This weekend could be a watershed moment in this years title race. Manchester City and Tottenham face off just a few hours after Arsenal and Leicester City. With all four of the top four teams facing each other, this could be the weekend someone pulls away from the pack or someone falls away into the race for fourth place.
With so much up for grabs this weekend, coaches will be focusing on getting every little detail right. They’ll be analyzing who to select, what approach to adopt, and what formation to play. With a trip to the Emirates on the horizon, should Leicester City change their formation from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 or a 4-1-4-1?
Leicester have been praised for their use of a 4-4-2 and have rarely shied away from using it. After going away from that 4-4-2 early in the season against Bournemouth, they’ve been hesitant to go away from it. However, going to the Emirates is always a tough task, especially with just two in midfield. The one notable time they did change from their 4-4-2 was when they hosted Manchester City. In that game they switched to a 4-1-4-1 with Gokhan Inler in behind their normal midfield two of Danny Drinkwater and N’Golo Kante.
At that time Leicester were still conceding goals at a pretty high rate, but they did a pretty good job of stopping Manchester City from creating too much. Outside of one big chance that Sergio Aguero missed, they limited Manchester City to difficult shots and were able to keep a clean sheet.
Leicester’s last match against Arsenal was a crazy 5-2 in favor of the Gunners. Claudio Ranieri started that match with the 4-4-2, but after going in 2-1 down at half time he changed to a 4-5-1 bringing off striker Shinji Okazaki and bringing on midfielder Andy King. At that point it was too late and Arsenal ran rampant creating plenty of big chances and scoring plenty of goals, but Ranieri did seem to acknowledge that he may have made a mistake by lining up with just two in midfield.
Finally, if you look at Arsenal you’ll see that a pattern has arisen in their recent play. Their play has been going down the left much more often than it has been going down the right. Especially with Alexis Sanchez back from injury, a lot of play will come down Leicester’s right hand side. Riyad Mahrez is responsible for a lot of the Foxes attacking success, but he could be restricted if he is forced to do too much tracking back to deal with the threats of Alexis Sanchez, Nacho Monreal, as well as Mesut Ozil when he floats out to the left. An extra man in midfield could help free Mahrez up to work his creative magic.
In his first stint in England, Claudio Ranieri earned the nickname “the tinkerman” for chopping and changing his teams. In his first year with Leicester he has stuck with the same formation and the same starting XI for the majority of the season. But the job of a manager at the top is to be able to make the big decisions. He’ll have a big one to make when deciding how to line up in their possibly season defining game against Arsenal.