides that look to attack quickly will be the weak link in this United backline. An interesting decision awaits Ole as to which side he plays Lindelof.

Vardy tends to drift to the left and that is usually where Bailly has been when they go head to head... but in the absence of Maguire, it is hard to predict who Ole will place at right centre back. The other issue to take into account is Luke Shaw's poor start to the season. His positional play is suspect at the moment and it is interesting to see who Ole deems as being able to hold that flank even if Shaw is not at his best.


 
Leicester Transition
LEICESTER IN TRANSITION... BAILLY HAS VARDY'S NUMBER
 

UNITED IN POSSESSION

BUILD UP PHASE

In the absence of Maguire, Lindelof will be expected to be carry the burden of dictating United's build up. He is the 4th most progressive passer and ball carrier in the United roster. In fact in a number of ball playing respects, he has actually outshone Maguire this season thus far. Leicester will need to do a better job of pressing this season (they are 16th in the league for final third pressures).

One of their major issues is Vardy is no longer the harassing force he once was. A few years back he was executing 9 pressures in the final third per 90... and for the past two years this has dropped to 5. Rodgers has tried to compensate for this by adding another forward alongside Vardy and we saw the fruits of this against Crystal Palace, where Iheanacho won the ball in the opposition half and slotted the ball away to put Leicester in the lead. Nevertheless Palace enjoyed 60% of possession and only lost the ball 13 times in their own third, evidence that Leicester were unable to construct an effective press.

Last season, Iheanacho's ability to press was pivotal in winning the ball against United in their own box during their FA Cup quarter final clash. This laid the foundation for a 3-1 victory and it is clear as day that the Leicester blueprint needs to be to go for the jugular - but do they have the personnel to execute such a strategy? No Fofana, no Ndidi... if they push too hard, they could be exposed.


 
Screenshot (7)
UNITED BUILD UP PHASE... CAN LEICESTER PRESS LIKE THEY DID IN FA CUP
 

THE FINAL THIRD

Ronaldo will fancy his chances against what has been a rather leaky Leicester backline this season. Vestegaard and Soyuncu is a pairing that is lacking leadership and both are brawn over brain. Jonny Evan's has been seen in training and may start this fixture - if he is close to full fitness, his presence will be essential if Leicester are to start getting their season back on track. He can organise a backline well but he also has a 6th sense for danger which is sorely missing at the moment.

On the United front, Rashford is also touted for a return. How Ole will manage to keep Rashford, Sancho, Greenwood and Pogba happy with his selections I genuinely do not know. In my opinion he has bitten off more than he can chew by signing Sancho and his attempt to shoehorn Pogba into the lineup by putting him in midfield will eventually backfire.

Having too many options is a headache for a manager and with players of that level of ability and ambition - they will not hang around for long if they do not feel they are a major fixture of a side. In my opinion Greenwood is United's best option down the right and the player with the highest ceiling full stop... which then leaves a shootout down the left between Pogba, Rashford and Sancho.

Greenwood against Bertrand seems like a mismatch and Barnes is not as diligent defensively as an Albrighton down the right, so this is a vulnerable part of the Leicester defence that United can seek to exploit.


 
United Final ThirdLei
UNITED IN THE FINAL THIRD... SPACES IN MIDFIELD
 

TRANSITIONAL PHASE

Fred had a nightmare in this fixture during the FA Cup Quarter-Final so if Pogba finds himself in the centre of midfield as is widely expected... his long range passing could prove to be key if Leicester decide to take the game to United. We saw in the European Nations League Final the influence Pogba can have through the middle when the game becomes chaotic and end to end. Pogba is at his best during a basketball match.

Leicester may decide that by soaking up pressure they can exploit United's lack of CDM. This could be a wise strategy as Pogba's lack of discipline is more likely to be exploited in this regard but on the other hand, a high press could also work as Pogba over elaborates during the build up phase and could get caught on the ball close to his own goal. A mixture of both strategies could be wise, tweaking it according to how the game is going.

Hamza Choudhury is probably best placed to engage in this pressing assignment on Pogba but the issue is that it would leave Tielemens to man-mark Fernandes which is a recipe for disaster. Ideally Leicester would use a midfield trio with Ndidi at the base but this is not possible.


 
United Transition lei
UNITED IN TRANSITION... FULL OF THREAT
 

THE PYTHAGORAS PERSPECTIVE

Leicester seem to have taken some heavy blows when it comes to injuries and at the moment the side looks rather lightweight. They were completely outplayed by Palace and despite managing to secure a lucky 2-0 lead, they managed to throw it away. A side which is very dysfunctional at the moment and clinging on.

United are missing their world class centre back duo and are still making things up as they go along in midfield. Bailly is Vardy's kryptonite and much will rest of Iheanacho to repeat his performance from last seasons FA Cup fixture. United's attack is yet to really click but there was worrying signs from Leicester in terms of the midfield shape off the ball in the absence of Ndidi and I suspect Fernandes could exploit this.

Prediction… If Pogba has a half decent game and Leicester fail to exploit the space in behind him, I am leaning towards a United victory away from home.


 
 
 
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