Chelsea has a massive must win fixture against Leicester City midweek. What do the Foxes say with their tactics and how do the Blues silence that?
With the hot seat burning for Frank Lampard, rumors of his replacement have abounded. They range from the sensical (Julian Nagelsmann, Ralph Hasenhuttl), to the merely available (Thomas Tuchel, Max Allegri), to the farcical (Avram Grant). Somewhere in all of that is Brendan Rodgers who is just mercenary enough to leave Leicester at a moment’s notice like he did Celtic, Swansea, Watford, and Chelsea’s academy. He has rarely been one to exit gracefully and a grudge held by Roman Abramovich may be all that is needed to prevent him from ever having a chance at the Chelsea job.
That being said, his name came about because Premier League experience is invaluable. Stylistically, he also matches Chelsea’s goals just enough to be satisfactory. Possession based football that isn’t afraid to just go long with counters if that is what suits the players or the moment, and no set formation to shoehorn players into.
Leicester City is flying high once again under Rodgers and it would not be unfair to say that this match is do or die for Frank Lampard. Given how much ground was lost in December, Chelsea simply cannot afford to drop points to teams ahead of them, at least in the short term. Morecambe and Fulham will have alleviated the pressure little for Lampard. In fact, a loss or perhaps even a draw to Leicester might be the end with Luton to follow and Wolves at Stamford Bridge over a week later. What does Lampard need to expect and how can he adjust to ensure he stays on as manager?
Leicester is a team that is very much the sum of their pieces. They defend and press well and that is even before considering the rock that is Wilfred Ndidi. When they win possession, they like to move the ball forward quickly but with great control. The only time they might send it long is if Jamie Vardy has a clear run on, but otherwise they will look to be fast but controlled.
None of this will be new to Frank Lampard and Chelsea after last year’s matches. It was honors even in both Premier League fixtures with the Blues only narrowly squeaking by the Foxes in the FA Cup. The two battled for top four as well with Leicester very much in the driver’s seat all season before collapsing towards the end of the year.
Leicester is exploitable in two areas that benefit the Blues though. Their back line is well shielded but if attacked quickly enough, they often show that they struggle. The team as a whole also struggles in the air, in open play and on set pieces, which will be a happy hunting ground for Mason Mount or Hakim Ziyech on corners and Kurt Zouma lurking in the box.
But Leicester is very much a tactical reflection of Chelsea. The Blues also want to build forward quickly with short passes, only going long if the move is on. The issue Chelsea has had in the last month is they almost try to force that speed while losing control. Counters and set pieces aren’t as much of an issue as they were, but Chelsea also doesn’t want Vardy getting free runs at the back.
This match will be one of Chelsea’s truest tests of the season. Survive and win and top four looks far more likely (though still not guaranteed). Anything else and Lampard might rightly have to worry about Wednesday morning and what it might bring.