Outclassed

Leicester City 0 Manchester City 2 – 18 November 2017

Report by Tish Krokosz

Could we repeat last season’s outstanding performance? Could we inflict the first league defeat of the season on the leaders? The team selection for both sides was substantially different to last year so it did not seem likely that the flow of the game would be the same.

Leicester were set up with a 4-1-4-1 formation with Ndidi having the lonesome task of stopping the fluid flow of Manchester’s fast, adept and clinical midfield. Albrighton was brought in to fill the middle of the Leicester midfield – a role that he has not played before and one that looked beyond his capabilities. He is fast down the wings and can centre the ball with power. He did not look comfortable chasing the ball in the middle of the park. This role would normally have suited King or Okazaki. Puel is showing that he likes to make changes in set-up and personnel. I am not sure this choice was a successful one and Albrighton’s substitution was long overdue.

Leicester started in similar manner to last year’s game with Iborra sending a delightful pass to Vardy in the inside-left position in the third minute. Vardy was free of a marker and had a clear run on goal. He would have only Ederson to beat. But a cynical trip from Kompany ended Vardy’s run and the defender should have been punished with a red card. Mr. Scott had plenty of time to think about the incident before pulling out a yellow card. It was a gamble that Kompany felt he had to take and it paid off for him but not for Leicester as the resulting free-kick led to nothing. A 1-0 lead or a reduction of the opposition to 10 men this early in the match would have changed the course of the game.

The Manchester City defence would have been in tatters as, on 30 minutes, Stones dropped to the ground unchallenged. His match was ended with hamstring problems and he was replaced with Mangala.

Leicester’s attacks after the Vardy/Kompany incident were rare. Delph is not renowned for his defensive qualities and I thought Mahrez would waltz round him continuously. He managed only one memorable run to the bye line with the powerful cross bouncing off Kompany and being very close to an own goal.

Meanwhile, the game was controlled by David Silva and De Bruyne. Their long passes to Sané, who was often unmarked on the left wing, were inch perfect and he had several opportunities to send in lethal crosses. One of these was directed at Silva who half volleyed the ball towards goal, only for Schmeichel to make a super save and tip the ball over the bar. Earlier, Sané sent in a cross for Jesus to dive at. Luckily, the latter ended in the net rather than the ball which by-passed everyone and City had a throw in.

After relentless pressure, Manchester City got the goal they deserved just before half-time. They played it from the back using De Bruyne and Sterling to bring it to the Leicester penalty area. The latter threaded the ball through the Leicester defence knowing that someone would be running on to it. This time it was Silva that ran into the space left of the goal and he centred the ball to an unmarked Jesus who only had to tap it in. Our defence was static and mesmerised by the sheer brilliance of the move.

Despite my earlier criticism of the team selection, going in at half-time with only a one goal deficit was credit to the Leicester lads who had put in a lot of effort to nullify the Manchester machine. What was needed was a good start to the second half to wipe out the lead.

Again, 3 minutes into the half and Leicester were on the attack with the ball coming in from the right wing. It was headed back into the goal area and only half cleared by the defence. The ball fell to Maguire and he decided to have a crack and shot at goal. The ball hit the outside of the right post and bounced to safety to Fernandinho. He immediately clipped the ball to De Bruyne who was free to run with it. He looked up and saw that there were three light blue shirts charging up the pitch and he sent the ball into space on the left wing. Leicester were outnumbered 3-2 and were rushing back to plug the defence. By the time Sané looked up and saw De Bruyne free on the edge of the penalty area, Leicester had seven men back, and yet this was still not enough as the Belgian took one tap of the ball with his right foot and slammed it into the net with his left. Expectant joy had been turned into deflating misery within half a minute.

With a two goal lead, the League toppers could dictate the pace of the game and had the confidence to treat it almost as a practice match. Their passing was immaculate. I think I only counted three wayward passes throughout the match. It was a joy to watch the slick, one touch flicks and accurate crosses (at least for the away fans). In fact the Leicester fans must have appreciated it too as De Bruyne was clapped by many around the ground when he was substituted near the end – a compliment not often given to the opposition.

