Leicester faced their toughest oppostion this season, and gave their most complete display

Before they met at St Mary’s Stadium only Southampton topped Leicester City in the Championship possession standings.

The Saints had on average a massive 72 per cent in their opening games, while Leicester had enjoyed over 65 per cent. So something had to give when the two sides that supposedly passed their opponents to death went toe to toe.

And yet it was the side with the least amount of possession that emerged emphatic winners, proving that it isn’t so much how much of the ball you have, but how you use it that matters.

In fact, Leicester proved that, at times, you can be even more of a threat when you haven’t got the ball, and Southampton showed that you can be at your most vulnerable when you do.

Even though it is such early days for both Enzo Maresca and Russell Martin – managers of Leicester City and Southampton respectively – it is clear both share a similar philosophy, that possession is king when it comes to winning football matches.

But that only rings true if there is a clear understanding of how to use it. Leicester showed on the south coast that they are reaching that eureka moment.

Enzo Maresca (left) and Russell Martin (Robin Jones/Getty Images)

For both sides, this has been a summer of extreme change and adjustment following relegation.

Under Maresca this has been a work in progress, despite their excellent start to the season, which has only been punctuated by the Hull City defeat before the international break, a defeat in which they still had 21 efforts on goal.

It has still been a record-breaking start to the season but ask most Leicester fans and they will have said they still needed some convincing. Cynicism understandably high after such a shocking outcome to the previous campaign.

The performance at Southampton will have gone a big step towards alleviating those concerns.

Maresca has been at pains to emphasise that his ideas would take time to reach fruition. There were no quick fixes, but his side are starting to show that there are more strings to their bow than a possession-based build-up.

Against Southampton, they pressed high, hunted in packs, forced turnovers that saw them break the deadlock after just 20 seconds and were two goals to the good after 18 minutes.

Both of those goals came from the hosts having possession and trying to play out from the back – they were robbed down their right flank and punished each time.

In possession, they were undone by Leicester’s press and their own slackness.

Even Southampton’s response in the 25th minute came from a long ball and a defensive error.

It wasn’t shaping up to be the advert for ball retention both managers advocated.

But then, just before half time, came the move that Maresca has been hoping to see exercised against elite opposition.

Wilfred Ndidi, a man who could be a huge asset in the Championship now the transfer window is shut and the uncertainty over his future removed, rounded off an incredible move with a striker’s finish, but the build-up itself was sublime. It was a glimpse of everything Maresca has been nurturing his side for.

From Ndidi winning a free kick on the edge of his own box, 33 passes later he was on the end of a move that took one minute and 27 seconds to reach fruition, where nearly every Leicester player had a touch. It was as fluid and as brilliant as any move you would see in the Premier League.

It was a team goal that would have been dissected by the Match of the Day panelists. Outside of the top flight it could have gone unnoticed.

It was a goal that demonstrated the potential of this Leicester side. They built from the back, starting from Mads Hermansen, the goalkeeper, and moved with varying pace down Leicester’s left and into midfield. At times it slowed down significantly, especially when Jannik Vestergaard stood on the ball, like a conductor waiting for the right beat to set his orchestra into high tempo.

And then they sprung into action, breaking lines, playing back and then across field, before Stephy Mavididi turned his man at the crucial moment to play in Ndidi breaking into the box.

The destructor-in-chief, as he so superbly was in his defensive position previously, showed the finishing capability of a rejuvenated Jamie Vardy to drive home a killer blow.

Mavididi may not have always made the right decisions in the final third, but he was still a huge influence on this game and added the fourth.

When he didn’t square the ball for Vardy in the move just before that final strike, denying the captain a certain goal, a few words were fired his way, but the potential is there in the young winger to cause havoc in this decision.

As for Leicester’s number nine and talisman, who scored his first league goal of the season, he showed he is more than capable of leading the line and linking play in a more withdrawn centre-forward role.

This was the most complete display yet under Maresca, with attacking intent, penetrative possession and clinical finishing coupled with defensive solidity. Justin was excellent defensively, especially against danger man Kamaldeen Sulemana until his red card.

Not quite a complete performance but the closest yet. This was the best glimpse at the potential of Marescaball.

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