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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The worst performance since the return to the Premier League?

Bournemouth 4 City 2

Report by Kate Thompson

I approached this game with quiet confidence and the team started with more intent than we have seen so far this season.  They were the better team for the first 15 minutes and should have gone ahead during this early spell. 

Not only did they fail to do so but they were made to pay for it in spades.  Ryan Fraser, who was supposed to be injured, scored two excellent breakaway goals in the 19th and 37th minutes, 

Their cause wasn’t helped by some woeful defending and the usually reliable Maguire was booked as early as the 12th minute.  He was lucky not to be sent off only 15 minutes later, and it has been suggested that he would have been if he wasn’t an England player.  His fellow centre-back joined him on a yellow card just before the break.

A soft penalty just before half-time meant that City went in 3-0 down. 

There were no changes at half-time (I would have replaced the ineffective Gray with Albrighton at this stage) but Albrighton and Iheananacho replaced Ghezzal and Gray in the 61st minute. 

Morgan, who has been a great servant to the club, was struggling with the pace of the Bournemouth front men and he received a second yellow in the 69th minute, along with a booking for Schmeichel, presumably for protesting too much.  The second yellow happened right in front of the Leicester fans and we thought he had won the ball cleanly, but sadly our opinion is worthless. 

Another simple routine saw the ball pulled back for the in-rushing Adam Smith in the 81st minute to further dampen the spirits of the Leicester faithful who were witnessing some appalling defending. 

Evans came on to replace Vardy in the 84th minute, presumably to shore up the leaky defence.  Chilwell had a reasonable game but Pereira was caught out far too often.  Vardy sadly had not been at his best but both he and Maddison worked hard for no reward; indeed both could have scored before and after the first Bournemouth goal.

To everyone’s surprise City made a game of it at the death, but it was far too late, and presumably the Bournemouth players had taken their foot off the gas, thinking it was done and dusted.  Maddison scored a penalty after Pereira was tripped in the area, in the 88th minute and only a minute later Albrighton scored with a header from Iheananacho’s cross.  However, it was too little too late, and players and fans were similarly shell-shocked.

I thought that Soyuncu might be brought in against Huddersfield next Saturday but having just watched the under-23s game I don’t think he is ready yet.  His confidence could be destroyed if Premier League strikers pounce on any mistake. 

One final point:  I was horrified to hear on Match of the Day that the Leicester bench had been made to sit in the dugout because of foul and obscene language.  This is not a good advert for the club and I, for one, was ashamed to hear it.  I hope some action will be taken against them and that we will not learn of a similar incident again.

At least the under-23s have gone back to the top of Premier League 2!

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

Bournemouth: (4-4-2) Begovic, Smith, S Cook, Ake, Rico, Brooks, Lerma, Gosling, Fraser, King, Wilson. Subs: Boruc, Ibe, Surman, L Cook, Mousset, Defoe, Francis

Referee: Craig Pawson

The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent

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We are Premier League – Predictably!

 

After four rounds of matches, the Premier League takes a break for the International Fixtures and all you making your predictions have had a weekend off from those torturous decisions you have to make. How many could not bring themselves to predict Leicester City would lose to Liverpool, although that was the obvious choice it goes against the grain to not back your team. So, you go for a draw and play the insurance card so in that way you have remained faithful to your team and have also safeguarded against losing points – though in reality you have, because you could have been +10 points (minimum) if you had gone with your head, instead of zero by going with your heart.

 

After a slow initial uptake in the league we sent out a few invitations, focussing on the filter that provided a list of Leicester fans in the competition, we selected some internationally based predictors, and some UK based ones. There was an amazing uptake and we ended up with 50 players in The Foxes Trust Predictor League, the maximum allowed: totally bowled over by the response.

 

From the picture above it can be seen that there are 2616 mini-leagues and that our league lies 99th in this, this is based on the best results from a limited number of players – thus mini leagues with less than 50 players can compete. The leading mini league are Seabridgers Carling Premier predictor year 4 having amassed 2670 points to the TFTPL 2155.

 

On an individual level, the current leader of TFTPL is Foxedtheoppo who, in spite of only scoring 10 points in week 4, retained their leadership of the league with 525 points. In national terms, there are 52,445 participants and Foxedtheoppo lies 210th having been as high as 8th after week 3. The leader is Scavenger with 625 points. Top rated Leicester City fan is Pere from Nigeria with 560 points.

 

As we move towards round five, some of you will be considering what will happen at Bournemouth where City have not played so well in recent seasons. Will Vardy’s return from suspension inspire City to a win? Does Puel’s passing style of play diminish Vardy’s effectiveness? Can City’s lack of pace in the centre backs deny them a clean sheet. I let you into a little secret, I have gone for a 1-1 draw – and not played my insurance card.

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Want to Take Part in the Eurofit Walking Football Programme ?

Leicester City Community Trust in partnership with Leicestershire Nutrition and Dietetic Service is set to launch its third Eurofit programme.

The aims of EuroFit is to help football fans lead a more active lifestyle, sit less and eat more healthily, and to keep these changes going FOR LIFE. 

The free programme is ran over 12 weeks delivered by coaches at the club and nutrition experts in a relaxed, comfortable and fun environment. 

EuroFit is not a bootcamp. It works within everyone’s abilities (and limitations) to provide training sessions that offer a range of activities and levels of intensity to suit everyone along with dietary advice. 

Previous groups have gone on to incorporate the lifestyle changes made into everyday life and an enthusiastic Walking Football group which began life within Eurofit has recently taken part in a charity match in aid of Diabetes UK. 