Manchester City had several more attempts on goal in the second half and Leicester were saved from embarrassment by Schmeichel. Most spectators thought they were watching the champions in waiting, even at this early stage of the season, and it is not hard to imagine Manchester City recording further rugby type scores against weaker opposition – and we have them again in the Carabao Cup. I just hope they put their under 23 side against us rather than the first team.

The group that Pep Guardiola has coached has moved on from last year. Their approach was entirely different and original. I noticed that, at their goal kicks, the players were spread out over most of the pitch. The three attackers were beyond the Leicester defence. The defenders were splayed around the penalty area and the midfield was using the whole width of the pitch. Leicester could not guess where Ederson would send the ball and wherever he put it the away team would invariably win the one-on-one ball and so keep possession. This made for a very open game – what a difference to the approach of twenty players squashed into a ten-yard wide band in the middle of the pitch.

Will Puel stick to the 4-1-4-1 formation for future matches or will he try something different yet again? We saw last season that City do not like too much tinkering. We need to find a formula that works and one that the players are comfortable with – the 4-2-3-1 used against Everton seemed to give a good result so why change it?

My initial hopes of a repeat of last year’s score could not be further from the eventual score. By the time the final whistle went, I was grateful that the defeat was not greater. On another day, we may have lost 6-0 so huge was the difference in class. Leicester hardly had a chance to show what we could do against this solid away team. But then again, if Kompany had been sent off at the beginning of the match ...?

Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Maguire, Fuchs, Ndidi, Mahrez (Slimani 83), Albrighton (Iheanacho 67), Iborra (Okazaki 83), Gray, Vardy. Subs not used: Hamer, Chilwell, King, Dragovic

Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Kompany, Stones (Mangala 31), Delph, Fernandinho, Sterling (B Silva 84), De Bruyne (Gundogan 89), D Silva, Sané, Jesus. Subs not used: Bravo, Danilo, Agüero, Touré.

Referee: Graham Scott                                 Attendance: 31,908

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FSF Awards 2017 shortlists announced

Fans can now vote across 10 categories for the 2017 FSF Awards including Player of the Year, Pundit of the Year and Best Radio show to name a few.

However the Foxes Trust Board would like to congratulate Jim Donnelly on being awarded Premier League SLO of the year, he is named alongside 6 SLO’s from Football League clubs.

If you would like to cast your vote, read through the nominations and then vote via taking this link 

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bet365, odds-on draw

Stoke City 2 Leicester City 2

Report by Colin Murrant

The Stoke club historian on the big screen before the match was explaining that the 120 previous matches between the clubs had ended 40 wins apiece and 40 draws. The previous 2 encounters at the bet365 Stadium had ended 2-2, in fact Leicester had not lost at Stoke since their Premier League return four seasons ago. The pessimists might have sensed that the odds were that Stoke had to win eventually, the City optimists however felt City could take something from the game, particularly given the style of last week’s win over Everton.

Eventually the result would be the third 2-2 draw in a row between the two sides at the bet365 Stadium. The manner of the result was completely different to the last two seasons in that City led this encounter twice whereas they had previously had to come from two nil deficits. This time City were on the front foot again, far from the gloom monger’s angle on Claude Puel’s approach, and miles away from the negative approaches at recent away matches against Bournemouth and Huddersfield.

The lunchtime kick off, an early cold autumnal morning start, the infamous Stoke stadium wind with its high position and the open corners suggested an unpleasant day from a weather perspective. However, the rain eased on the journey up and we were greeted with sunshine; the free scarves from the club however were nonetheless a welcome gift to mitigate the cold.

Being Stokes’ remembrance match, the usual respect was given to the armed forces. The occasion was complete with piper and the carrying out of ‘The Somme Ball’; a ball used in a football match during the first World War: not the well reported match v the Germans, but nonetheless a poignant reminder how the love of the beautiful game is steeped in history. Apparently, there were many died when soldiers went into no-man’s land to retrieve stray balls.

The match itself was a great advertisement for the Premier League with goals and great saves plentiful, the match played in great spirit with no bad tackles nor yellow cards needed.

The mid first half substitution of referee when Madley was replaced by Moss, brought back memories that it was at Stoke last year when Vardy was sent off, and that his only other previous sending off was by Jon Moss at the King Power in that infamous match against WHU.

City started with Okazaki replacing the injured Chilwell, with Mahrez taking back the wider role.

