Tuesday morning saw a goalless yet entertaining draw between Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester and Manchester City at the King Power Stadium.
It was an unlikely fixture between two title contenders at the beginning of the season, a win for the Foxes would have seen them remain top of the league, whereas City eager to remain in touching distance of the leaders. Leicester were coming off only their second defeat of the season and would have no doubt been looking to bounce back with a good performance.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men, on the other hand, were never tested in their previous match against Sunderland and would have been under no illusions as to how difficult this game would have been.
The visitors enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, however, Jamie Vardy, in uncharacteristic fashion, squandered a golden chance to put his side ahead soon before the break, putting his shot over the bar.
At times Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne provided the most threat for the visitors, but it was Sergio Aguero who may, on another day, have been awarded a penalty for Gokhan Inler’s challenge on the Argentinean late in the contest.
In the end, a draw was perhaps the most just result, particularly considering the Foxes’ late flurry. They now only sit second to Arsenal on goal difference at the halfway point of the season. City sit in third place, with only one win separating them from the top.
Claudio Ranieri opted to deviate from his favoured 4-4-2 formation to play five in midfield, with Vardy the lone striker. Inler was awarded a rare start, while Danny Drinkwater returned from injury
Leicester City XI: Schmeichel; Simpson, Huth, Morgan, Fuchs; Mahrez, Drinkwater, Kante, Inler, Albrighton; Vardy
Manuel Pellegrini produced no real surprises in his team selection, setting the team up in a 4-2-3-1. David Siva and Aguero both started, with Nicholas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala continuing in central-defence despite showing nervy moments in recent weeks
Manchester City XI: Hart; Sagna, Otamendi, Mangala, Kolarov; Toure, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Silva, Sterling; Aguero
Sergio Aguero still to find his feet
Despite being denied a penalty in what was a contentious non-decision, Aguero struggled to have any influence on proceedings. At the start of the second-half, the Argentine squandered a golden opportunity to score and was substituted just after the hour mark.
The statistics will show that Aguero managed five shots in the game. Of those five, two were blocked and the remainders were off target (including one from within the six-yard box).
Aguero looked to lack match sharpness and fitness, with his heatmap also suggesting the star striker is yet to return to 100% fitness. His day was indicative of City’s inability to breakdown the home side’s defence.
Leicester’s five man midfield forced City to play long
City were kept to a pass completion rate of 77%, below their often lofty standard in that respect. With the Foxes deploying a midfield five, City often played long balls, struggling to find space at times amongst the brilliant Kante and Drinkwater, while Inler at times struggled.
This may have contributed to Aguero’s quiet showing, often isolated when his team had possession.
Vardy often a lonely figure
As a result of the aforementioned system change, Vardy was the only striker for much of the game. Despite his ever-faultless work rate, the Englishman was often left with too much to do on his own, having to feed off scraps and often isolated. Compare the number of touches as opposed to passes attempted and one can see that he struggled to keep the ball due to a lack of support runners. Despite limited supply, Vardy had three shots, two of which were on target.
N’Golo Kante continued his outstanding season
N’Golo Kante has arguably been one of the signings of the season throughout the league, and his performance Tuesday morning further enhanced his credentials.
The Frenchman was a brick wall in his defensive-midfield position, having to complete more than his fair share of work in propelling City’s attacks.
Kante finished the game with two tackles won, two interceptions, five clearances and six blocks, while also proving to be a key figure in the Foxes’ counter-attacking game with his quick distribution.
This result sees the end of a run of fixtures in which most expected them to ultimately drop out of any title contention. This result, however, concludes a run in which they have continually proven themselves against much more fancied opponents, culminating in a mature and disciplined outing against a current heavyweight of the league.
City will be frustrated that they did not gain all three points, but they will know that a point away to Leicester is much more valuable this season than last. Had they possessed a fully fit Silva and Aguero, they may well have taken all three.
Although the change in formation by Leicester may have suggested a rare element of negativity, it also shows tactical astuteness and pragmatism, as a point will have been more than satisfactory for their Italian boss.