Harvey Barnes – He’ll Tear You Apart…

We like to get opinions from fans who have one of our players on loan at their club, today we gain the view of Neil, from Proud Baggies – LGBT+ Supporters' Group of West Bromwich Albion FC

“As much as we were delighted to be asked to provide an update on Harvey Barnes’ progress thus far this season, it was also a sad reminder that he is, in fact, not ‘one of our own’ which in turn is a stark reminder that at some point it’s very likely that we will have to manage without him in whatever division we end up in for 2019/20!

 

When he arrived during the summer, most WBA will have known very little about him. A product of your Academy and having been on 2 loan spells with MK Dons and Barnsley and only making one 91st minute appearance in the Premier League to his name, he arrived at The Hawthorns with little or no expectations.

 

The first time we saw him in action was during a pre-season friendly in honour of Cyrille Regis vs. Coventry in the inaugural Regis Cup. Eight minutes in and two goals later, Harvey had well and truly arrived, and frankly, he’s never looked back!

 

Since then, he’s started every one of our 12 games so far this season, scored five goals, including a thunderous goal of the month winning opening day strike against Bolton and claimed two assists. More than that though, he’s epitomised the change that’s swept through the Club under the leadership of Darren Moore.

 

Playing in the middle of a 3-4-1-1 formation that with our two wing backs and two forwards provides a five man strike force and allows Harvey to have a relatively  free reign going forwards. He’s most definitely at his best in attack with the ball at his feet and these days there’s always an air of expectation when he’s got the ball in the oppositions half!

 

That said, is he a fully rounded Premiership midfielder? Absolutely not. As I’ve said, with the ball and heading for goal he’s feared by most Championship teams but there’s work to be done still particularly in his defensive capabilities and work off the ball – key elements required for the top flight.

 

Such has his arrival at the club been heralded that there is near constant rumour and concern regarding the possibility of his loan spell being cut short and plenty of hope that we’ll be able to hang on to him after it’s over. And the plaudits are not just from fans either. Most of our local journalists have recognised his emerging talent with the general consensus being that he’s the most exciting talent currently in the Championship.”

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DEFENSIVE FRAILTIES RETURN TO HAUNT CITY

LEICESTER CITY 1 EVERTON 2

Report by Paul Weston

City fans travelled to this match with optimism after a convincing win against Newcastle. Would we win three games on the trot and kick-start our stuttering start to the season and silence the “Puel Out” clamour that always seems to be rumbling in the background?

Since the season started there have been two blindingly obvious problem areas that needed to be sorted out. These were:

Problem 1: We always start each match at funereal pace with slow deliberate sideways and backwards passing. This encourages the opposition to press our defence, we lose the ball and this encourages the opposition to score early. We are much better when we play at pace and this normally happens in the latter part of the game when we are trying to get back into the game.

Problem 2: It was a well-known fact that the Huth/Morgan defensive duo, fantastic in its prime, was past its sell by date a season ago. Simpson, a good defender, has been deemed to be ineffective as an attacking right back, and has been put into the wilderness. Ricardo was signed as a replacement, or so we thought, but cannot defend but is good breaking forward. Evans, Benkovic and Soyuncu have been signed as replacements for Morgan and back up for Maguire.

So far Evans looks no faster or better than Morgan, Benkovic has strangely been loaned to Celtic and Soyuncu has yet to play a game, apparently because he cannot communicate in English with team mates. Consequently Morgan continues to be selected as a partner for Maguire with Amartey at right back. It makes no sense at all to all the fans and is an obvious weakness for opposing teams to exploit.

Puel selected the same side as at Newcastle. It was not long before problem 1 and problem 2 occurred at the same time. Bernard wriggled his way through a weak defence, Schmeichel palmed the cross away but straight to Richarlison who volleyed home. 0-1 down after seven minutes and it was so, so predictable.

This knocked City out of their stride and the defence continued to look shaky every time Everton broke with the pace of Bernard and Richarlison troubling Morgan and Maguire. Chilwell continues to improve but Amartey, with Ricardo offering little help, did not look comfortable at right back.

Everton’s defensive duo of Zouma and Keane looked vulnerable when pressurised but sadly Iheanacho failed frequently to support Vardy in attack. Nevertheless, City gradually grew into the game and, after a great Chilwell cross which Vardy headed wide.

Vardy was put through on a trademark run behind Keane. He looked certain to score but surprisingly shot wide.