After an even start, City gradually took control of the game and, after a series of short corners, Mahrez went long and Maguire headed back across goals where Iborra fired into the net with Butland getting a hand to the ball but not being able to stop it as it flew upwards into the net.

Okazaki had two chances, one the ball just beating his outstretched leg, another header brilliantly saved by Butland. Iborra also headed just over when he should have done better.

Then, against the run of play, Stoke equalised. A poor defensive goal for City with Fuchs caught in between two Stoke players, the decisive moment came when Maguire got sucked into midfield following the forward player and the gap that materialised was ruthlessly exploited as Stoke fed the ball through to Shaqiri who beat Schmeichel off the far post. Half Time 1-1.

The game was more even now and the next major action was on 59 minutes when a Shawcross header was saved low down by Schmeichel who emphatically pushed the ball away from danger. One minute later City were ahead, Ndidi won the ball through a gymnastic type leap, the ball went wide to Mahrez in space, Pieters tried to recover but Mahrez got away from him with guile and touch and, cutting in from the right, fired left footed through a host of players into the net.

Stoke brought on Crouch, a move that was to be significant, as significant as the injury to Iborra that had seen him replaced by Andy King. The home team won a corner, Crouch started from a penalty spot position, Stoke players blocked Maguire’s run, Crouch went near post into the area usually patrolled by the tall Iborra. The danger spotted late, Fuchs and King tried to stop Crouch getting to the header but alas in vain, 2-2.

City had further chances through Vardy and Iheanacho (the latter scoring but clearly offside), although it was Schmeichel who came to City’s rescue in the fifth minute of injury time with another splendid save. With seconds to go Stoke won a corner on City’s right from, the Foxes’ fans feared the worst, inevitably Crouch won the header only to be denied by the Schmeichel.

Three Good

Gray continues to improve, his transformation from my last report at Bournemouth is staggering, he now uses his left foot more as well as his more favoured right. He also looks up more and appreciates the positions of his fellow players, his decision making seems better. He is setting new standards for himself which he should strive to maintain.

Vardy and Mahrez are looking good again, Vardy impressed me a lot yesterday with his selfless running and use of the ball. Again, different to Bournemouth he had willing helpers as he was not so isolated. Mahrez is brilliant at times but elements of his game will always frustrate.

Ndidi with his energy, Iborra with his class and control of the game, have added a solidity and security to midfield we have been missing.

Two Bad

Defence is not as organised as it should be, Maguire for all his positive attributes makes occasional bad decisions. He will learn and I like him a lot. I think it is a pity that Huth is not alongside him to guide him, that is not taking anything away from Morgan’s performance just that Huth in my opinion is the better organiser. On both goals conceded there was an element of lack of understanding with Fuchs.

Albrighton, came on with 10 minutes to go and I cannot remember him getting any touches. At the end he seemed to sulk off alone although he did clap the City fans. Interesting to see how Puel uses him. At the moment it appears Demari is benefitting from, and Marc suffering from the Puel reign, early days!

All in all, a good performance that promises a lot that we are on the way up again, on the balance of things we could have and should have edged this. But we know the odds were on a draw; the odds of us playing Stoke again next season at the bet365 are shortening as both teams move towards mid-table, as no doubt are the odds on a 2-2 result.

Stoke: Butland, Zouma, Shawcross, Wimmer, Diouf (Berahino,86), Fletcher, Allen, Pieters, Shaqiri, Choupo-Moting, Ramadan (Crouch,69). Unused Subs: Grant, Jese, Afellay, Martins Indi, Adam.

Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Maguire, Fuchs, Iborra (King,66), Ndidi, Mahrez, Gray (Albrighton,80), Okazaki (Iheanacho,58), Vardy.  Unused Subs: Hamer, Dragovic, Amartey, Slimani.

Referee: B Madley (Yorks). Sub 24: J Moss (W Yorks)      Att: 29,602

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

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A man with a plan? Trick and treating by the new gaffer

Leicester City 2 v 0 Everton

Report by Stuart Dawkins

When Sky picked this match for television, I suspect they were merely ticking off their quota of matches for these two relatively unfashionable clubs.  They could not have anticipated one brand-new manager and one manager-less team, but that is what they got. 

