Saturday 20th December 2014
West Ham United vs Leicester City
On Saturday afternoon West Ham will entertain a side who have lost their last seven away games in the league, a side who have not won in eleven league games, a side who have picked up two points since September.
Leicester City are the league's basement side going into this game. Only three teams have scored fewer goals, only one team has conceded more.
On paper, this is a game we should comfortably win. But the game isn't played on paper, is it?
Despite their disappointing recent form, the Foxes have a number of players in their ranks who have the capability to win any game.
Jamie Vardy showed in their last victory (against Manchester United) that he can mix it with the best on his day, Leo Ulloa has only scored one goal less than Diafra Sakho, and Esteban Cambiasso has played for some of the biggest clubs in the world in his career.
In recent weeks though, there has been one man who has performed consistently for Leicester, and can be a thorn in the side of any fullback. Riyad Mahrez is one of few players in the squad to have continued in the same vein as last season.
The Algerian winger is creating more than a chance a game, has hit the target with 68% of his shots on goal, and has been successful with 50% of a massive 58 attempted take ons (this after just 12 appearances).
In their last game, a one nil defeat by the reigning champions, Mahrez was a box of tricks and full of attacking intent. On the day, he attempted a massive 11 take ons, and was successful with six of them (as shown in the image below).
Whilst Mahrez is a clear threat going forward, his stats suggest that he is also a worker. In 12 appearances this season, the winger has attempted 46 tackles, winning 12 of them.
In the last away game the Foxes played, the visit to Villa Park, Mahrez attempted five tackles, made two interceptions and blocked three passes. The tackles are shown below.
Leicester may not be the most dangerous side in the league, but with players like Mahrez in their ranks they will always be capable of springing a surprise and causing an upset.
How do you stop Leicester City?
Nigel Pearson has commonly gone for a 4-4-2 this season, with Ulloa and Vardy seemingly the preferred combination up top. He has mixed this up and played variations on the 4-5-1 on a few occasions, but according to WhoScored.com, the Foxes have gone with a traditional 4-4-2 9 times out of 16.
In the main strike pairing, Leicester have a traditional little and large combination, with Vardy the rapid, willing runner and Ulloa capable of giving any centre back a tough day at the office.
The image below shows the average positions of the Leicester side in the last two away games that Vardy and Ulloa have both started. What you can clearly see, is that Vardy (#9) pushing ahead of Ulloa (#23). This suggests that the Argentine drops off to win flick ons, whilst the Englishman runs ahead to pick up the loose ball.
The way in which opposition defences have combated this approach is for one the centre backs to play relatively narrow, one to drop off slightly, and at least one central midfielder sitting slightly in front, anchoring the defence.
We can see this in both the Aston Villa and QPR line ups.
For Villa, both Ciaran Clark (#6) and Jores Okore (#5) played close together with Okore ever so slightly deeper, whilst Ashley Westwood (#15) set in between in a holding midfield role.
For QPR, Nedum Onuoha (#15) dropped off even deeper, but was still close to Steven Caulker (#4), whilst Joey Barton (#8) marshaled the midfield.
If you compare this to the average positions of the Manchester United back line in that famous 5-3 win for the Foxes, you can see exactly what went wrong for Louis van Gaal's team.
Jonny Evans (#6) and Tyler Blackett (#42) both dropped off very deep, but were alone in this, as the rest of the side just went gung ho. Daley Blind (#17) was charged with anchoring the midfield, but you can see that he was far advanced from his colleagues. The gap between the centre backs was also very wide, allowing the likes of Vardy to run into space.
Leicester have a number of key weaknesses, that I've already highlighted. They don't score enough goals, they can't win away, and they concede far too many.
The most important of those is probably that defensive frailty. What is interesting about Leicester's defensive weakness, is that is not underpinned by poor mistakes. They rank 15th for defensive errors conceded (7 errors), and only two of those have led to goals.
That is less errors than the likes of Chelsea, Everton and Liverpool.
What this suggests though, is that Leicester concede goals not because of lapses in concentration or one person slipping up. Instead, they concede goals because they are not that good at the back.
This is borne out by WhoScored.com's statistically calculated team characteristics. According to WhoScored, Leicester's weakness include all manner of defensive vulnerabilities.
In the league this season, no side has allowed the opposition more shots on their goal than Leicester, only one side has made more fouls per game, and only one side has conceded more goals.
This is a game West Ham should win.
Our home form has been terrific since we started the season with a hat-trick of defeats, with us winning 5 and drawing one of our subsequent matches at the Boleyn.
Leicester have players that can hurt us, and we should be mindful of that, but anything less than a home victory will be a disappointment.