City then equalised after a scramble in their own goal mouth from an Everton corner in the 40th minute. Mendy got the ball out to Iheanacho who passed first time to Ricardo who had made up loads of ground on the left. He left the Everton team in his wake, twisted and turned the last defender and scored a great goal, even though Pickford got a hand to the ball.

The half ended 1-1 and it was impossible to predict how the match would end. A big worry was that, by half-time, Morgan and Amartey had both received deserved yellow cards. Morgan looked very vulnerable any time he was attacked and turned.

City started the second half much faster and with greater intensity. The crowd noise grew immeasurably and it looked like City could win both points. Chilwell in particular was a driving force and shot narrowly over after a mazy dribble through Everton’s defence.

Richarlison continued to worry Morgan with his pace and was knocked off the pitch with a forceful tackle. It was clear that the referee spoke to Morgan at that time with something like- “that’s your last warning Wes- next time and you will be off”. Puel should then have acted and replaced Morgan with Evans to reduce the risk of a second yellow card. He took no action and it was no surprise because in the 63rd minute Morgan stamped into the back of Richarlison who made the most of the tackle and Morgan was sent off for the second time this season. It was totally avoidable and immediately handed the advantage to Everton at a time when City were on top.

Puel replaced the completely ineffective Iheanacho with Albrighton but from that point Everton always looked the winner and scored a quite brilliant goal. Sigurdsson tricked Maddison skilfully and scored with a wonderful long shot into the top corner of Schmeichel’s goal.

Puel’s substitutions, bringing on Ghezzal and Okazak,i achieved little and only seemed to weaken City’s organisation. Everton continued to threaten City’s goal until the end of the match and so it was a surprise when, from the last corner, Amartey was so close to an equaliser with a header.

The match ended with a 2-1 defeat which was so frustrating for the City fans. No-one, except Chilwell, excelled and City’s well-known frailties contributed to their downfall. Until these problems are resolved by Puel and the team then this could be a season of under achievement and disappointment.

City: (4-2-3-1) Schmeichel, Chilwell, Morgan, Maguire, Pereira, Amartey, Mendy, Ndidi, Maddison, Iheanacho, Vardy. Subs: Evans, Albrighton, Ward, Okazaki, Iborra, Fuchs, Ghezzal

Everton: (4-5-1) Pickford, Keane, Zouma, Digne, Kenny, Sigurdsson, Walcott, Gueye, Bernard, Davies, Richarlison Subs: Schneiderlin, Stekelenburg, Tosun, Calvert-Lewin, Lookman, Holgate, Baines

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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The Jog on the Tyne

Newcastle United 0 Leicester City 2

St James Park, 29th September 2018

Report by Colin Murrant

As I set out Saturday morning the omens were good.  Two magpies flew off into the distance as my car approached and, as it turned out, that was a portent for the afternoon at St James; the Magpies barely putting in an appearance.

The visit to Newcastle is one of my favourite trips of the season, a mammoth stadium just 200 metres outside the City Centre. The view is not great as an away fan as you sit up with gods, but if nothing else it is a rare if not unique experience. Being so high up, and behind the goal, the match plays out in front of you like a game of chess, and the chess grandmasters were all playing for The Foxes.

So, who were the grandmasters? Papy Mendy was immense again, his work rate, his passing, exceptional. He was all over the pitch breaking up play, passing the ball accurately, and generally setting the tempo for City. He is now fulfilling the promise and potential that Claudio saw in him.

If Mendy, with Ndidi, is the engine room of the team then the creativity comes from James Maddison. His passing accuracy, his ability to turn and switch play, is a joy to behold; his set piece delivery is another excellent attribute he has in his locker. Gareth Southgate watching in the crowd would not have been disappointed.

The third of the trio of grandmasters on show was Maguire, barely putting a foot wrong he was steady and strong in defence, bringing the ball forward and crowned his display with a thunderous header; so dominant in either box and reminiscent of his efforts in the World Cup.

On a fine afternoon City kicked off attacking the Gallowgate end of the stadium. They were quickly on the front foot and into their passing game although the best chances in the opening minutes fell to Newcastle. Firstly, Perez tried to put Joselu in before Perez himself had a chance before Ndidi cleared the danger.

On 10 minutes some fine interchange of passing by City put Ricardo in but Dubravka saved at the foot of his post and put the ball behind for a corner. Although City were controlling the match, the Magpies had another chance when Diame headed just wide when in a great position.

City pressed forward and won a series of corners the third of which led to City’s opener. The corner fell eventually to Maguire who shot and the ball was handled above his head by Yedlin. Newcastle protested at length but Vardy kept his calm and slotted the ball in the corner; the score after thirty minutes no less than City deserved.

