Leicester City vs Wigan Athletic – King Power Stadium – Sky Bet Championship
Nigel Pearson’s Leicester City welcome Wigan Athletic to the King Power Stadium on Saturday afternoon with the home side 2 points ahead of the visitors in the league table. The Foxes have accumulated 10 points from five games, a decent return considering Leicester were tipped by many to suffer a hangover from last season’s play-off defeat to Watford. Wigan, however, have taken 8 points from their opening five matches, enjoying an average of 2 goals scored per game. It is too early to be able to draw any solid conclusions from the league table, though.
Leicester come into the game off the back of a 2-1 away defeat to Charlton, playing 48 minutes with ten men due to 22 year old midfielder Matty James receiving his marching orders for a second booking. They left some key players on the bench in the shape of Knockaert, Wood and Dyer. Method in the madness suggests that Pearson did not want to put Knockaert in the shop window, which is quite understandable. However, fans have voiced their concerns over the omissions and want to see their best team out every week, which is also understandable. Their last home match resulted in a 3-2 victory over Birmingham, with Leicester requiring a 93rd minute David Nugent penalty to seal all three points. In between those games, The Foxes entertainingly beat Carlisle 5-2 away in Capital One Cup. Their other home match was a 0-0 draw with Leeds in their 2nd league game.
Wigan enter this match-up with only one fit striker in Marc-Antoine Fortuné. Grant Holt was injured for the last match against Nottingham Forest, where The Latics won 2-1, and will be out until October. A solid defensive display worthy of a clean sheet helped Wigan to win the game, only conceding to a sweetly hit free kick from Andy Reid. Prior to this, Wigan could only take a point apiece from home games against Middlesbrough and Doncaster courtesy of late equalisers. Both games lacked creativity from Wigan, but Coyle made 5 changes for the Forest game and the difference was pleasantly noticeable, especially in the first half. Callum McManaman returns from a 3-game suspension, having served his time for a dangerous tackle in the Bournemouth game in which Wigan lost 1-0. Wigan’s other away game was an emphatic 4-0 win at Barnsley on the opening day of the season.
Predicted line ups:
Leicester are likely to line up in a 4-3-1-2 formation. Nigel Pearson’s ever-changing tactics allow The Foxes to be unpredictable yet reactive, which also brings versatility, a trait which is growing in importance in the modern game. The fact that Pearson has players who can play in a range of positions means that they can change style and shape whenever they please in order to gain an advantage over opponents. This season has seen Pearson field his side in a 3-5-2, 4-3-1-2, and a 4-4-2. It is doubtful that they will go with a 3-5-2 as Wigan always field 2 wide players, which would concede a lot of space behind the wing backs. Wigan’s formation would also be likely to laterally stretch a back three due to supporting midfield runs, which could prove to be a banana skin. It is also unlikely that they will field a 4-4-2, as this would see them a man down in the centre of midfield. By playing in a 4-3-1-2 shape, Leicester have the luxury of matching Wigan’s 3-man midfield, whilst the centre-backs have a numerical advantage playing against a lone striker.
Wigan are expected to line up in a 4-3-2-1 formation, an unchanged shape from the win over Forest. By having 3 central midfielders, Wigan can match Leicester in the middle of the park, if the home side line up as expected, or can even have a numerical advantage should they come up against a 4-4-2. The visitors are limited to playing with a lone striker unless McManaman or Dicko feature up front, which is unlikely. Wigan should have an advantage on the wings, though, as Leicester’s 4-3-1-2 involves only 2 wide players in the form of full backs.
Expected movement & why players will feature
GK: Schmeichel is Leicester’s best ‘keeper and should perform his standard job.
RB: De Laet should feature due to Wigan’s tendency to attack down, and overload, their left-hand side because he is better defensively than going forward. He will need cover. His forward running will be limited because Wigan usually counter quickly down this side.
RCB: Moore is more mobile than Morgan, so is likely to start on the right side as he can provide cover for De Laet more quickly should Wigan overload that side of the pitch.
LCB: Morgan is the likeliest of the centre backs to start. He is experienced and arguably Leicester’s most accomplished defender.
LB: Konchesky is more likely to start than Bakayogo as Pearson will be wary of Wigan’s counter-attacking. Bakayogo would leave the left side exposed more due to his more attacking nature. Konchesky will want to overlap to link up with Knockaert against Boyce.
RCM: Drinkwater’s defensive running will be mainly lateral as overlaps on the left side will require him to track runs from Espinoza or Beausejour. Must be disciplined going forward.
