Sam Tighe previews Southampton’s trip to Leicester in the latest edition of Tactical Watch, in association with Sportsbet.io.
What shape are Leicester in after the first two games?
It’s been a tough summer and opening to the season for the Foxes.
While so many clubs around them have gone out and splashed the cash, the only signing they’ve made is a reserve goalkeeper. Meanwhile, any transfer speculation has revolved around key players leaving, with Youri Tielemans and Wesley Fofana essentially embroiled in sagas at this point.
That, plus injuries to Harvey Barnes and Ricardo Pereira in pre-season, has thrown Brendan Rodgers’ plans into chaos and contributed to a disappointing start on the pitch.
Leicester have had bright moments in both of their games so far, but squandering a two-goal home lead against Brentford and shipping four against Arsenal has left a sour taste.
Have there been any shining lights to cling onto?
The midfield has performed relatively well and central to that has been the impact of Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall. He broke out last season, claimed a spot in the XI for himself in impressive fashion and has continued that forward momentum into this season.
A lithe and graceful midfielder, he can carry the ball through congested zones but also make clever runs ahead of it to stretch teams, making him a dual threat when Leicester are building attacks.
He scored a cracker from long range in the season opener against Brentford less than a minute into the second half; interestingly, the goal was eerily similar to one he scored against OH Leuven in pre-season a month before. That’s a warning to heed.
What’s the primary threat posed to Southampton on Saturday?
For as long as Jamie Vardy plays for Leicester, he’ll be their main threat. His speed over the top remains borderline unmatched, as does his predatory instinct.
He’s yet to open his account for the season so will be eyeing this match with a determined intent. His creative supplier James Maddison is in good form, so his ability to thread passes in behind or through tight gaps will need to be clamped.
This becomes even more important if Ralph Hasenhüttl instructs a high defensive line and strong pressing game, as a high line is in danger from Vardy’s dagger-like movements and runs if Maddison has time to look up and pick a pass.
How can Saints threaten Leicester on Saturday?
Leicester may feel offensively strong, but the first two games have shown a fragility at the back. Not only have they conceded six goals, but they’ve thrown away some really strong positions and footholds in games.
It wouldn’t shock anyone if the Fofana speculation is affecting the defensive line, while Daniel Amartey has been fielded in an uncomfortable left-centre-back role. With Kasper Schmeichel gone and a new No. 1 bedding in, there’s an understandable lack of confidence back there.
Brentford noted this and mounted a comeback in Week 1, specifically working Amartey’s area of the pitch to score two goals. If Saints can get a dribbler like Joe Aribo up against him, they could find some joy.
Equally, balls into the box have caused mix-ups between the defence and the new goalkeeper, so getting bodies into the box to contest for crosses could be a simple, yet effective strategy.
Predicted XI (3-5-1-1): Ward; Fofana, Evans, Amartey; Castagne, Ndidi, Tielemans, Dewsbury-Hall, Justin; Maddison; Vardy
- Rodgers may wish to rotate, but with key injuries and a handful of players not in the first-team picture, that could prove tough
- Jannik Vestergaard and Çağlar Söyüncü are seemingly out of favour, but any transfer movement on Fofana could see one parachuted back in
- Kelechi Iheanacho is a dangerous option off the bench and links with Vardy extremely well