There were undoubtedly below-par individual performances from Norwich City in a 3-1 Championship defeat against a high-quality Leicester City, but this should not be offered as total mitigation.

Ben is a City season ticket holder and author of the NCFC Analysis social media account, who unpicks games with an analytical report highlighting tactical strengths and weaknesses.

This is what Ben made of a flawed Canaries offering at the King Power stadium.

Leicester versus Norwich: Qualitative and tactical inferiority

Score: 3 – 1

Possession (%): 61 – 39

Passes: 578 – 388

Shots: 18 – 6

xG: 2.33 – 1.02

  • Norwich’s build-up variations.
  • Leicester’s man-to-man press.
  • Set-piece success.
  • Leicester’s overloads and sustained pressure.

Base formations

Making the trip to the King Power Stadium, David Wagner named an unchanged eleven before an early injury to Sorenson saw Duffy replace the Dane after just ten minutes.

Leicester City boss Enzo Maresca made three changes to his side, with the hosts' positional rotations beginning from a 4-3-3 base formation.

The Pink Un:

In their deep build-up phases, Norwich occasionally created their usual 4-2-2-2 structure, with Sara (17) and Barnes (10) dropping into the space ahead of City’s double pivot, while Leicester pressed in an aggressive man-to-man system.

Daka (20) pressed from the front, and Dewsbury-Hall (22) jumped to press after shadow-marking Nunez (26), before Winks (8) advanced to occupy the Chilean midfielder. Behind the first two lines of pressure, Doyle (5) stepped into midfield to track Sara (17), and Faes (3) often jumped to press Barnes (10).

The Pink Un:

Wagner’s men also alternated between three build-up variations. The first saw McLean (23) drop to left-back while McCallum (15) advanced on the same side.

With Fatawu (18) tracking McCallum (15), Ndidi (25) was forced to press out wide. In response, Barnes (10) dropped into the space vacated by the Leicester midfielder. But given Faes’ (3) aggressive pressing role, Barnes (10) remained occupied, and McLean (23) opted to go long.

The Pink Un:

Another build-up variation saw Barnes (10) and Sara (17) drop into a narrow line of four on the edge of Norwich’s penalty area, before the visitors played directly into the space behind.

In these situations, Leicester typically created a man-to-man system with a plus one at the back. Dewsbury-Hall (22) often remained on Nunez (26) while the full-backs stayed tight to Sara (17) and Barnes (10). Winks (8) dropped to create a 3v2 in Leicester’s favour at the back.

The Pink Un:

The last and perhaps most unusual build-up variation saw City’s full-backs, holding midfielders, and advanced midfielders advance towards the halfway line, leaving just Gunn (28) and the centre-backs in the defensive third.

The rationale behind this setup could have been to pin Leicester back, giving Norwich more time to build up before Nunez (26) and McLean (23) dropped into space in the defensive third.

The Pink Un:

In the first instance, this logic makes sense; it makes it easier to build up against a high-pressing opponent. But it’s important to understand why many teams play out from the back.

By drawing your opponent to press before playing through lines of pressure, you’re able to access space behind. By pinning Leicester back, Norwich made it easier to retain possession but removed the benefit of successful build-up play; the space was now in front of Leicester rather than behind them.

The Pink Un:

This, combined with their failure to execute optimal build-up patterns and their tendency to opt for a more direct approach, rendered much of Norwich’s in-possession strategy ineffective.

In settled possession, Norwich advanced into a fluid 3-diamond-3 structure when McLean (23) dropped into a situational back three, the wingers inverted, and the full-backs advanced.

In these phases, Mavididi (10) and Fatawu (18) dropped to create a 6-3-1 mid-block, thus preventing the concession of a 6v4 disadvantage in the last line. Doyle (5) and Pereira (21) were ready to jump into the half-spaces when the ball was on their side.

The Pink Un:

Once the hosts forced Norwich to shift over to the opposite side, their ball-side winger jumped to trigger the host’s man-to-man press.

On Norwich’s right, for example, McLean (23) played back to Duffy (24), Sara (17) dropped to provide an out-ball, and Mavididi (10) jumped to press. Without a last-line advantage, Norwich were frequently forced back towards their own goal before aimlessly going long.

The Pink Un:

But just a few days after City’s set-piece success against Plymouth, Wagner’s side profited from yet another well-worked corner routine.

Choreographed by set-piece coach Andy Hughes but inspired by reigning Premier League champions Man City, Norwich’s 20th-minute opener saw the hosts manipulate the zonal element of Leicester’s mixed defensive setup.

Leicester set up with five zonal-markers on the edge of the six-yard box, one zonal-marker at the front post, and three man-markers around the penalty spot. Gibson (6) moved to the front post alongside Dewsbury-Hall (22) before pushing him out of the way to create space for Sara (17), who converted from Nunez’s (26) cross.

The Pink Un:

The Pink Un:

In Leicester’s deep build-up phases, Hermansen (30) became a temporary left centre-back as Vestergaard (23) moved to the left and Doyle (5) advanced to create a 4-2-5 shape. Ndidi (25) dropped alongside Winks (8) to create a double pivot.

Norwich pressed from their usual 4-1-3-2 shape, but the wingers often dropped to create a midfield diamond, thereby reducing the space between the lines. City’s front two shadow-marked the pivots, while Nunez (26) was ready to press when one of them became free.

The Pink Un:

When Doyle (5) dropped deep to receive, Ndidi (25) advanced and Pereira (21) inverted from right-back. These coordinated rotations allowed the hosts to maintain their double pivot while also occupying each of the five vertical corridors.

Winks (8) and Pereira (21) were often able to overload Nunez (26) before Leicester accessed a 5v4 overload against Norwich’s back line.

The Pink Un:

Beyond Hermansen’s (30) involvement, Doyle (5) became a hybrid left centre-back and Leicester created a 3-2-5 structure. In these phases, Norwich dropped into a 4-4-2 mid-to-low block.

By applying very little pressure to Leicester’s back line, Norwich allowed Doyle (5) or Faes (3) to advance and combine with players in wide 3v2 overloads against Norwich’s full-backs and wide midfielders.

The Pink Un:

Leicester were able to sustain pressure with a solid 3-2 rest-defence, while their last-line overload consistently created problems for Wagner’s men, including in the build-up to the host’s equaliser.

With The Foxes playing on the left, Norwich shifted over to the same side, occupying four of Leicester’s front five on the ball side, leaving Fatawu (18) free on the opposite side.

The Pink Un:

Once Leicester moved over to the free man, McCallum (15) was isolated in a 1v1 while Ndidi (25) underlapped into the space behind, before Sainz (7) dropped to support City’s left-back. By shifting over to the left of their defensive third, Norwich now left Mavididi (10) free at the far post.

The Pink Un:

After a blocked cross from Faes (3), the ball fell to Ndidi (25) who crossed to the host’s left winger. With Stacey (3) isolated in a 2v1, Mavididi (10) nodded the ball back to Dewsbury-Hall (22) who found the back of the net unchallenged.

The Pink Un:

This was a common problem for Wagner’s men, with the hosts consistently trapping Norwich in their own half before exploiting wide overloads and their last-line 5v4 advantage.

Without reliably forcing or benefiting from transitions, City’s approach became incredibly passive. To compound these issues, Norwich’s deep build-up variations were almost entirely ineffective.

There were undoubtedly below-par individual performances against a high-quality opponent, but this shouldn’t be offered as total mitigation for City’s approach.

The last line disadvantage, the free man at the far post, the naive build-up variations, the passive mid-to-low block – these elements are inherently tactical.

You can read all Ben's previous analysis of Norwich City games via his social media accounts.

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