Riyad Mahrez continued his terrific run of form as he provided a brilliant curling effort to the back post in the 82nd minute to equalize for Leicester just a minute after Dele Alli put Tottenham ahead. This was a cagey contest that really came to life in the final 10 minutes.
Claudio Ranieri opted for the same 4-4-2 lineup that beat Sunderland 4-2 on opening day and won 2-1 at West Ham last weekend.
Mauricio Pochettino gave Eric Lamela his first start of the season for Spurs with Christian Eriksen missing through injury. Spurs played their usual 4-2-3-1. The attacking midfield three rotated often but it was mainly Lamela through the middle, Chadli on the left and Dembele on the right.
The obvious tactical feature of this one was Leicester's deep, organized defending in banks of four. They put all ten men behind the ball, challenging Tottenham to come up with enough creativity to unlock them.
Okazaki and Vardy dropped inside their own half, usually picking up Tottenham's two holding midfielders. Higher up the pitch Chadli and Dembele tucked inside and took up extremely narrow positions. With Leicester defending with a compact midfield bank of four, the middle of the pitch was extremely crowded. Tottenham's midfielders struggled to find pockets of space between the lines to create a forward passing option and as a result they ended up playing a lot of sideways passes deeper in midfield.
With space between the Leicester defensive and midfield lines limited, Spurs' attacking midfielders would drop in front of Leicester's midfield four to pick up possession from Mason and Dier. This meant Leicester still had 8 men behind the ball. Tottenham simply couldn't break down the Leicester lines. Eriksen's injury was important. He's clever with his movement, capable of moving into tight pockets of space to receive passes and creative enough and tactically gifted enough to then pick out a penetrating pass. Lamela, Dembele and Chadli didn't offer enough creativity on the ball. Spurs dominated first half possession with 72% but the tempo was quite slow and Leicester were comfortable.
The absence of creativity meant Spurs were unable to link play forward into Kane. He had to work the channels, as he always willingly does, or drop into positions deep in midfield in order to get any sort of touches. The left side of the graphic below shows all of the passes Kane received in the first half. There's a noticeable lack of passes received in the middle of the pitch around the penalty box, where you typically want your best goalscorer to be collecting possession. There was an improvement in the second half. As the abnormal heat (the referee stopped play for water breaks in both halves) led to a fall in Leicester's pressing in midfield, more space opened up for Kane in the middle of the pitch. For Tottenham's goal he was able to collect possession in between the lines and drew in three Leicester defenders. This allowed Chadli to go unmarked down the left channel where the Belgian floated a ball towards the back post for Alli to nod home. After playing the ball wide Kane did well to continue his run into the box which forced Leicester center back Wes Morgan to slide over and check Kane's run, leaving Alli free at the back post.
The difference in attacking styles between the two sides was pronounced. While Spurs were patient and, more often than not, ponderous, Leicester's attacks were direct and vertical and therefore didn't involve many passes. Spurs completed a total of 437 passes to Leicester's 183.
With the entire side defending deep, Leicester looked to spring quick counter attacks when they won the ball back by hitting balls behind the Tottenham fullbacks into the channel for Vardy. The graphic below shows the number of passes Vardy received in the channels. Mahrez and Albrighton would break forward to join in the attacks. However, the home side weren't particularly incisive in the final third.
In the end the draw was a fair result and one both managers were probably content enough with, though Leicester nearly got a late winner through Morgan after he got on to a brilliantly whipped in ball from Mahrez. A 0-0 draw seemed probable until the final ten minutes- neither side had been all that threatening up until that point. Mahrez was once again the standout player. He now has four goals and has been the league's best player up to this point. A whole slew of pundits mocked Leicester for appointing Ranieri and pegged them to be relegated. Having guided the Foxes to 7 points from their opening three, the unfairly derided "Tinker Man" looks good value to keep his side up.