AFC Bournemouth 0 Leicester City 0 - 30th September 2017
Report by Colin Murrant
Whatever happened to all those heroes? All the Shakespearoes?...... the Strangler’s 1977 classic goes.
For most of the season so far, we have been lacking heroes, the team continues to be looking weak in midfield, unadventurous, and lacking in passion and quality in some areas. The Shakespearo in question is increasingly criticised by fans and, with Nigel Pearson back in the owner’s eyes at OH Leuven, there are few fans that doubt a change in the managerial hot seat is in the offing.
The Vitality Stadium is situated in King’s Park, a proper suburban park approximately 2 miles from the town centre, a 25-minute walk from the Railway Station. I only give that fact to underline that yesterday I walked from the station and 20 minutes had passed before I saw any home shirts or scarves. Bournemouth is not a football hot-bed for sure, the ground holds 11,464 maximum spectators, yet once the whistle blows, the Cherries set off at a tempo as impressive as any Premier League team.
City started with the usual line up with the exception of Riyad Mahrez who was on the bench. Demari Gray replaced Mahrez and had his opportunity to impress not only the City fans but also the Bournemouth management team who had allegedly bid £25m for him during the transfer window. The anticipated start of Vicente Iborra did not materialise although CS had gone public in saying he was now ready to play. The normal 4-4-2 formation was in evidence although Vardy seemed so isolated at times that one wonders if he should be given a lone-worker device.
The first 20 minutes was all the home side and they could have, and should have been out of sight.
They had two wonderful opportunities in the first 3 minutes, the first fell to Defoe as his close-range shot rattled against the crossbar from Josh King’s cross. Pugh’s resultant shot was deflected wide by Simpson with the home players baying for a penalty. My immediate thought was no penalty as it was a fierce shot from close range, the referee either thought the same or did not have a clear view. 9000 home fans shouting does not impose the same pressure on the officials as 72000 at Old Trafford.
5 minutes gone and Stanislas put a ball through the centre of the park that left City split wide open and Defoe one-on-one with Morgan, Morgan did well to hold up play just inside the penalty area and Defoe had to lay the ball back to Pugh who screwed his shot hopelessly wide.
Bournemouth remained in the ascendancy and King met Pugh’s pull back but he likewise screwed the ball wide of the goal. Then, with half time beckoning, Pugh had another chance but again blazed over with the goal at his mercy, the ball coming to him after an interception of a cross by Morgan.
Somehow City reached half-time level but with no shots to their credit: to be fair the last 25 minutes of the half had been more even but, if Bournemouth are relegated, it appears on this performance, that it will be their lack of a cutting edge that will be their problem.
The midfield being overrun could not continue and so Craig Shakespeare brought on Vicente Iborra in place of Andy King at half time. Almost immediately Fuchs laid a short pass into Iborra, the city substitute was robbed in central midfield which allowed Bournemouth to break. The ball was eventually worked into the box and Iborra made an excellent tackle to recover the situation at the expense of a corner. This highlighted two things, one Iborra needs to adapt to the speed of the Premier League (will he adapt like Cambiasso or not be able to like Inler?), but also, that he has great positional sense and determination. I am sure he will be a major player for Leicester if he stays fit.
At this time the game was still flowing towards the City goal and Stanislas shot from outside the area that Schmeichel got down well to hold although, to many of the city fans, the ball appeared for a second or two to be beyond him.
Right on the hour came Leicester’s and the matches best chance. Albrighton crossed from the right wing and, in the box, Vardy was able to back heel to Okazaki who somehow managed to fire wide from ten yards. An awful miss with City fans taking a second to register that it was not the net that the ball had bounced back from but the advertising hoardings.
The game was much more open now with city having a further chance when Gray latched onto a clearance from Fuchs. Begovic punched the ball away and it eventually fell to Ndidi who volleyed from the edge of the penalty area, his shot deflecting over the bar off Ake’s head.
A strange incident occurred when Fraser pushed over Gray in full view of the referee and next to the linesman. It wasn’t violent but, as the official strolled over to Fraser, a red card seemed likely. In the end a quick word was given but no card shown, probably what the incident called for but not in the strict interpretation of the rules today.
In the end it was a well-earned point but one which left City just outside, and Bournemouth in the relegation zone. Whilst some sympathy can be given Shakespeare with the early season injuries to Iheanacho, Iborra, James and the ongoing Silva saga; it is difficult to understand putting a team out with just two central midfielders that cannot cope. Add to that the inexplicable recent matches substitution of Albrighton who, although not on his top form, always puts a shift in; which is not true of his colleagues on the other wing.
Vardy is lacking in support with his tireless running and winning balls in the air, often resulting in nothing as there is no-one near him to lay off to or to win the second ball. Movement is poor and Iborra stopped and held up his arms in frustration on one occasion when lack of movement prevented him passing the ball. Also, recently City have started at a slow tempo with the onus on defending, this needs to change into a more positive attitude.
Finally, two positives and two negatives:
Schmeichel was magnificent yesterday and looked to be back to his best after a couple of recent goals had been scored against him that you imagined he would do better with. He is very imposing figure at his best and, in the white kit, all very reminiscent of Shilton.
Ndidi has far too much workload for a young player, he is the kingpin of the midfield and has had little support. Young players who come into a team often have a period when they need a rest to recover their form and recharge their batteries. Wilfred has not had this luxury and has been virtually ever present since his debut in January. Ndidi has all the attributes to be a top-class midfielder but he needs help before he gets worn out.
Andy King is a player you know has served the club well, quite a few fans will not criticise him for this fact alone. He is however a player that cannot really add much at this level of the game; if the midfield is playing well he can play a part in breaking forward into the box and will score the odd goal. He cannot play the position he is being asked to play now in a centre midfield of two. He does not demand the ball, does not win the ball very often, and is not your centre midfield player that demands possession. He is not a leader.
Gray is an enigma, he has undoubted talent but it is seen only fleetingly. His failure to take the correct option of shooting or passing to a forward in a better position is well documented. What is more worrying for a wide player, he seems to have no concept of when to come short, run into space: he also seems to tread water on occasions when running back on his defensive duties. He certainly did not take his chance and personally I have no idea why we are offering him improved contract terms until he sorts these issues out. He missed his chance to impress and must work harder and cleverer if he is to become the player the fans want him to be.
No one expected City to win the title again but most saw it a once in a lifetime opportunity to raise the Club’s status and establish them in the top 6 to 10. That they have so far failed to do this is a mammoth disappointment; whatever happened to our heroes?
And so, we go forward to meet WBA, a team we have not beaten at home for some time. I think a must win to save Shakey and, as The Stranglers song continues:
…..They watched their Rome burn, Whatever happened to the heroes?, Whatever happened to the heroes? No more Heroes anymore, No more Heroes anymore
Please Thai owners, don’t let our Rome burn
Bournemouth: Begovic, Smith, Francis, Ake, Daniels, Stanislas (Fraser 88), Cook L, Surman, Pugh (Ibe 69), King, Defoe (Afobe 82). Subs not used: Boruc, Cook S, Gosling, Mousset
Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Maguire, Fuchs, Albrighton (Mahrez 75), King (Iborra 45), Ndidi, Gray, Okazaki (Iheanacho 69), Vardy. Subs not used: Hamer, Chilwell, Amartey, Slimani
Referee: Graham Scott Attendance; 10,444
The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation