Mission Impossible?

Not according to Leicester, who managed the miracle last season despite lying 20th in the Premier League at the start of April and this is how they did it!

At the end of March 2015 the Foxes were still bottom of the Premier league, seven points from safety, with only nine games left. On 4 April 2015 they won at home against West Ham, their first win in 10.

Then in the following game at West Brom, with Leicester losing 2-1 at half time, Nigel Pearson orchestrated the start of an astonishing run of results which showed no sign of stopping and eventually dragged the club from 20th place to the dizzy heights, and final finishing position, of 14th. Ironically, two points better and one place above NUFC and six clear of the drop zone.

That run of nine games gave Leicester seven wins, one draw and a single defeat – losing only to the soon to be crowned Champions, Chelsea.

Yet it could have gone so horribly wrong, if it hadn’t been for the change of format at the Hawthorns, when Pearson decided to adopt a different formation (reacting to his players’ strengths and abilities) and chose to play with a back five.

Nigel Pearson:

“It would have been difficult to go with a 5-3-2 formation, so we opted for 5-4-1, because it gave us the opportunity to potentially exploit their (West Brom) weakness in wide positions. I thought we did that very, very well. We found a system that worked for us and, if we had played that earlier in the season, I think a few people may have raised a few eyebrows”

At the heart of the defence: Huth, Morgan and Wasilewski formed the solid foundation which changed the course of their season. They headed, cleared and tackled their way to third place in the Premier League form table with a 48% tackle success rate, 121 interceptions and 207 clearances. On either flank, Albrighton and Schlupp provided the width as well as cover for the back three.

Although Huth was the main influence at the back, the conductor of the orchestra at Leicester last season was undoubtedly Esteban Cambiasso. Statistics do not convey the full extent of the Argentinian’s impact even if they show he made more passes than any other Leicester player last term. It was where and when he played those passes that mattered, his astuteness and dynamism keeping the team going in the right direction, just as his positioning, tackling and cajoling did. He ensured Leicester retained an intelligent balance even when they attacked with abandon.

So successful was the transition in tactics during the run, that Leicester dominated the Premier League form table. They sat joint top for goals scored (with Manchester City) after netting 12 in the first of the six games starting at West Bromwich. That was over a third of their total goals for the whole season. The 85 shots amassed by the team resulted in a 14% strike-rate and creatively, the 58 key passes produced by Leicester put them seventh overall in that category.

Interestingly, Nigel Pearson also said:

“I think the key thing for us even in our darkest moments, and there were a few, was the players continued to support each other and believe in their own ability. That’s difficult when people are questioning your integrity, your commitment and loyalty to the cause.”

So Rafa, the answer is to look at the players available to you, then hope they still have belief in their ability and then create a team playing to their strengths. Shouldn’t be too hard ?

We wish you luck and this recording will self destruct in ten seconds….