The Foxes’ weaknesses could combine with the Canaries’ stellar midweek to induce a return of the tried and tested Farke formula.
While new faces, kit suppliers and sponsors have given Carrow Road a changed look this season, Daniel Farke’s switch from a 4-2-3-1 to a flat 4-3-3 has been the most noticeable tactical change. After limited Premier League success with the City head coach’s new-look setup, could he return to his old favourite this weekend?
Perhaps the most obvious reason for this would be the competition for places in forward areas, created by a fantastic attacking performance in a 6-0 Carabao Cup win over Bournemouth this week.
Kieran Dowell, Josh Sargent and Christos Tzolis, who are all yet to start a league game this term, were the shining lights of the performance as a front three. Farke’s current 4-3-3 setup means that two of Tzolis, Dowell, key creator Todd Cantwell and star signing Milot Rashica would miss out on Saturday’s starting lineup.
So, a switch to a 4-2-3-1 would first and foremost allow for as many as possible of City’s most talented and in-form players in the Norwich team, with an underperforming midfield doing little in the opening two games to justify their starting berths.
Kenny McLean and Jacob Sorensen, also impressive in the Cherries demolition, are yet to start in the Premier League and are pushing hard against the trio of Lukas Rupp, Billy Gilmour and Pierre Lees-Melou that started against Liverpool and Manchester City.
McLean, who was described as “irreplaceable” by Farke in mid-2020, is almost certain to start against Leicester and has performed most consistently as a key half of Farke’s double pivot.
Dowell and Cantwell are both comfortable playing as a ‘10’ in the middle of a three and would create room for both Tzolis, who scored a brace and assisted twice on Tuesday night, and Rashica, who has been the Canaries’ standout player in a miserable 180 minutes of Premier League action, on the wings.
However, the most pressing reason for this potential formational change is the Foxes’ weakness, which their manager highlighted in his pre-Norwich press conference.
Discussing the lack of leadership in his back four since Jonny Evans’ long-term injury, Brendan Rodgers said: “The two centre-backs are so important because they dictate the depth of your team. That’s something we’ve looked at from the game the other night (Leicester’s 4-1 loss at West Ham).
“You have to be communicative and you have to shorten your pitch as a back four and that was the big problem for us the other night. When you don’t do that, you leave too much space.”
Saturday’s visitors will be without centre-backs Evans, Wesley Fofana and Jannik Vestergaard and this has left them with a disorganised backline that is poor at compressing space between the lines.
This is a perfect situation for a ‘10’ with the ability to play between the lines in these spaces. Dowell fits the mould perfectly, as a player comfortable spending large periods of games on the periphery.
Cantwell is also comfortable as a ‘10’ positionally but the 23-year-old’s desire for time on the ball and propensity to drop deep means he’d vacate the relevant space, between the Leicester midfield and defence, too regularly to maximise its dangerous potential.
Should Farke opt to return to a 4-2-3-1 perhaps the most difficult decision will be which central midfielder to drop. Although Rupp, Gilmour and Lees-Melou have not impressed significantly each offers something that could prove useful, with a wider range of skills required to feature in a double pivot than a three.
Lees-Melou seems the favourite to partner McLean based on this assumption, although Gilmour has given the clear impression of a player who could flourish if the correct tenets are in place to allow the Scot to do so.
Rupp has done little to boost his cause, despite scoring his first Norwich goal in the Bournemouth game. The German struggles in possession when pressed well and was substituted at half-time during the Canaries’ 5-0 loss at the Etihad.
Farke has a series of difficult decisions to make regarding selection, and although his regular level of conservatism may prove disappointing to Norwich fans, perhaps enough of it to return to old ways would actually lead to refreshing change.