Coming next – Sheffield United

Thursday July 16th at the Kings Power Stadium – 6pm Sky Pick

Preview by Graham Tracey

If I was to be asked to summarise these teams in a sentence to someone who doesn’t follow football, I’d tell them that it was a team who add up to far more than the sum of their parts against a team who are massively less than the sum of their own. No guesses for which is which. I nearly always look on the positive side (even during our seasons in the lower end of the Championship) but can’t find any silver linings right now.

We’ll never play a reverse league fixture 11 months after the last one, so there is little point drawing lessons from the game at Bramall Lane other than we needed two fine goals to beat them, and conceded from a cross. Unfortunately the inspiration for the former seems less likely to be repeated than the latter with the defensive change we have to make.

I watched the Blades’ game against Chelsea and there was so much to admire. No stand-out star player, other than I think we would benefit hugely from someone like McBurnie to play alongside Vardy (although we have to be honest that players don’t usually want sideways moves, and I myself wouldn’t fancy moving until the ‘empty stadium’ era is behind us). However, everyone knew their role, the ball was cleared promptly when required, and they were swift on the break.

They don’t concede many goals, and if they let in one they sure won’t chuck in the towel and make it four. The spirit of Sheffield United seems epitomised by how they didn’t let the farce of their first game after lockdown (when they were denied two points by the ridiculous goal line technology failure at Villa) ruin their season. In contrast, I wonder how different our run-in would have been if not for that overhead kick equaliser by Watford. Other than Norwich and Bournemouth (how bad were they in the first half), we have probably been the poorest side in the league since restart.

I write this after the Man City verdict this morning, and so I imagine I am in the 99% of our fans who have written off the Champions League after the UEFA decision and Bournemouth debacle. With total respect to Kasper who will be hurting immensely, this was not a “wake up call” as he said after the match. Wake up calls come in the 5th game of the season, not the 35th. This was the death knell.

In 40 years of following Leicester I can’t think of such a significant disaster of a half in all that time – the 4-3 defeat at Wolves from 3 up at the break in 2003 being the last time I felt I was going to go full Basil Fawlty when he attacks his car with a branch.

Our players look bereft of belief and I guess this is inevitable with (I think) 21 points from the last half-season of 19 games. It is difficult to see us winning any of the last 3 games, let alone all of them. I think our key challenge now is to limp through to the Europa League, and then psychologically and tactically regroup and try to persuade our more talented individuals that this is a project worth persevering with, rather than jumping ship to bigger clubs.

I guess this depends on how much they buy into Rodgers, and despite the great facilities and club culture we don’t really know what the feel is in the camp. But if we look at Chris Wilder, we see a manager whose players would run through brick walls for him – and probably has more of the stick (like Nigel Pearson) when needed rather than just what seems the arm round the shoulders carrot of Brendan.

The absence of Soyuncu will obviously be significant for the rest of the season, although in an immature way I was pleased to see some (misplaced) aggression that has been missing for too long throughout the side. I would rather see Wes back in the team for his leadership rather than Bennett, who I feel the game has left a little behind (hence why a rival would loan him out). The return of Maddison and Chilwell would obviously help, although I feel we rely too much on Madders’ dead balls when he is in the side.

Unless they sense blood, I imagine that Sheffield United would be happy with a point, so if we are to have any chance of winning we will need to avoid catastrophic mistakes, not concede the first goal, and keep the ball moving forwards quickly. I imagine the best thing about supporting the Blades is that even in defeat you feel your team gave it their best shot. I wish we could say the same. There is nothing to lose now.

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.

Article written before the Man Utd vs Southampton game

Calamity at the Vitality

AFC Bournemouth (0)   4  v  1   (1) Leicester City

Stanislas (66’ pen)                                           Vardy (23’)

Solanke (67, 87)

Evans (o.g. 83’)

Vitality Stadium, Sunday 12 July, 7 p.m. kick-off

Report by Steve Moulds

With Bournemouth in the bottom three and the day’s fixtures going in favour of the teams above them, this looked like a must win match for them. Leicester too were in need of the points. Their restart had been very much a Curat’s Egg – good in parts – and Champion’s League hopes would be bolstered by a win. A pivotal match for both clubs.

Chilwell and Maddison were both still on the injury list and City brought in Fuchs for Bennett. The Blues stuck with the back three that looked uncomfortable at times at Arsenal on Tuesday, with Justin dropping back to replace Bennett on the right.  City set-up in a 3-4-1-2 formation, with Pérez in the hole behind Vardy and Iheanacho.

The Cherries had a brighter first five minutes, with City not making their usual high tempo start. But as Leicester gained more of the ball and came forward, the Bournemouth defence looked tentative, resulting in early attempts from Pérez and Iheanacho.

With 14 minutes on the clock, Albrighton, who had been finding plenty of space down the right, hobbled off following what looked like an innocuous challenge, to be replaced by Bennett, moving Justin up to right wingback.

Following good work by Pérez to rob the ball from Gosling on halfway, a swift move forward to Iheanacho, a one-two with Pérez and Kelechi chipped the on-rushing Ramsdale – Kelly made a complete hash of a goal mouth clearance and Vardy bundled the ball in from about half a metre. One-nil Leicester and reward for having the bulk of possession and control of the game.

