Another point gained or another two lost? Faltering steps to “further sustainable success”

LCFC 1 v 1 Bournemouth

Report by Stuart Dawkins

So, yet another scrambled 1 -1 draw against opposition that Leicester would be expected to beat at home and the fifth successive league game without a win.  This is not the form of the team which the owners wish to pursue “further sustainable success” according to this week’s financial results announcement.

Puel does seem to favour changing the shape of his team to meet the specific needs of his opponents.  In this case, and with Simpson absent, he picked a host of midfielders – James, Silva, Ndidi, Albrighton and Mahrez and left Vardy more or less alone up front.  Amartey took over at right back, and Fuchs replaced Chilwell.  An early injury to Amartey meant that we never really got to judge whether that formation was the right one.

The first fifteen minutes was an oddly shapeless affair.  Mahrez had a one-on-one chance, but never looked to have the control to beat Begovic.  Both sides’ passing was inconsistent and little or nothing of real consequence occurred.  Probably the key moment in the match came in the eighteenth minute when Amartey – clutching his hamstring in an ominous way – was replaced by Chilwell.  This necessitated a switch to a back three, with Albrighton dropping back on the right and Chilwell playing wide on the left.  At least, I think that was the plan, as for the next half hour or so, Leicester looked to be confused by their own shape. 

It was a poor game, with too many mis-placed passes, and in the 33rd minute the second key moment occurred.  Bournemouth broke behind the City defence – not for the first time – Leicester survived a decent shout for a penalty before the ball broke to the edge of the box, Albrighton slid in and caught King before the ball to give away a very soft penalty.   Leicester’s attempts to persuade the referee that the ball was not correctly placed on the spot came to nothing, and King scored easily.

Whilst City created a few half-chances, they looked even more shapeless after conceding than they had done before, and Bournemouth’s defence rarely looked troubled before half time.

The second began with no changes to either team’s line-up.  Silva was booked for a sloppy trip; it was not one of his better days.  His pedigree shows what a talented player he is, but too often in his City career he has chosen the tricksy option and given away possession.  He was replaced by Iheanacho soon after, but not until Leicester had survived another decent penalty shout.

Leicester began to look more comfortable with two men playing in the forward role.  Almost immediately, Vardy got behind the defence whilst Iheanacho distracted the central defenders.  Vardy’s cut back to Chilwell produce a good shot which cannoned off a defensive head when it might well have found the net.

In a carbon copy of the previous match against Stoke, City were now creating chance after chance and corner after corner, but a combination of good blocks and good fortune meant that none of Maguire, Morgan nor Iheanacho could convert half-decent chances into goals.  With ten minutes to go, Puel (as last week) brought on an attacker for a defender – this time Diabaté for Fuchs.  The City pressure continued with three or four chances coming in one flurry before Bournemouth’s defence managed to get the ball clear.

Bournemouth – particularly ‘keeper Begovic – had wasted time throughout the second half, and four minutes’ additional time did not look generous.  As it was being signalled, James’ boot inadvertently caught defender Francis’ head, and further time ticked away.  The referee signalled to City’s complaining players that he would make allowance for the time taken by this injury, and Schmeichel’s 100-yard charge up the pitch to complain got a deserved yellow card.  The Dane’s commitment to the City cause is admirable, but his tendency to visibly lose his cool makes me wonder how long Puel will keep him as Vice-Captain when there are other, cooler, heads available.

The game looked to be over, but the referee was true to his word on timing, and more than four minutes additional time had been played when City’s tenacity earned a free kick thirty yards from goal.  It looked too far out for Mahrez to trouble the ‘keeper, but that did not stop the Algerian playing a curling shot inside the left-hand post to beat Begovic’s despairing dive and equalise.  Cue bedlam amongst the home supporters, and a pelting with snowballs for the away ‘keeper from fans behind his goal.

Many of the notional 31,384 crowd missed the goal as they had already left.  I say ‘notional’ as the arctic conditions had, perhaps understandably, led to many empty seats that would normally have been occupied by season ticket holders.

The City players left the pitch to chants of “Riyad, Riyad”, and the Algerian applauded all four corners of the ground.  He had played a decent game throughout and produced the moment of highest quality – not a bad day for him at all!

How to summarise this game, indeed this recent spell of games?  The team only seems to knuckle down when it is behind.  One can praise their grit in coming back from behind, but really it should not be necessary when playing at home against teams still battling against relegation.  I’m sure most City fans are desperate for the “sustainable success” this season to include further progress in the FA Cup and comfortably gaining the seventh-place spot and an outside chance of Europa Cup qualifiers next season.  To do that, they will have to play with intensity for the whole 90 minutes, not just the final 15.  Puel also needs to find a settled midfield who work well together and hope that at least one of his right backs remains fit!

Leicester: Schmeichel, Amartey, Morgan, Maguire, Fuchs, James, Ndidi’ Adrien Silva, Mahrez, Vardy, Albrighton.  Substitutes: Chilwell, Gray, Iheanacho, Hamer, Dragovic, Iborra, Diabaté

Bournemouth: Begovic, Francis, S Cook, Aké, A Smith, L Cook, Gosling, Daniels, King, Wilson, Stanislas. Substitutes: Boruc, Surman, Defoe, Fraser, Mousset, Simpson, Taylor

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