If you decided to go for your 5km walk or run instead of watching the early kick-off on Saturday, you would be forgiven for thinking that Liverpool hit the self-destruct button in the final fifteen minutes. Yes, Alisson and Kabak gifted Jamie Vardy the goal to put the foxes ahead but the problems Liverpool encountered in the final quarter were a result of the tactical awareness of Brendan Rodgers rather than their own self implosion.
Leicester had struggled massively for the majority of the game, they hadn’t created any significant chances and were starved of possession until Rodgers shifted from his usual 4-2-3-1 formation to a 4-4-2 diamond. Quite often on sky sports you’ll hear Jamie Carragher saying that the best managers take calculated risks, this was certainly one from the Leicester city boss.
As the diamond is such a narrow formation there was the obvious danger of leaving his team exposed to arguably the best pair of attacking full-backs in the league, especially after Leicester had seen first hand how dangerous Alexander-Arnold can be after he produced a masterclass at the King Power Stadium last season, but being 1-0 down with just fifteen minutes to play Rodgers had nothing to lose.
A risk often comes with a reward, Ayoze Perez replaced Marc Albrighton and as he entered the field he explained to his team mates with a series of hand gestures what the new system would be. Leicester now had two strikers with Harvey Barnes joining Vardy. Perez went into the no.10 position, Maddison and Tielemens occupied the sides of the diamond with Ndidi at the base.
In the first half Leicester got no joy from their trademark long balls over the top and into the channels for Vardy to latch onto. For the most part he was isolated and outnumbered by makeshift center back pairing Jordan Henderson and Ozan Kabak.
The difference late in the second half when Leicester changed their formation was that they now had two strikers running in behind keeping both of Liverpool’s center backs occupied, making them much harder to defend against. For Leicester’s second goal Barnes is in a much more attacking position than he would have been if he was on the left of a 4-2-3-1.
You can’t legislate for the huge mix-up between Alisson and Kabak, but the fact that there was two blue jerseys waiting to pounce rather than just Vardy by himself gave them a better chance of profiting from such a mistake and definitely played a part in the rash decision-making from Alison coming flying out of his area.
Minutes later Leicester should have scored again as Barnes was getting huge joy from his more offensive starting position. He found himself in the Liverpool penalty area, his shot rebounded to Vardy who was somehow denied by Alisson from six yards out.
As Liverpool were chasing the game searching for an equaliser Leicester took full advantage on the counter attack.Wilfied Ndidi pinched the ball back in midfield Liverpool’s full backs were out of position he had two options in Barnes and Vardy who were both getting on their bikes,He picked Barnes who dispatched to the net to finish off a terrific turnaround.
James Maddison pointed out the tactical tweak his side made in his interview on match of the day. “We had a change of shape we went into a diamond it just changed the dynamic of the game we had more numbers in the middle of the pitch, and we turned the game on it’s head in about six or seven minutes.”
It was a huge statement of intent from Leicester in their pursuit of Champions League football,which slipped from their grasp last season. As for Liverpool a stroll into the top four has now become a sprint over hot coals.
It’s easy to believe the theory that Liverpool were the architects of their own downfall in the final quarter, but it was more Leicester’s brilliance rather than Liverpool collapsing. UFC fighter Tyron Woodley said “if the risk is high the reward is high so why not roll the dice?” Brendan Rodgers rolled his dice on Saturday and got a six.