Leicester City won the Premier League and introduced a play in counter attacking football never seen before. Two flank players without great pace that instead of sprinting down the line took the ball with them and moved into the center of the field scored from distanse or just made crosses long before reaching the penalty area of the opponent.
Why Claudio Ranieri left this type of play and Craig Shakespeare flirted with a hybrid and Claude Puel decided to go full circle and make the team more possession orientated is of course a strategic error by those who run Leicester City FC.
The director of football role is one that should be handed the responsibility in setting up a life line that never really confuses the players and are able to bring the club forward in the best way possible. So why did Leicester City disrupt their DNA.
The DNA of the club and the team was found during that Claudio Ranieri season, taking the extremity out of the play introduced under Nigel Pearson in the latter stages of the season before. But Claudio didn’t believe he could evolve this even further and he himself made the changes that really upset the way forward, by introducing other type of players and going in a different direction.
There are still players at the club and new faces that could be seen as ideal, but Leicester City might have to “sink a bit” and bring back Danny Drinkwater, a key player in this type of football, and without Kantè, Ndidi is covering almost the same space, doing this almost perfectly in a number of games alongside Drinkwater in the CL season.
The new Mahrez is an Englishman, his name is James Maddison. He has already been used on the flank, but not given the job on a regular basis, he is the ideal man to just take over where Mahrez left. Maddison in the role just behind Vardy is not ideal, with a counter attacking style, so just put Shinji back and into the side again.
Shinji should be back and with him in the team, both Kelechi and Jamie can star, since he is the ideal man in the role just between the forward line and the midfield, if you decide to go counter attacking. Bring back Harvey Barnes also, and lightly introduce him as an alternative from the bench, covering for Maddison or Albrighton and even be an alternative, if Shinji needs a rest after 60 minutes.
The back four is Pereira, Chilwell, Morgan and Maguire, and Leicester City are fine. Soyuncu, Simpson, Fuchs and Evans are good alternatives as cover for the preferred four. Would love to see Danny Drinkwater back as the alternative alongside Wilfred Ndidi in midfield, making Papy Mendy and alternative who can both cover for either Ndidi or Drinkwater, despite Mendy bringing a totally different midfield play to the table. The goalkeeper position is no discussion, Schmeichel still a certain first choice with Danny Ward the ideal cover.
Where people did see Kante as the key, Drinkwater was the offensive weapon from midfield, he made those clinical passes to Vardy and timed everything perfectly. No one made that pass to Vardy better than Drinkwater. That is the real DNA of Leicester City together with the inward flanks, the Shinji role and two great overlapping full backs with pace, none better than Pereira and Chilwell.
Today we have a hybrid of something that is not anything, but of course good individual performances will always be important and can cover up when systems and styles are not possible to maintain because certain players are gone or absent.
Claude Puel made no fool of himself against Watford, watching a Leicester City side that gave glimps of the old days back, remembering a goal by Maddison, set up by Vardy and Albrighton, pure class, and to do that again would be ideal.
In many games this season Puel has started by being the attacking team, instead of staying a bit deeper in defense in the first fifteen minutes, and just lure the opponent out instead of taking the initiative.
A pattern of play or a style of play are mostly based on the player material you have to your disposal, and if you just get the pieces together you will then be able to establish the style that suits you best.
Would also like to see Maguire up front if you are struggling with other teams laying low and trying to stop the counterattacking style, who is better in the air than Maguire, and who can stop his headers, no one. Today tall static forwards are no alternative in the Premier League, but to use a big man such as Maguire in the late stages of a game, or in part of games, just to shake it up a bit, would be ideal.