TACTICAL football boff Chris Bland (@blandc_1996) gives us the lowdown on Super Sunday's match-up between Leicester and Everton.
Leicester v Everton | Sunday 1st December 2019, 16:30 | Sky Sports
Second-placed Leicester host struggling Everton on Sunday, as the pressure begins to mount on Toffees boss Marco Silva following another disappointing defeat to Norwich last time out.
Everton looked like they had turned a corner with win on the south coast at Southampton and a point against Tottenham, however, they were brought crashing back down to earth with that 2-0 defeat. Silva’s side looked bereft of ideas going forward, with inconsistencies in team selection and player form not helping.
Leicester come into the game fresh from a fifth straight victory in the league (at Brighton) and the signs are beginning to show that the Foxes could in the reckoning at the top of the Premier League come the end of the season.
Showing devastating form on the break at the Amex, Leicester highlighted the difficulties opposition sides have coming up against Brendan Rodgers’ side, with both the ability to counter and control games.
The Expected Goals (xG) conundrum
Before delving into the tactics, this encounter does throw up a particularly interesting conundrum regarding Expected Goals (xG) from both sides.
Leicester are overperforming both offensively (11.83 goals better off) and defensively (5.93 goals better off), whilst Everton are seeing the polar opposite, 5.57 goals under par in attack, and 5.10 over-par in defence.
When the metric of Expected Points (xP) is taken into account, it actually places Everton fifth, above Leicester in sixth, so could this game might not be as straightforward for Leicester as the odds, and league table, suggests.
Foxes’ consistent approach
It should be a tactically interesting game, with both managers showing consistency in formations throughout the season.
Leicester opt for a 4-1-4-1, and the personnel has rarely varied. The full-backs push high as they often dominate possession, and look to provide width out wide. This allows the wingers, often Ayoze Perez and Harvey Barnes, to drift inside for Rodgers’ side, and occupy the centre halves or full backs, whilst either creating an overload, or forcing the winger back defensively.
Jamie Vardy offers up the perfect problem for opposition back fours; either step up and risk being found wanting by his pace and the passing ability of Leicester’s side, as Brighton did, or sit deep and allow space for the creative talents of Youri Tielemans and James Maddison, as Crystal Palace amongst many others tried.
Everton to be targeted out wide
Everton themselves opt for a 4-2-3-1 formation, and it sets up some key battles on the pitch where both sides will be looking to dominate as a result. As aforementioned, the role of the full backs pushing high is a feature of both sides to provide width, and the defensive work of both sets of wingers will be key to keeping it tight and gaining the upper hand.
Richarlison has shown he is more than capable of this defensive work and offers up a high work rate, however, it could be on the other flank through Ben Chilwell and Barnes that Leicester will look to target.
Theo Walcott is less convincing defensively, and although Alex Iwobi is another option on the right flank, the worrying form of Gylfi Sigurdsson could see him employed centrally once again, a role he particularly thrived in when up against West Ham in a 2-0 victory.
Leicester look to isolate weak spots
Leicester are happy to change the flank they target on a game-by-game basis, often looking to isolate a particular full back or winger, and against Brighton, 51% of all attacks were sent down the left with Chilwell and Barnes.
Although the defensive work of Lucas Digne has in times been called into question, he will be aided by the extra defensive work of Richarlison, with the Brazilian averaging 2.8 tackles.
As a result, much like Norwich were able to on Saturday, it could see Leicester attack down the left once again, and target Djibril Sidibe, who was given a torrid time 1v1 by the tricky Onel Hernandez, particularly when exposed on the break.
It is worth noting that due to the lack of cover, Sidibe himself is averaging 4.0 tackles e, so these could be markets worth looking into if the line-ups indicate the weaker defensive side of the Toffees.
Central areas key
Perez and Barnes offer a different threat with their fluid movement, and with Maddison and Tielemans happy to move into wide areas to influence the game, it puts increased importance on the central midfielders of Everton to avoid these overloads becoming an issue.
Central midfield has been an issue for Everton lately, and with Andre Gomes and Jean-Philippe Gbamin missing through injury, Silva will opt for two from Fabian Delph, Morgan Schneiderlin and Tom Davies.
Davies has shown improvements in recent weeks, and is suited to playing alongside the tenacious Delph, and these two midfielders will be well placed to match the energy of Leicester’s midfield. However, an issue arises if Delph misses the game, and he is rated as 50/50. Schneiderlin doesn’t possess the same ability to get around the pitch, so as a result it would be no surprise to see Leicester look to target the Dutch midfielder.
Furthermore, coping with the Wilfried N’Didi, who has shown he is more than happy to press forward when needed, will require a defensive contribution from who is selected in the attacking midfield role. Sigurdsson and Iwobi can at times be defensively questionable, so it would be no surprise to see the Toffees midfield overrun, and Leicester dominate the play.
Everton showed a lack of threat up top against Norwich, with Cenk Tosun handed a start, and Caglar Soyuncu and Jonny Evans will be well equipped to deal with either the Turkish striker, or his counter-part Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Although both are hard-working, the lack of pace in behind, as well as the work in front of the back four of N’Didi, means that they can quickly become isolated, especially with Evans and Soyuncu more than capable in the air. It could be a long afternoon for the Toffees, and the pressure build to unsurmountable levels for Silva.
The betting angles
Certainly a game where they will be space in the channels out wide for both teams given the direction of attacks for both sides, it could lend itself to a high volume of corners, and it is no surprise to see both sides averaging high amounts this season.
Leicester are expected to dominate, but it will be no surprise to see Everton come out and have a go, especially if they end up trailing at any point. Available at even-money (Bet365), a Bet Builder on Leicester to win Over 4.5 Corners and Everton to land Over 3.5 Corners takes appeal.
Averaging 2.8 tackles, and given Leicester’s tendency to attack wide, Richarlison’s availability at 15/8 (SkyBet) to make 2+ tackles takes an interest. His last three games have seen him manage two tackles in each, and whilst it is worth being aware that a move up top centrally could hinder his chances, the wide attacking nature of Leicester’s attackers once again bring this market into interest.
Leicester do show flexibility in the side they attack down, and it is worth noting that Palace targeted Ricardo Pereira in possession with a high press effectively, so if Richarlison is asked to carry out this role, he stands in good stead to manage the 2+ here.