It was the traditional Remembrance Day fixture, and the use of the clap banners (together with plastic sheet for the away fans) worked well to produce a poppy-based backdrop to a moving rendition of the Last Post before kick-off.

Puel started with a trick up his sleeve: his first game in charge saw an imaginatively-chosen City line-up.  Mahrez took the ‘number 10’ spot, with the youth of Gray and Chilwell chosen to provide pace and width.  It looked like a side chosen to play against slow opposition, and for the majority of the first half, the plan worked a treat. 

City players got behind the Everton defence a handful of times in the first quarter hour.  City’s midfield dominated Everton’s, with Ndidi making a deep-lying Rooney look ordinary on numerous occasions.  What was noticeable was that the flair players – Mahrez, Gray and Chilwell – were using an intelligent combination of running and passing.  Too often this season the passing element has been absent.

City should have taken the lead in the ninth minute, when Chilwell skied a good opportunity.  The deserved breakthrough did come around ten minutes later.  It was a very good goal; Puel’s trick-and-treat plan personified.  Gray took possession on the edge of his own box.  He beat three players, outsprinting the Everton midfield with ease, then released Mahrez.  The rest was predictable for a City team playing well: Mahrez found the by-line and cut the ball across the box for Vardy to sweep the ball in.  The move took seconds to cover 100 yards, and was no more than Leicester deserved.

The number of times City players were beating their Everton counter-parts for speed and power was almost embarrassing.  Ten minutes later, that dominance led to a second goal.    Gray found himself on the left wing.  His low cross did not reach Vardy, but Everton defender Kenny hooked the ball into his own net.

It looked as though Leicester would get a hatful.  For the first 30 minutes Everton were as poor as any Premier League side I have seen.  To their credit, they improved towards the end of the half, but only to the tune of a succession of long distance shots and corners.  Fuchs was, however, lucky that his challenge from behind in the box did not result in a penalty, but other than that there was no substantial threat from the visitors.

Caretaker-manager Unsworth made two substitutions at the interval, and the second half was more of a contest.  City’s players seemed slower: spending too much time on the ball, in contrast to the first half when passing and movement had been slicker.  It was the City defence that caught the eye now, with Morgan giving his best performance for a while, clearing up several Everton moves that had the potential to menace the City goal.

Puel brought on, in turn, Okazaki, Albrighton and Iheanacho for Mahrez, Chilwell and Vardy.  Unsworth brought on the £50m Sigurdsson for Rooney.  City held on and Everton barely registered a shot on goal. 

It was a good home performance and a deserved win.  The way that Gray and Mahrez swapped roles throughout the game was interesting, and it was arguably Gray’s best game in a City shirt.  Iborra continues to improve.  Against today’s opposition he looked completely relaxed and in control: my girlfriend suggested that more performances like this might persuade the Club Shop to sell an Iborra-branded smoking jacket for Christmas (I’d probably buy one).  Ndidi was solid.  Chilwell had a decent game, although not as eye-catching as he can be.

Everton are a team in trouble.  Even during the second half, when they had a lot of possession and attacking play, they did not look like scoring.  The City faithful happily sang “all that money and you’re going down”, and unless a new manager makes significant changes for the visitors, that may well be an accurate prediction.

Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Maguire, Fuchs, Gray, Ndidi, Iborra, Chilwell, Mahrez, Vardy. Subs:  Iheanacho, King, Albrighton, Hamer, Dragovic, Slimani, Okazaki

Everton: Pickford, Kenny, Jagielka, Williams, Baines, Lennon, Davies, Gueye, Mirallas, Rooney, Calvert-Lewin. Subs:  Schneiderlin, Sigurdsson, Niasse, Holgate, Lookman, Robles, Baningime

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

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WHO NEEDS A MANAGER?

LEICESTER CITY 3 LEEDS UNITED 1

Match Report by Paul Weston

After a typically crazy week in the life of a Leicester City supporter I approached the Cup game against Leeds with slightly less pessimism than of late. Whilst I had been supportive of Craig Shakespeare there is no doubt that our performance against a limited West Brom side was very poor and it was difficult to see how we could recover our mojo with so many players playing below par. It seems like our owners had the same feeling and poor Craig Shakespeare was relieved of his duties, never to find out if the elusive Mr Silva would have solved his midfield problems in January.