Head to Head
40% Head to Head Win % 35%
51 Won 44
31 Drawn 31
44 Lost 51
208 Goals Scored 189
189 Goals Conceded 208
Recent Form (excl. Friendlies)
D L W W W D Last 6 L D L L L L
8 Goals Scored 4
5 Goals Conceded 11
W W W D W W Home/Away Form L L L L L L
11 Goals Scored 3
3 Goals Conceded 12
Form Player (excl. GK)
(Last 6 League)
James Tomkins - Marcin Wasilewski
5 Appearances 6
450 Minutes Played 540
38.1 Sum WhoScored Performance Score 43
7.6 Average WhoScored Performance Rating 7.2
145 Passes Attempted 119
104 Completed 80
72% Success Rate 67%
3 Chances Created 2
0 Assists 0
1 Attempts on Goal 5
1 On Target 0
1 Goals 0
1 Take Ons Attempted 0
1 Successful Take Ons 0
100% Success Rate 0%
14 Tackles Made 29
10 Successful Tackles 10
71% Success Rate 34%
10 Interceptions 19
45 Clearances 55
7 Blocks 5
12 Defensive Actions Per Game 13
30 Aerial Duels 30
24 Won 17
80% Success Rate 57%
0 Defensive Errors 0
0 Leading to a Goal 0
23 April 2012
0-1 Jermaine Beckford 34'
1-1 Winston Reid 39'
2-1 Jack Collison 58'
4-2-3-1 Starting Formation 4-4-2
Robert Green - Kasper Schmeichel
(76') Guy Demel - Lee Peltier
James Tomkins - Sol Bamba
Winston Reid - Wes Morgan
Matthew Taylor - Paul Konchesky
Mark Noble - Ben Marshall
Gary O'Neil - Danny Drinkwater
Ricardo Vâz Te - Richard Wellens (22')
Kevin Nolan - Andy King (46')
(88') Jack Collison - Jermaine Beckford
(81') Carlton Cole - Dave Nugent (65')
(81') Danny Collins - Sean St Ledger (46')
Papa Bouba Diop - Lloyd Dyer (22')
(76') Julien Faubert - Steve Howard
(88') Henri Lansbury - Darius Vassell
Sam Baldock - Martyn Waghorn (65')
West Ham United: Mark Noble
Leicester City: Kasper Schmeichel, Richie De Laet, Matthew Upson
West Ham United:
Opposition Last Time Out (League)
vs Manchester City
Goals Scored: 0
Goals Conceded: 1
Starting Formation: 4-5-1
Danny Simpson Marcin Wasilewski Wes Morgan Paul Konchesky
Riyad Mahrez Andy King Esteban Cambiasso Danny Drinkwater (79') Jeff Schlupp (64')
Jamie Vardy (73')
Nick Powell (73')
Anthony Knockaert (79')
Leonardo Ulloa (64')
Best Player: Riyad Mahrez(SR: 7.3)
Worst Player: Jeff Schlupp(SR: 6.1)
Top 5's (Min 5 Apps)
Diafra Sakho 7 - 6 Leonardo Ulloa
Enner Valencia 3 - 2 Jeff Schlupp
Stewart Downing 3 - 2 Esteban Cambiasso
Mauro Zárate 2 - 1 Chris Wood
Carlton Cole 2 - 1 Dave Nugent
Stewart Downing 6 - 2 Jamie Vardy
Enner Valencia 2 - 1 Riyad Mahrez
Carl Jenkinson 2 - 1 Jeff Schlupp
Cheikhou Kouyaté 2 - 1 Leonardo Ulloa
James Tomkins 2 - 1 Ritchie De Laet
Mark Noble 86% - 87% Andy King
Stewart Downing 85% - 85% Dean Hammond
Mauro Zárate 84% - 82% Matt James
Winston Reid 82% - 81% Danny Drinkwater
Kevn Nolan 82% - 81% Anthony Knockaert
Chances Created per 90
Stewart Downing 2.94 - 2.05 Matt James
Mauro Zárate 1.31 - 1.29 Esteban Cambiasso
Mark Noble 1.26 - 1.25 Leonardo Ulloa
Alex Song 1.22 - 1.24 Riyad Mahrez
Aaron Cresswell 1.06 - 1.13 Marc Albrighton
Successful Dribbles per 90
Mauro Zárate 2.4 - 2.99 Riyad Mahrez
Enner Valencia 1.71 - 1.99 Jeff Schlupp
Alex Song 1.67 - 1.53 Anthony Knockaert
Diafra Sakho 1.38 - 1.5 Jamie Vardy
Morgan Amalfitano 0.88 - 1.4 Danny Drinkwater
Tackles Won per 90
Alex Song 2.67 - 3.4 Marc Albrighton
Mark Noble 2.62 - 2.86 Ritchie De Laet
James Tomkins 2.48 - 2.46 Andy King
Cheikhou Kouyaté 1.62 - 2.33 Danny Drinkwater
Carl Jenkinson 1.6 - 1.99 Jeff Schlupp
Aerial Duels Won per 90
Andy Carroll 12.38 - 9 Chris Wood
James Collins 4.82 - 3.99 Leonardo Ulloa
James Tomkins 4.17 - 3.4 Wes morgan
Diafra Sakho 3.45 - 3.22 Dave Nugent
Carlton Cole 3.17 - 2.86 Marcin Wasilewski
Sam Allardyce - Nigel Pearson
19/10/1954 DOB 21/08/1963
60 Age 51
Bolton Wanderers Main Club Shrewsbury Town
231 Appearances 184
24 Goals 5
9 Total Clubs 3
512 Appearances 479
43 Goals 24
England National Team England
0 Caps 0
Preston North End First Managerial Role Carlisle United
30/09/1992 Start Date 17/12/1998
22y 2m 19d Experience 16y 0m 3d
7 Sides Managed 7
2 League Titles 2
0 Cup Wins 0
39.9% Win % 43.1%
357 Won 164
235 Drawn 107
302 Lost 109
Longest Role (excl. Current)
Bolton Wanderers Club Leicester City
19/10/1999 Appointed 20/06/2008
29/04/2007 Left 29/06/2010
7y 6m 9d Time in Charge 2y 0m 8d
0 League Titles 1
0 Cup Wins 0
41.2% Win % 51.4%
153 Won 55
104 Drawn 30
114 Lost 22
01/06/2011 Appointed 15/11/2011
3y 6m 19d Time in Charge 3y 1m 4d
0 League Titles 1
0 Cup Wins 0
40.9% Win % 47.1%
63 Won 74
36 Drawn 34
55 Lost 49