How the unprotected Kyle Walker and Ben Davies deal with Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez will go a long way to determining this match, explains Alex Keble...
Leicester City’s cut-and-thrust approach has resumed as if the chaotic summer interim meant nothing to these players; Claudio Ranieri hasn’t changed a thing. Tottenham Hotspur are similarly unchanged tactically, and their focus on narrow attacking triangles with full-back width could be exploited by Leicester’s rugby-style thrusts towards goal.
In the opening two games Leicester have made the fewest short passes (176 per match), the most inaccurate long balls (44.5) and achieved the lowest pass accuracy (67.9%) and overall possession (37%) in the league. Their philosophy is simple and pleasingly inelegant; Jamie Vardy barges his way towards goal, the back six lump the ball to the wings, and Marc Albrighton and Riyad Mahrez do the rest.
Leicester’s seven unsuccessful touches per match (league’s fewest) is testament to how little interest they have in considered use of the ball or meticulous build-up play. Vardy is the fulcrum, moving into the channels to receive sweeping passes; only 22% of Leicester’s attacks come through the middle.
This could prove effective against a Spurs team who remain frighteningly narrow in attack, utilising inverted wingers to overload central zones. The strategy is to suck the opposition inwards, with a high-positioned Kyle Walker and Ben Davies expected to exploit the space out wide.
Last season 63.5% of their attacks came through the centre, and the pattern has already proved frustrating this campaign; Mauricio Pochettino’s team struggled to create in a congested crowd of players at Old Trafford, while Walker’s roaming led directly to the opening goal. Leicester will take heart from this.
Exponents of a high line and possession approach, Tottenham are particularly vulnerable to the manic hoof-and-charge mentality of Leicester – especially if Vardy gallops into the spaces left behind Walker. A third successive Leicester triumph is far from impossible on Saturday afternoon.
Arnautovic found plenty of space from the left-hand side as Walker pushed on; Vardy should flourish.