The Swansea away win under Michael Appleton’s leadership, and more importantly the manner in which we won, was a pleasant surprise and typical City. Perhaps we should rotate Shakespeare and Appleton as manager and assistant throughout the season because we always seem to win after sacking the manager!

Leeds United arrived after a good away win at the weekend, with a growing reputation and a great away following as usual. However, Leeds had a tough match ahead against Sheffield United so, like City, chose to field some new faces. Appleton retained just Maguire, Iborra and Albrighton from the side that beat Swansea.

The first half started in dreary fashion. What is the point of keeping possession if it is always passing side to side and backwards? Fans were getting quite frustrated and City hardly were creating any chances. Only the ever-eager Albrighton seemed capable of running at pace and trying to make things happen. Leeds passed the ball well and looked confident and scored in the 26th minute when City failed to close down in the middle and Hernadez let loose a shot that went in just under the bar. I may be too critical but I thought Hamer was caught by surprise and should have tipped it over.

Thankfully City drew level a few minutes later. Slimani chased onto a good through ball from Albrighton and the ball came out to Iheanacho with a chance of a right foot shot with the goal gaping. He chose instead to make it complicated, beat a player, thread the ball onto his left foot and shoot through the eye of a needle past two players and the goalie into the net. It was a welcome first goal and his confidence grew from that point.

The rest of the first half was fairly even with few chances except for a long shot from the enigmatic Gray that rebounded off the bar. It seemed even then like extra time and penalties might be looming.

However, City started the second half with much more purpose and Chilwell and Amartey pushed forward more with great purpose. I was really impressed with Amartey who, on this form, would press Simpson for the right back slot. City started to pass quicker and Albrighton teed up an absolute sitter for Slimani which he managed to miss from about two yards. King then missed a good chance when set up by Slimani.

City’s second goal was so simple and effective. Iborra, who got better as the game progressed, slid the ball through the defence to Iheanacho on the left who crossed well and this time Slimani slid in and slammed the ball into the net. It was a well-executed goal and showed the benefit of moving the ball at pace, which we had not done in the first half.

Appleton then chose to bring on Mahrez for Albrighton with about 15 minutes to go and as the game opened up it became clear that confidence was returning to Riyad. He seemed to have a free role and Leeds were failing to control him and looked devoid of ideas to get back into the match. In fact they had no shots in the second half at all.

Then, in the 88th minute, Mahrez scored a goal that was worth the admission money in itself. He picked up the ball on the half way line, beat a player, then at pace beat two players close to the penalty area and then, with his left foot of course, shot low into the goal. It was a superb goal and a reminder of his mercurial talent. City saw out the game, also bringing on Vardy late, to what looks like a comfortable 3-1 win, but only after a second half transformation. Much credit should go to Appleton who managed this victory.

City now pass into the hat for the quarter finals and a chance of silverware. What did we learn from the match? Dragovic and Maguire are good on the ball, but Maguire sometimes loses the ball in dangerous positions. Amartey is very fast going forward and defending. Chilwell is better at going forward than defence. Hamer did not have too much to do.

Iborra started to look better than in the West Brom match but that might be because his midfield opponents were not so fast in comparison. Gray still, for me, does not know when to pass or shoot and also drifts inside too much. Slimani worked his socks off but his flat footed running style still does not look like that of an athlete costing £29 million. Iheanacho, despite his goal and assist, still needs to show a surer touch on the ball and then we might see how he might progress into the side and support Vardy.

At the time of writing the next City manager is yet to be confirmed. Amidst all the rumours the underwhelming name of Claude Puel seems to be the strongest, with Michael Appleton’s role undecided. However, I seem to remember my reaction was similar when Ranieri was appointed and just look what happened!

Leicester: Hamer, Amartey, Maguire, Dragović, Chilwell, Iborra, King (c), Albrighton, Gray, Iheanacho, Slimani. Subs: Vardy, Mahrez, Fuchs, Ndidi, Jakupovic, Ulloa, Musa

Leeds: Wiedwald, Anita, Jansson, Shaughnessy, Borthwick-Jackson, Phillips, Klich, Roofe, Hernandez, Cibicki, Grot. Subs: Lonergan, Ayling, Pennington, Vieira, Sacko, Alioski, Lasogga

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

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