Recently, Leicester hosted Manchester City at the King Power stadium, and although the home side are the reigning EPL champions, it seemed the Mancunians may have been the favourites to claim the victory; most notably perhaps due to their superior ranking in the table. Yet, Leicester seemed to utilise their recent accomplished performances in the Champions League group stages, emerging with the three points via a 4-2 score line. Perhaps most importantly may have been the performance of striker Jamie Vardy, as his first professional hat-trick increased his goal tally for the season to five; the showcasing of his quality, and Leicester’s performance in general, seems to suggest they may be back to their peak form, and may be showcasing the reason as to why they are the reigning champions.
In the match prior to the encounter, Leicester travelled to Portugal to face Porto in their final group stage fixture. Yet, with the Foxes having already qualified for the next round, manager Claudio Ranieri seemed to place priority on the upcoming Premier League fixture, and as such seemed to rest his experienced first team players, including Vardy, Mahrez and Albrighton. Whilst Leicester were on the receiving end of a 5-0 score line, it seems Ranieri showcased his tactical nouse with the decision, as his players seemed to be at peak fitness for the Manchester City match, enabling Ranieri to use his high-pressing philosophy versus the Citizens. Additionally, his persistence in continuing to start Jamie Vardy, in lieu of strikers with a superior goal tally, seemed to prove dividends, and ultimately the Italian seems to be showing why he is the holder of the manager of the season award.
During the match, Ranieri seemed to continue using his favoured 4-4-2 formation, reinstating the key players who were rested during midweek. His managerial counterpart, Pep Guardiola, seemed to experiment with his tactics, showcasing his flexibility as a manager by utilising a three at the back formation, a tactic which may have risen to prominence due to Chelsea’s position at the top of the league. Yet, it seemed Ranieri’s decision may have been the superior one, as seemingly starting the match at a high tempo, using last season’s philosophy of playing on the counter, seemed to contribute to Jamie Vardy’s early goal, and Andy King’s goal, plus two other Vardy strikes, enabled the home side to emerge victorious. Vardy’s hat-trick seemed to showcase the quality he possesses, whilst simultaneously showcasing his ability to perform at a high standard under pressure, a trait which may be key in Leicester’s quest for a European finish.
Leicester’s victory may be the incentive necessary to elevate the position in the table, as although they have played at a seemingly accomplished level in their maiden voyage in the Champions League, winning the group and advancing to the next round, prioritising this tournament seems to have affected their domestic form. Yet, their victory versus Manchester City may be more significant when considering the away side boasted the superior league position; this may motivate Leicester to play at a high level versus any side, as they seem to possess players with quality. Additionally, with multiple members of the squad also collecting individual accolades at the conclusion of the calendar year, most notably Riyad Mahrez, the African Player of the Year, the Foxes may be able to continue to compete for honours both domestically and in Europe.
Leicester’s next fixture is an EPL tie versus Stoke, and perhaps the club may look to draw upon their experience versus Manchester City to instigate a run of victories. Since Ranieri’s tactics seemed to have proved successful in both the Champions League and the Manchester City match, he may look to utilise similar tactics, and with their talisman, Jamie Vardy, perhaps playing at his peak ability, their aim may now be to replicate the achievements of last season. Ultimately, whilst Leicester still currently sit in 14th place in the league, the aforementioned victory, coupled with the form of their talisman and Ranieri’s tactical nouse, may form the concoction necessary to mount a quest for multiple trophies at the conclusion of the season.
How may Ranieri adapt his tactics to ensure Leicester may continue to compete for honours both in Europe and domestically?