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Conte's new system outfoxes Leicester

Tactics Board
 By Ben Jacobs

Riyad Mahrez disappoints as Leicester settle for 1-1 draw vs. Aston Villa

Leicester City will feel bitterly disappointed to draw 1-1 at Aston Villa but that only serves to show just how far the club has come this season. Last year, any point away from home would have been more than credible. The draw took Leicester one point clear of Manchester City at the top of the table although Arsenal have since jumped back above City on goal difference after drawing at Stoke City on Sunday.

Foxes boss Claudio Ranieri will obviously feel it was two points dropped, especially given Riyad Mahrez's missed penalty while leading 1-0. Mahrez has now missed his last two spot kicks, having also fluffed his lines in the stalemate with Bournemouth in December. The Algerian has enjoyed a stand out season but hasn't scored since Leicester's 3-2 victory at Everton -- ironically, he dispatched two penalties that day.

Mahrez's mini-drought isn't overly concerning, especially not for a midfielder but his occasionally lackadaisical attitude certainly is. The 24-year-old has generally matured since this time last year: he tracks back and is more of a team player, but there's still an infuriating nonchalance to his game.

Leicester are undoubtedly not as clinical of late, as emphasised by the fact Mahrez and Vardy scored 28 goals in the first 17 matches and have failed to add to that tally in the past five games. However, because City are also looking more solid at the back they don't now necessarily need to score more than once to take points. It would be easy to moan about a slight lull in form but whether they fade away or not, Leicester are essentially immune to criticism right now.

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Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):

GK Kasper Schmeichel, 7 -- Faced four meek shots on target and was beaten by a deflection. One of those days for the Dane who barely put a foot (or hand) wrong.

DF Danny Simpson, 6.5 -- Solid if unspectacular. Perhaps could have gotten forwards a bit more often.

DF Robert Huth, 7.5 -- Another commanding display, although pretty fortunate not to concede a penalty following a tangle with Libor Kozak.

DF Wes Morgan, 8 -- Unjust that his deflection took Rudy Gestede's shot past the helpless Schmeichel, but a nonetheless outstanding performance.

DF Christian Fuchs, 7.5 -- Provided calmness at the back and quality going forwards.

Mahrez underlined a sad performance with a wasted penalty that arguably cost Leicester all three points.

MF Riyad Mahrez, 5.5 -- Has suddenly lost his spark. A below par display and not just a poor penalty, but a lazy one.

MF Danny Drinkwater, 8 -- Bossed the midfield and was one of the few Leicester players with a respectable pass-completion rate, too.

MF N'Golo Kante, 7.5 -- Football's very own pickpocket, constantly pressing and pinching possession. City's best player in the first half but less influential in the second.

MF Marc Albrighton, 7 -- An improved display. Blazed over shortly after the break when a goal against his former club was on the cards.

FW Shinji Okazaki, 7 -- Industrious as ever and is currently making an (odd) habit of scoring nothing but scrappy goals.

FW Jamie Vardy, 6.5 -- Not really back to his best or necessarily fully match fit, but got the assist for the goal and continued to try and create chances out of nowhere.


DF Ritchie De Laet, 7 -- Didn't have a great deal to do but looked composed in possession.

MF Demarai Gray, NR -- A brief cameo as he continues to push Albrighton for the right to start in midfield.

FW Leonardo Ulloa, 6 -- Failed to get into the game but will still probably start against Tottenham in the FA Cup.

Ben Jacobs is ESPN FC's Leicester City blogger. Follow him on Twitter @JacobsBen.


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