City maintained control and were comfortable as half time came although the feeling was they needed another goal. The Magpies had mustered one shot on target, a shot from inside his own half from Shelvey who tried to catch Schmeichel off his line.

The second half started in the same fashion but on 49 minutes Perez fell into Maguire and went down in the box. Although Perez seemed to be the aggressor, the player and the crowd were in uproar but the referee Simon Hooper ignored the protestations. The referee had a good game keeping control and playing the advantage when at all possible. Then followed a volley by Maguire from the edge of the opponent’s box which he made a real mess of, so much so that the ball dropped to himself and he had a second attempt. This time the ball went wide of the far post although never really threatening the goal.

Shelvey was dishing out some tough tackles and Vardy was a victim as he attempted to clear the ball from a Newcastle attack. As a result, Vardy needed lengthy treatment and never really recovered before being substituted for Albrighton in the 75th minute. Two minutes earlier City had gone two goals up with the accurate Maddison corner and the header by Maguire.

For the rest of the match it was City well on top and Newcastle looking increasingly woeful. Mike Ashley was in attendance at a Newcastle United home game for the first time since May 2017. It is hoped he is his thick skinned because the abusive chants aimed at him by the Geordie fans was intense; although there is a feeling it does not concern him. News before the match was that former Chelsea and Manchester United Chief Executive, Peter Kenyon, is trying to put a consortium together to buy the Club.

There is not much time for sympathy for others in football, but it would be really welcome for the good times to return to Newcastle for the sake of the Geordie fans who deserve better than this dreadful team. The stadium was quiet today generally but when they are stirred it is a fearful noise they create. Nearly 50,000 turned out again but a large number had gone before the end.

As bad as Newcastle were, City were good but they will have much harder days than this. The match was a jog in the park for them if not a stroll. The control they exerted today as they did in the second half against Huddersfield, will have done wonders for their confidence. Both opponents in the bottom three of the Premier League, but you can only beat what is put in front of you and City have done this when they have failed to do so against poor opposition in the past.  This game was checkmate long before the end with City holding all the major pieces. Tonight, they sit seventh in the table, a promising start.

Teams

Newcastle: Dubravka, Yedlin*, Lascelles, Clark, Kenedy, Ritchie**, Diame, Shelvey, Atsu, Perez***, Joselu.  Subs: Schar, Murphy**, Muto***, Hayden, Manquillo*, Darlow, Longstaff

Leicester:  Schmeichel, Amartey, Morgan, Maguire, Chilwell, Mendy, Ndidi, Ricardo, Iheanacho, Maddison#, Vardy##. Subs: Evans, Albrighton##, Ward, Okazaki, Iborra#, Fuchs, Ghezzal

Referee: Hooper               Attendance 51,523 

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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DAN’S THE MAN AS CITY SURVIVE SHOOTOUT

Wolves 0  City 0 (City win 3 – 1 on penalties)

Report by Colin Hall

Goalkeeper Danny Ward proved to be Leicester City's hero as the Foxes advanced to the 3rd round of the Carabao Cup with a 3-1 penalty shootout victory over hosts Wolves.

The Welshman, deputising for the rested Kasper Schmeichel, kept his second clean sheet in as many City appearances, and then saved three spot-kicks during a tension-filled finale to the evening's proceedings.

It was a sign of the times at City that Claude Puel, despite making eight changes to the starting line-up from Saturday's victory over Huddersfield, was still able to name a starting line-up containing NINE full internationals.

Yet with the exception of Ward, and possibly Vicente Iborra too, none of the understudies made an entirely convincing case to be considered to start in the regular side.

As the 0-0 scoreline suggests, neither side were quite able to find a cutting edge to break the deadlock in normal time.

Despite being forced to defend for lengthy spells, and seeing strikers struggle to make an impact against a three-man home central defence, City produced the bulk of the scoring opportunities, but could not find a means to convert any of them.

The closest the visitors came to finding the net was shortly after the half-hour, when a Rachid Ghezzal header was cleared off the line by home skipper Coady. Marc Albrighton also saw a number of efforts blocked by keeper Ruddy.

Wolves' closest effort came deep into second-half stoppage-time when substitute Bennett outjumped the City defence at a free-kick but saw his header fly narrowly over the bar.

Seconds later, City sub Demarai Gray caused a major worry to the travelling supporters when he collapsed in obvious distress following an awkward fall. He was treated for several minutes before being stretchered away, but later tests revealed damage to ligaments rather than (as initially feared) bones.

