There is a definite sense that reaching the Champions League final last season covered a poor end to the season from Spurs.
They stuttered and staggered through the last few weeks of the season with performances not meeting the high expectations of not only the fans but of coach Mauricio Pochettino and his staff.
So far this season we have seen a similar picture. Wins over the newly-promoted Aston Villa and Crystal Palace have proved the exception and coming into this match we had seen them throw away a lead to draw 2-2 with the Greek champions Olympiakos in the Champions League.
Last season the overriding narrative surrounding the north London side was that they had not recruited a single player to strengthen the first-team squad. This summer was a different story as Pochettino saw his midfield bolstered by the likes of Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso.
If Spurs are in the midst of a difficult run at the moment then one of the teams looking to overtake them in the race for the top four is Leicester City. Under Brendan Rodgers, we have seen Leicester be moulded into a highly competitive outfit with a young core of rapidly developing players.
In this tactical analysis, we will examine the key tactical aspects of the match that saw Leicester come away with a 2-1 victory thanks to a stunning late finish from James Maddison.
In the initial stages of the match, we saw Leicester start in a 4-1-4-1 system that would quickly turn into a 4-3-3 in possession with Harvey Barnes and Ayoze Perez working to support Jamie Vardy in the attack. As always the Nigerian international Wilfred Ndidi would provide important cover to the defensive line at the base of the midfield.
The pass map for Leicester in this match shows the importance of two key players in Ben Chilwell, at left-back, who saw a lot of the ball in the build-up phase and James Maddison in the midfield through which the ball was constantly funnelled.
This map also shows that no matter how the Leicester squad changes we still see Vardy as the focal point in attack and playing off the shoulder of the last defender.
The Spurs system was more difficult to decipher. Wyscout has the formation as a 4-1-3-2 but at times the South Korean international Heung-Min Son was the highest player with Harry Kane dropping deeper to the same line as Erik Lamela.
Spurs would then look to create width by pushing their fullbacks into higher positions.
Once again the passmap for Spurs shows this clearly with the ball moving through the two fullbacks and Harry Winks at the base of the midfield most often.
Spurs structure and issues
The opening stages of this match were frenetic with both sides pressing hard and high and looking to disrupt the build-up of the other side.
Spurs were in the ascendency for the majority of the first half an hour but they still struggled to find a way through a difficult defensive block from Leicester that was set by the excellent Jonny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu.
With Serge Aurier and Danny Rose moving to a higher line whenever Spurs were in possession we saw the centre of the pitch become congested as the Spurs attackers tried to access and occupy space.
We see this in action above with the full-backs moving into advanced positions. In the centre Kane, Son and Lamela all tried to find space in the Leicester defensive block while the French international Ndombele also looked to move into advanced spaces.
The issue for Spurs was that they struggled to find ways to access these central areas when the ball was in the wide areas.
The Leicester full-backs were adept at pressing out and cutting off passing lanes into the centre and this meant that Spurs lost momentum in their attacking movements and had to recycle the ball back.
It was curious throughout the match to see the positions taken up by Harry Kane, especially in moments of quick transition when the England international fell behind the play more than once.
We have seen Kane play in this more withdrawn role before but given his ability to finish in the penalty area it still feels like Spurs were missing out by the lack of mobility from the forward player.
Leicester disrupt Spurs build-up
In the initial build-up phase, Spurs found it difficult to progress the ball through the thirds as a result of the pressure being put on them by the Leicester attacking players. The two centre backs and the deepest midfielder, Harry Winks, were all placed under considerable pressure by Leicester and this resulted in Spurs rushing passes to try to break through the pressure. This led to Leicester being able to regain possession high up the pitch in areas from which they could create their own chances.
Leicester would commit themselves man to man in high areas, a risky choice given the dangers if Spurs could break through and play to a higher line or more advanced platform.
Given the abilities in possession of the two Spurs central defenders, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, you would expect this to be the case.
Instead the ball was played with poor accuracy again and again as Leicester won the ball back. In the image above you see an example of the pressure that the home side put their visitors under.
We see this pressure again in the example above with the man in possession being closed down and his comfortable passing options have been taken away. This time the pass was played vertically towards the halfway line and Leicester comfortably regained possession.
The importance of Maddison
The 22-year-old English midfielder James Maddison was linked to a number of big money moves over the summer. Having stayed with Leicester there are not clear signs that he is emerging as the key player in the squad, ahead of even Vardy.
In this match, his performance was excellent not only with his goal but the quality and incisive nature of his passing.
Here we see the positioning of Maddison as the ball is circulated from the right side to the left and the young midfielder is positioned in a huge pocket of space just in the half-space.
As he receives the ball in this area he has options wide and the space that he needs to drive forwards to threaten the Spurs penalty area.
Maddison found these pockets of space in the final third over and over again in this match and was always free for his side to play into in order to progress the ball.
This time we see Maddison picking up possession of the ball having drifted outside to find space.
He seems to have an innate understanding of where to move in order to occupy space and allow the team to progress the ball.
As soon as he takes possession of the ball in these areas his teammates understand his ability to pass the ball and access space in behind the defensive line so they would look to make quick vertical runs behind the Spurs defence.
This, in turn, created space centrally which could be exploited by Leicester players running from deep.
In the end, the result was a fair one. Leicester were creative in the attack and solid defensively while Spurs struggled to progress the ball and find angles into which they could attack the centre of the Leicester defensive block.
Something will have to change for Spurs quickly if they are to reassert themselves as genuine contenders to challenge Manchester City and Liverpool at the top of the table.
If you enjoyed this piece and are keen to read many more articles like this then head over to totalfootballanalysis.com and get a digital copy of their latest magazine for just £4.99 – containing over 100 pages of pure tactical analysis and coaching content. Annual subscriptions are also available.