CM: Hammond should start after joining on loan and will likely be the deepest of the three. His experience of promotion can be key and gives balance to The Foxes’ middle.
LCM: King’s work rate allows him to be up and down at free will. Attacking runs will support Knockaert in build-up play, whilst defensive runs are between the centre back and full back in order to combat Gomez cutting inside.
CAM: Knockaert’s left-sided runs will help him and King/Konchesky create a 2 v 1 with Boyce. Right-sided runs should be on the counter-attack to exploit space conceded should Beausejour be caught out of position when attacking.
LS: Nugent is likely to feature because Wood will probably be jet lagged. He should be a deep lying forward, an increasingly popular role, to drag out Rogne in order to create space for Knockaert or Vardy to run into.
RS: Vardy will be looking to get in behind the Wigan defence as he is quite pacey and will want to be getting onto any flick-ons provided from Nugent.
GK: Carson will start, despite making a poor impression so far, as Al Habsi is injured.
RB: Boyce should start to provide defensive balance, and attacking runs will be limited due to Wigan’s lack of width on the right. Could be vulnerable due to his pace over 10 yards and Gomez’s low defensive work rate, especially when facing Knockaert & King.
RCB: Rogne should start after a convincing display last week. Asserted on the ball and strong in the air.
LCB: Barnett will more than likely feature on the left side as he has more pace to cope with Vardy than Rogne.
LB: Beausejour should play here ahead of Crainey due to his positional discipline and ability on the ball. He will overlap but only when necessary.
RCM: Powell will probably start as Coyle has said he will feature after replacing McCarthy in the transfer window on loan. Will look to start counter-attacks.
CM: McArthur should replace Watson after a poor performance vs Forest, and can prove himself worthy of a place. He should be the deepest of the three in a deep lying role.
LCM: Espinoza’s energy tenacity was well-needed against Forest. He will be box-to-box and should provide overlaps on the left as he links well with Beausejour & Maloney.
RAM: Gomez’s creativity is what Wigan require. He will drift inside, looking to get on the ball and dictate play. His defensive runs will be central to combat Knockaert or King.
LAM: Maloney is key to Wigan’s attacking play. He is both footed and can cut inside or go down the line. Links well with Beausejour & Espinoza. Defensive runs will be on the outside because it is likely that he will be covering for Beausejour’s overlaps.
ST: Fortuné will show for the ball and is great at holding up, which encourages supporting runs. Wigan can benefit from balls into his feet or chest. Works the left channel regularly.
Predicted tendencies: strategies that could be employed to seal a win
- Should look for Nugent to come deep to bring Knockaert, King & Vardy into play.
- Should look to create 2 v 1 situations with Boyce to exploit his slow acceleration and Gomez’s unwillingness to track back.
- Should look to get Knockaert on the right if Wigan continually attacking down the left as his pace and creativity can provide good counter-attacking opportunities.
- Should look to have plenty of cover on their right side to help deal with Wigan’s overload.
- Could exploit the gap between Wigan’s midfield and defence, depending on how deep McArthur plays.
- Should look for Fortuné to come deep to drag Moore out, creating space for Maloney to thread a ball through to a supporting run.
- Should look to create from the wings as Wigan outnumber them in this department.
- Should look for interplay with Beausejour, Espinoza and Maloney as they link up well and understand one another’s play.
- Should be wary of going too ‘gung-ho’ down the left in order to avoid being caught on the counter.
- Should look to get Gomez on the ball often as his creativity can create chances for Wigan.
Leicester 1-1 Wigan:
- Both systems that are likely to be employed have their strengths and weaknesses.
- Wigan go into the game in better form.
- Wigan, however, had more international players feature for their countries in midweek and could tire late on.
- Leicester may not be able to settle due to their ever-changing formations, but their versatility can work in their favour to exploit any Wigan weaknesses.
- Wigan are starting to adjust to this formation and can build on a good performance in the last game.
- Wigan are good on the counter-attack due to their flair players, whilst Leicester have players with the ability to punish Wigan on the counter if the away side overloads on the left.
- Wigan welcome back Callum McManaman from suspension, who certainly has the ability to change a game.
- Leicester are without Matty James through suspension.
- Wigan play their first ever European game in the Europa League game on Thursday so may want to take key players off towards the end of the match.
- The factors point towards a draw and I can see the two sides cancelling each other out, but not without goals. Both defences have conceded often and both sides can score.