Nevertheless, he is still likely to be sidelined for some time, and the incident provided a reminder why many top-flight managers, including Puel and home counterpart Nuno Espirito Santo, are reluctant to field key players at this stage of the competition.

Although reduced to 10 men for the second time this season against these opponents, City were able to see out the closing moments and thus secure the opportunity to progress via the shootout.

Given the side's recent record in such deciders – including defeats by Hull and Manchester City in this competition – few in the Foxes fanbase were optimistic of success, particularly when Christian Fuchs, City's first penalty taker, struck the woodwork with his attempt.

The club needed Ward to rise to the occasion, and he did so in no uncertain terms, denying Saiss and Jota in quick succession. Although Hamza Choudhury gave some hope to the home side with a tame effort sent straight at Ruddy, Ward restored the visitors' advantage with a save from Traore.

This gave Kelechi Iheanacho the chance to seal City's victory, and the Nigeria striker made no mistake, displaying a composure which has not always been in evidence during his time at the club.

But while the Blue Army retain hopes of a trip to Wembley, Puel will be aware that improvements will be needed to make those dreams a reality.

Too many of the players on duty at Molineux failed to do themselves justice, and some may not be seen again in a City shirt for some time.

Wolves (3-4-3): Ruddy; Dendoncker, Coady (c), Hause; Otto (Bennett 75), Saiss, Gibbs-White, Vinaigre; Traore, Bonatini (Ashley-Seal 83), Cavaleiro (Jota 57). Subs not used: Norris, Giles, Watt, Goncalves.

Booked: Jota

City (4-2-3-1): Ward: Ricardo, Morgan (c), Evans, Fuchs; Iborra, Silva (Choudhury 84); Ghezzal, Okazaki (Gray 61), Albrighton; Vardy (Iheanacho 61). Subs not used: Jakupovic, Amartey, Soyuncu, Diabate.

Booked: Morgan, Evans.

Shootout details

Fuchs (Leicester) – missed 0-0

Saiss (Wolves) – saved 0-0

Ghezzal (Leicester) – scored 0-1

Jota (Wolves) – saved 0-1

Choudhury (Leicester) – saved 0-1

Ashley-Seal (Wolves) – scored 1-1

Iborra (Leicester) – scored 1-2

Traore (Wolves) – saved 1-2

Iheanacho (Leicester) – scored 1-3

Referee: Paul Tierney     Attendance: 21562

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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Questions and (some) answers

Leicester City 3 – 1 Huddersfield Town

Report by Stuart Dawkins

There were lots of questions in advance of this match.  Who would replace Morgan?  Was this a must win match for Puel’s future?  What shape would he pick?  Has Huddersfield’s impressive bubble as a challenging Premier League team burst?

By the end of the 90-minutes, most City fans would be pleased with the answers to these questions, but it took a while for that to be the case.

The answer to who would replace Morgan, had been fairly well trailed: with Evans being the player interviewed in advance of the match on the official club website.  It was, indeed, Evans who played, and he played well enough – albeit against limited opposition (see later…)

Was this a must win match?  Personally, I am impressed by City having the youngest squad, and actually playing young internationals, not leaving them on the bench or on loan.  It can only help the club to acquire new ambitious talent in the future.  I am not, therefore, in the ‘Puel out’ camp.  But, were the club to start hovering around the relegation places, how much patience would the owners have?  And, surely on paper, a home match against struggling Huddersfield is about as easy a game as you’re going to get?

As for what shape Puel would play: the manager tightened the right-back position by playing Amartey, and Amartey repaid this confidence by having a good game.  The surprise was up front: only one of City’s many recognized wingers – Ghezzal – played, together with the M-V-I combination of Maddison, Vardy and Iheanacho.

City started the match poorly, yet again.  Huddersfield scored only their third goal of the season in the fifth minute.  Even by then, their sole effective attacking strategy – long throws from either flank by Belling – had been seen four times.  City failed to deal with the fourth, and Jorgensen poked home from short range.  Puel has commented on the habit of giving almost everyone a one-goal start, and it is a habit that needs to be broken.

City’s shape looked disjointed in the early stages.  Ghezzal was not having a very effective game on the right, and no-one was playing wide on the left.  Time and again City’s outlet-ball was wide to Chilwell who was effectively playing both left back and left wing.   City dominated possession, but to little effect, until in the 19th minute they scored a simple but effective reply.  Huddersfield – not for the first or the last time – left too few men at the back when attacking, City broke quickly through the centre and Vardy’s through ball found Iheanacho behind the defence on his own.  He calmly took the ball in his stride and beat the keeper to equalize.

