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Craig Shakespeare’s Leicester rediscover the counter-attacking skills Claudio Ranieri used to win Prem last term





THE ENGLISH PATIENCE

SunSport's Analyst Danny Higginbotham says Foxes are sitting deeper, so Danny Drinkwater and Jamie Vardy can thrive again

CRAIG SHAKESPEARE has returned Leicester to what made them a success last season: Playing a game of patience.

There was a lot of talk during their horror run that the champs had been found out. Rivals had a plan to counter the side that won the league last season.

Craig Sshakespeare has helped Jamie Vardy and Co hit top form again

Reuters

Craig Sshakespeare has helped Jamie Vardy and Co hit top form again

And that explained why they were struggling to repeat their title-winning heroics.


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That’s not true. It’s much simpler, as has been proven by the fact Shakespeare has won all five league games in charge since taking over from Claudio Ranieri.

Ranieri had lost sight of what made Leicester successful.

What worked for the Foxes last season was sitting deep and playing on the counter-attack.

They were happy to let their opponents have the ball.

People say Leicester scored against the run of play last season. Not so. It was  planned. They were content to play that way.

Look at their average position map against Manchester United in February when they lost 3-0.

United would be the ideal opponents to sit deep against.

But Leicester were really high up the pitch, as you can see from the positions of Robert Huth (No 6) and Wes Morgan (No 5) on pitch map A.

The two centre-halves set the tone for the  team and there was a domino effect, meaning the midfield was higher up and, in turn, so was Jamie Vardy (No 9).

This limits the space the striker can run into — which is his main strength.

One reason Huth and Morgan may have moved up is a lack of understanding with  holding midfielder, No 25 Onyinye Ndidi, over who is picking up the opposition No 10.

But the higher Leicester line meant United got in behind Huth and Morgan, leaving the centre-halves in a foot race with the forwards. There was only going to be one winner there as the Foxes duo lack pace.

United Leicestered Leicester.

Danny Drinkwater has found his passing skills thriving again on the counter-attack

Reuters

Danny Drinkwater has found his passing skills thriving again on counter-attack

Now look at  pitch map B from Tuesday when they beat Sunderland 2-0.  The back four is so much deeper and it is centre-halves Huth and Yohan Benalouane (No 29) setting the tone.

And given they were playing the rock-bottom team, you might have expected them to be higher — or they would have been if they had been playing the  Ranieri way from this season.

I get the feeling Shakespeare has simply said: “Listen lads, just drop  ten yards deeper.”

It may also come down to a better understanding with Ndidi that has developed over time.

Ex Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri spotted in the crowd at Chelsea
Jamie Vardy looks back to his confident, free-scoring best now that Leicester are being more patient

Getty Images

Jamie Vardy is back to his confident best now Leicester are more patient

But it is mainly the team’s starting position. They are so deep there is no space  behind and if the ball goes over the top, Kasper Schmeichel can get it.

The knock-on effect is that the midfield drops and Vardy drops — as you can see — meaning he has  space to run into, to chase Danny Drinkwater’s lofted passes.

It is back to basics. Giving up the ball and playing to their strengths.

In Shakespeare’s five Prem games, Leicester have had more possession than their rivals  once.

They had 54 per cent against Sunderland but 48 versus Stoke, 41 versus West Ham, 49 against Hull and 30 in their Liverpool clash. In that time they have won five, conceded four and scored 13.

Robert Huth and the rest of the defence are sitting deeper again as the Foxes soak up pressure

Getty Images

Robert Huth and Co are sitting deeper again as the Foxes soak up pressure

Against United they only had 32 per cent of the ball. That is OK if you sit in but, if you play high, it is asking for trouble.

Leicester sat deep against Sevilla in the Champions League and it worked. They will do more of the same against  Atletico Madrid next week.

Why Ranieri didn’t see it I don’t know. Did he want to make them more progressive? Was it pride? Maybe. But it clearly wasn’t working.

His best result this season was a 4-2 win over Manchester City in December. They had  22 per cent possession and sat deep. It was a glimpse of the old Leicester.

The Foxes are a match for anyone if they play their way: let the opposition come on, be patient and pick them off.

Jamie Vardy in amazing form as he scores again for Leicester City

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka
Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

Chuka is an experienced certified web developer with an extensive background in computer science and 18+ years in web design &development. His previous experience ranges from redesigning existing website to solving complex technical problems with object-oriented programming. Very experienced with Microsoft SQL Server, PHP and advanced JavaScript. He loves to travel and watch movies.

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