Leicester and Raineri go Direct
There’s something remarkably similar between Diego Simeone’s Atletico and Caludio Raineri’s Leicester City. They’re both compact 442s systems, which feature a back 4 within touching distance of midfield. Both systems use a playmaker on the right flank who drifts inside and links up with the strike force. And don’t be surprised if you see their fullbacks tackling in midfield. I can’t recall many occasions when the spawn of Schmeichel rolled out a ball. The preference from the back seems to be “Bypass the Defense”. And that’s effective, with such a narrow system and a packed defensive third, these hoofed balls get cleared by the opposition and because of the way the Foxes are packing they pick up the interceptions. Leicester loves its interceptions, and during the first half of the season, they led the league. If a ball is cleared by the opposition, it invariably finds it way to a Leicester player, the Foxes can defend to a man. Each player looks extremely hardworking. They have one serious flaw though. They are prone to the diagonal ball, and very few teams have shown an ability to take advantage of this. Leicester are just too quick moving the ball around, they are just too direct for some of the other sides in the premiership, and this in large part is down to the influence of the forgotten Italian – Raineri.
After a poor stint in Greece, few expected Raineri to make an impact. I admit to being one of them. Leicester the season before had been in the relegation zone. You don’t expect a team that’s been in the cellar to suddenly transform itself a season later. Raineri and Simeone have made the 442 fashionable again. While others are using the modern variants of the 4231 and the 4312, Atletico and Leicester are going around with a different twist on an old dance. The 442 of old used to feature a playmaker in the middle, and this was its weakness. Overload the middle with hatchet men, and you nullify the 442. Systems employing either an AMC or a DMC being more fashionable. Toss in a false nine and you have headaches looking after the channels.
So how have these two clubs done it?
Congestion. That’s the easiest way to describe it. The distance between midfield and defense is usually less than 25 yards. The front two can form a third defensive barrier, sometimes they harry from the front, sometimes they drift deep. The flanks are tucked in with inside cutting midfielders on the right who act as playmakers. Both clubs have a playmaker on the right. Toss in a hardworking ethic and a strong physical presence, and you often find that both clubs rank as one of the top tacklers in the league. When defending the team is narrow and congested, in attack however, they transform.
Leicester breaks out with direct balls that seek out the playmaker or the frontmen. The ball spends very little time in midfield. They don’t tick tock. While Mahrez looks elegant as a playmaker, Albrighton looks a workhorse, making sure he has a foot in any door that’s seeking to open with some hard tackles. Leicester defends by having a tackler/interceptor combination. They either intercept a clearance, or they tackle a player. Since they are so compact there is always a player nearby who can launch the quick counter. This may not lead to the best pass completion rates in the league, in fact you don’t even expect them to finish with more possession, but they do have a lot of shots on goal.
My next goal at Torino is to replicate the system. Since the Leicester fullbacks show a desire to tackle as high up as the midfield, I will be playing with a control setup, but i want to replicate the high interceptions. I am not even sure if this replication will be a success. I have seen quite a few goals scored by Vardy coming from the left side of the penalty box, and all indications to me watching these games is that he plays as the left sided striker. So that’s how I will be setting it up. Thoughts and ideas are more than welcome.