Watford 2 Leicester City 1
Report by Colin Murrant
The first game with Brendan Rodgers in charge failed to herald the revolution that was anticipated. The new formation was apparent with three central defenders and Ricardo and Chilwell as the out and out attacking wing backs. With the two wing backs not at their finest defending, this was a formation that many felt that Claude Puel should have tried previously.
However, playing as full backs, and attacking, the two had always had options afforded by wide midfielders, today they were mostly on their own with little support and, often, having to check back or play sideways in order to retain possession.
The lack of movement, particularly up-front was also noticeable which left the midfield and wing backs with limited options. Whilst the system that Rodgers wants to play is obvious, there is clearly a lot of work required on the training ground before it is perfected; early days these.
City lined up with Captain Wes Morgan back in the team as the third centre back, no surprise given Rodger’s recent comments about Morgan having a part to play; the man replaced was Gray. City kicked off defending the Vicarage Road end where their supporters were housed. Indeed, City started well with good possession although not really using it to their advantage, this was to become the pattern for the day.
In the third minute Ndidi gave away a free kick on City’s left, the ball into the area caused some panic and Schmeichel made a sharp save from Mariappa and the ball was eventually blocked by Morgan, from Deulofeu’s follow up, for a Watford corner kick.
The ball from the corner was worked wide by Watford who continued to attack, a foul by Maguire went unpunished for several seconds before referee Moss brought play back and awarded the kick after Watford gained no advantage. The free kick was swung in by Deulofeu and Deeney headed in from about 5 yards. The City defensive organisation was shocking with Maguire, the tallest at the far post, Morgan and Evans no where to be seen in the middle and Schmeichel far less than dominant.
City then assumed control of the game without really threatening. Two quick incidents involving Vardy of note. In the first, after 12 minutes, he robbed Mariappa only to be brought down when he would otherwise borne down on goal. With the City fans, and some players, baying for red, Moss brandished the yellow card. From the resultant free kick, both Vardy and Foster, totally committed, crashed into each other and both needed lengthy treatment.
A few minutes later and a fierce cross from Chilwell was volleyed just over by Barnes. The play then ebbed and flowed without any major chances.
The second half continued in the same manner without any significant improvement, some City fans were getting frustrated with the amount of passing, lack of progress and slow tempo, reminiscent of Puel’s style.
It was as late as the 75th minute when Leicester drew level; Maguire appeared to foul Deeney as he won a header just short of halfway, the ball broke to Tielemans who was allowed time to slip a pass in behind Watford defence where Vardy had made his run and the striker was able to lift the ball over and wide of the advancing Foster to make it 1-1. An excellent goal.
It was all City now although Vardy (limping) and Tielemans (tiring) had to be replaced by Iheanacho and Mendy. Maddison put Iheanacho through who with more confidence may have gone through on Foster’s goal. Chilwell was getting good space down the left and made several crosses of variable degrees of accuracy.
Deep into added on time disaster struck for City. Schmeichel made a hash of a clearance, not for the first time, the ball was sent back and Deeney played a great ball into Gray (Andre) to control and fire past the City keeper and secure the points.
No doubt City deserved more, they had 60% possession but were not positive enough with it. Tactics are clear but the lack of movement and support for the wing backs was evident. The pace of the game needs to be brisker and certain to improve. The young guns still need a lot of work and need to be physically stronger, Maddison and Gray most noticeably were eased out of the game by some robust Watford play – the Hornets recorded five bookings or robust challenges.
The knowledge of the players that Rodgers will gain over the games until the end of the season will be invaluable and help him define the summer recruitment. Tactically the first signals of the revolution were seen, hopefully the full-blown salvos will be seen in the next few games.
For Rodgers, who has had serious criticism and abuse from North of The Border, and again today from the Watford fans who he walked out on for Reading, the haven of the King Power next week will be a more comfortable experience and hopefully may herald in the new era.
Watford: Foster; Janmaat, Mariappa, Cathcart, Holebas; Hughes (Cleverley 90), Doucoure, Capoue, Pereya; Deulofeu (A Gray 68), Deeney. Subs not used: Gomes, Success, Masina, Quina, Kabasele.
Leicester City: Schmeichel; Evans, Morgan, Maguire; Ricardo, Ndidi, Tielemans (Mendy 82), Maddison, Chilwell; Barnes (D Gray 65), Vardy (Iheanacho 82). Subs not used: Ward, Soyuncu, Fuchs, Ghezzal.
Referee: Jon Moss. Attendance: 20,062
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