The equalizer settled the home team.  The M-V-I trio increasingly found space, but no end product.  Huddersfield sat deep, let the ball go wide to Chilwell, or allowed the M-V-I trio to play some neat interchanges, or simply fouled them.  They did not have any clear chances on goal to deal with.

Puel did break one habit, and actually made a substitution at half time, bringing on Gray for Ghezzal.  This improved Leicester’s shape and Gray was also noticeably effective chasing back to tackle a couple of times – a welcome improvement in his play in recent games.  City were completely dominating possession and anything approaching decent attacking play, but still had nothing to show for it until midway through the half.

Huddersfield seemed content all match to foul players 20-odd yards from goal if it broke up play.  Maddison had already taken a couple of decent free kicks from this distance in the first half – one a beautifully flighted chip over the wall to Vardy which was clearly a pre-planned move, but which Vardy screwed wide of the goal.

In the 66th minute, Maddison chose to shoot from such a free-kick, curling the ball towards the left-hand top corner of the goal.  It was not struck into the very corner, and keeper Lössl got a hand to it, but the flight was such that it ended up in the net anyway: 2-1 to City and a fair reflection of the balance of the match.

Huddersfield’s manager, David Wagner, made changes, but City continued to be the better side.  With 15 minutes to go, Huddersfield again defended too high, and Vardy was released on his own with the ball from the half way line.  He easily completed the chance, chipping the ball over the advancing keeper to make it 3-1.

Puel changed things a bit: Albrighton came on to replace Iheanacho, giving Leicester’s shape a more traditional look.  Then Okazaki replaced Maddison, who left to thunderous applause.

Huddersfield fashioned a decent headed chance, but it came to nothing, and it was City who finished the stronger, with a shot from Vardy fumbled wide by the keeper followed by a Vardy header just wide in the very final minute of stoppage time.

Puel is famed for picking a side that he thinks will beat the opposition. Today he achieved exactly that and, in truth, very comfortably.  But what about the final question: has Huddersfield’s bubble burst?

I’m sad to say that if they play like they did today, the answer is ‘yes’.  It’s been good to see such a historic club doing so well, and their fans are always great – home and away.  But today they were awful and naïve.  One-nil up and allowing Leicester to equalize simply because they had not left any defenders in their own half is not good enough at this level.  Repeating the error for the third goal is only slightly more excusable as by the they were pushing for an equalizer. 

Their time-wasting was amongst the most extreme I have seen.  And their attacking threat was slow – summed up by an incident while the score was still 1-1, when City Allowed striker Depoitre behind them.  Amazingly Maguire – not renowned for his pace – managed to close down the two-yard gap in a very short chase and make the tackle.  Against Bournemouth last week, that would have been a goal to the opposition, with almost no doubt.

What about City?  Well, they played well against limited opposition.  Maddison continues to be outstanding.  He found space all match, he was fouled a lot and simply got up and got on with it, and he scored an excellent goal.  Vardy looked sharp and enthusiastic – as ever.  Iheanacho scored, and strikes me as a striker who can score plenty more once he gets fully confident.  Amartey did a good job.  Mendy continues to impress, and it is noticeable how much he organises the midfield at times. 

There is no doubt that City has a good squad with good depth.  Let’s hope that they can begin to start matches as well as they end them, and that whatever shape – or more likely shapes – Puel finally settles on can continue to win matches.

Finally, I was going to make comment on some curious – albeit not match-changing – refereeing decisions during the game (and I mean ‘curious’ not simply saying they were ‘wrong’), but David Coote is a new referee to the Premier League, and referees do an almost impossible job – so I decided not to.  Let’s hope he has learned from this game that sometimes crowds, and players, can get confused by inconsistencies and that this simply makes his own job harder to do.  I wish him well at this level – we need good referees!

Leicester:  Schmeichel, Amartey, Evans, Maguire, Chilwell, Ndidi, Mendy, Ghezzal, Iheanacho, Maddison, Vardy. Subs: Gray, Albrighton, Ward, Ricardo Pereira, Okazaki, Adrien Silva, Fuchs

Huddersfield: Lossl, Durm, Jorgensen, Schindler, Kongolo, Löwe, Kachunga, Mooy, Billing, van La Parra, Depoitre. Subs: Hogg, Diakhaby, Hamer, Mbenza, Pritchard, Mounie, Hadergjonaj

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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