For more information contact matt.bray@lcfc.co.uk  

 

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Foxes Tamed by Table Toppers

Leicester City 1 Liverpool 2    

1 September 2018

Report by Tish Krokosz

Liverpool came to the King Power Stadium unbeaten after the first three games of the season, without having let in a goal and included the world’s most expensive goalkeeper. Schmeichel had penned a renewed contract the day before, keeping him with us for five more years. He celebrated this with an excellent save in the fourth minute when faced with a one-on-one situation against Firmino. The follow-up was missed by Salah when faced with an open goal. This match usually brought a lot of goals – surely it would not end up nil-nil this time?

Unfortunately not – seven minutes later, Liverpool pressed down the left wing with Robertson threading the ball past Pereira, whose defensive skills are being questioned too frequently. For a moment, the ball was loose and Morgan seemed to hesitate and lost the opportunity to come forward and clear it. The Liverpool defender took his chance to pass it to Mane with a lucky bounce off Maguire, and the forward took no time to ram the ball into the net with his left foot. Once again, City had started sluggishly, were ragged at the back and too hesitant.

For a while, Puel’s tactics were to send the ball long for Gray to chase, Vardy style, but this proved ineffective as Gomez and Van Dijk were able to clear any high balls and the full backs had control of the wings. However, City gradually had more possession and aggression in midfield and were pushing forward with intent. On 22 minutes, Maguire controlled a clearance from the visitors, passed the ball directly to Ghezzal, who, in turn, took one touch to pass it to Gray. His shot on goal was from an awkward angle and on target, but Alisson, despite being wrong footed, clawed it away to safety.

Once again, Maddison had a good game and showed lots of confidence for such a young player. He seems to be the first choice when taking corners and free kicks. The latter were an opportunity to put pressure on the visitors, who were playing a very high line. However, on more than one occasion, City were penalised for offside from a free kick, Maguire being the main culprit.

Although the Liverpool front three were playing as fluid a game as always, their chances on goal had been limited during the first half. As half-time approached, Salah finally showed some of his skills and cut in from the right side for an excellent shot on goal. Schmeichel was equal to it and made an equally fine save and put the ball out for a corner. This produced another corner from the opposite side after Morgan had cleared the first one. This time, Milner’s accurate kick found Firmino, who had lost his marker, Maddison, and the Liverpool forward headed the ball firmly into the net. It was somewhat unfair that City went in at half- time two goals down when they had been so positive for the last half-hour.

Considering Liverpool’s start to the season, this deficit seemed like a mammoth task to overcome. However, City started the second half positively with Ghezzal being more active. He put in a lovely ball into the box after just two minutes but there was no one in there to finish the move. This is where we missed Vardy. He has an excellent past record against Liverpool and his presence would have been far more effective than Gray’s. The red card Vardy picked up against Wolves (which I still believe was an incorrect decision) was costing us dear this afternoon. City continued to press and in the 51st minute Maddison once more showed his skills by dancing past two Liverpool defenders and creating an opening to allow himself to take a shot on goal. But Gomez had spotted the danger and blocked the goal-bound shot.

The former Norwich player was taking every opportunity to try and reduce the deficit. Two minutes after his blocked shot he pressed forward again and was only stopped by a clumsy challenge by van Dijk, which earned the Liverpool defender a yellow card. The resulting free kick went into the wall and another City chance went begging. The exasperation was even more evident a minute later when, from a short corner, Ghezzal once more whipped in the ball into the box and behind the whole of the red defence. There were at least three blue shirts that may have popped the ball into the net but somehow all managed to miss it and Alisson gathered it safely.

Soon after, Puel decided that the experiment of playing Gray as a centre forward was not working. Iheanacho came on for Albrighton and took up the forward position with Gray dropping back into the vacant slot on the left wing. Two minutes later, this move proved fruitful when the substitute challenged the Liverpool keeper after a bad back pass. Alisson had all the time in the world to clear the ball but decided to try and turn, Cruyff style, with the expectation of playing it out to a red shirt. He did not count on the grit and determination of Iheanacho, who had run a long way to challenge him and win the ball from him. A simple cross into the centre found Ghezzal, who took his time before shooting the ball into the net to give City a well-deserved goal.

Until this point it was hard to tell whether Liverpool were playing safe and trying to hang on to a two goal lead or whether City had been in control more and were proactive in their approach. I would like to think it was the latter as Klopp’s style is not to be negative but to try and score as many goals as possible even if the opposition score almost as many against you. However, despite City trying for an equaliser, the visitors, on this occasion, seemed content with their lead and the rest of the game consisted of substitutions and general game management. This was especially evident with Milner’s experience of slowing down City’s moves even though this cost him a booking. In fact, there was a string of yellow cards in the last ten minutes – it was almost as if the referee, who generally had a good game, felt he had to meet a quota of using the card.

At the beginning of the match, I suppose that City would have feared the attacking prowess of Salah, who won so many accolades last year. The fact that he was substituted by Shaqiri with twenty minutes of the match remaining shows that City had tamed him – or did he just have a bad day at the office? As we left the ground, City supporters felt that they had been robbed of a point. The visiting fans, on the other hand, went back to the north-west knowing that their team was top of the table after a mediocre showing. If City continue this approach to each game, then, surely, we will come away with better results against weaker teams.

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Pereira, Morgan, Maguire, Chilwell, Mendy, Ndidi, Ghezzal, Maddison (Amartey 83), Albrighton (Iheanacho 61), Gray (Okazaki 76). Subs not used: Ward, Evans, Iborra, Fuchs.

Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold (Matip 89), Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Henderson (Keita 71), Milner, Salah (Shaqiri 71), Firmino, Mane. Subs not used: Mignolet, Moreno, Lallana, Sturridge

Referee: P. Tierney                            Attendance: 32,149

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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