City were looking fluent, transitioning the ball quickly through midfield, out to the wings, up to the front two, where Iheanacho was looking sharp. The Blues looked dangerous every time they went forward and were often helped by slack and imprecise defending by Bournemouth. Vardy could have easily had a second on 37 minutes bar a last ditch challenge from Aké that left the defender limping off.

Bournemouth offered little given their perilous league position and score line. City were untroubled until the 45th minute when Schmeichel had to make a good save from Brooks. Three corners in quick succession, in additional time at the end of the half, could have yielded another for City. At half-time, with City having 67% of the possession, they were looking good for the three points.

At the beginning of the second half, Praet replaced Iheanacho with City moving to a more conventional 3-5-2.  For Bournemouth, Billing replaced Gosling and Danjuma Groeneveld was replaced by Stanislas. Both sides set off at a good pace and Pérez had a good early chance. Bournemouth’s changes gave them more impetus.

On 59 minutes, a hesitant City defence failed to clear and the ball nearly fell to Wilson after Cook miscued his shot. City needed to be more positive and Vardy had hardly got a touch in the second half moving into the last half-hour. The half-time changes were not working.

Then chaos struck. Schmeichel’s goalkick struck Ndidi on the back, rebounding into the box. Ndidi fouled Wilson in a lunge for the ball – penalty awarded and a yellow card for Ndidi – which could easily have been red. Stanislas scored from the spot and Leicester had shot themselves in the foot when the Cherries had not looked like scoring.

Two minutes later, disaster struck. Evans missed a header, Solanke was clean through and slotted under Schmeichel. There followed a scuffle in the net as Wilson tried to retrieve the ball and Söyüncü kicked-out having retaliated for being pushed into the net. Red card for Söyüncü, not the best way to mark his 50th appearance – City were down to 10 men and 2-1 down. The self-destruct button had truly been pushed.

City now looked rattled and Bournemouth sniffed blood. I swear I could hear a crowd singing “Champions League your having a laugh”!! Down to 10 men and looking like they had never played together, City never got back into the second half. Bournemouth easily snuffed out any threat. Just to cap off a disastrous evening, on 83 minutes, Stanislas found space on the right, cut inside and his shot deflected off of Evans legs and passed Schmeichel – own goal, 3-1.

To rub salt into the wounds, more calamity in the City defence followed. Solanke stole in on a poor back pass into City’s box from a Leicester throw-in and it was now 4-1. A complete shambles and quite frankly, embarrassing.

Bournemouth had only picked up one point since the restart and, having not won since February, were looking dead and buried. City’s form had them in 14th place for the five games since the restart. No win on the road since New Year’s Day – not the credentials of a team aiming for a European place.

The changes at half-time may have been due to an injury to Iheanacho but Rodgers needs to shoulder some blame for the shape he played in the second half. A massive improvement will be required if City are to make the top six, let alone the top four. Not being the masters of your own downfall would be a start. For Bournemouth, a glimmer of hope.

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Justin, Evans, Söyüncü (Red card), Albrighton (Bennett 16 mins), Ndidi (Yellow card), Tielemans, Fuchs, Pérez (Barnes 71 mins), Iheanacho (Praet 46 mins), Vardy. Subs unused: Morgan, Gray, Ward, Choudhury, James, Mendy

AFC Bournemouth: Ramsdale, Stacey, Aké (S Cook 40 mins), Kelly, Rico, Brooks (L Cook 80 mins), Gosling (Billing 46 mins), Lerma, Danjuma Groeneveld (Stanislas 46 mins), Solanke, C Wilson (Surridge 90 mins) Subs unused: Boruc, Surman, H Wilson, Simpson

Referee: Stuart Attwell

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

Coming Up Bournemouth

Sunday July 12th 7pm Sky Pick

Preview by Paul Weston

The match on Sunday at the Vitality Stadium between Bournemouth and the Foxes is already eagerly awaited by City fans but with some trepidation. Nothing is certain when you are a City fan and, although Bournemouth’s form recently has been fairly awful until the draw against Spurs on Thursday night, the Foxes have always found Bournemouth a difficult opponent. I am sure this match will be no different even though all the pundits seem to think City will win comfortably and push Bournemouth closer to relegation.

City’s form has started to pick up after dropping points against Watford, Brighton and Everton. The mid-week draw against Arsenal was well deserved. Although Soyuncu and Evans had a torrid time in the first half, the second half performance was much better.

There was more pace and movement and which made light of the absence of Maddison and Chilwell. Bennett has slotted in well and it was good to see Fuchs playing a part. Justin was good in a wing back position. Up front Vardy and Iheanacho were a constant threat.

LCFC, having lost third place in the league to Chelsea, really need three points with Man Utd only a point behind. Unfortunately both Chelsea and Man Utd have hit good form at the same time and, being somewhat pessimistic, it is starting to look like the last match of the season against Man Utd could determine whether City end up fourth or fifth. Fifth place of course will be enough for a Champions League spot as long as Man City do not win their appeal. I understand a decision might be known next week- so fingers crossed!

Both team selections are likely to be affected by injury. At the time of writing Wilson and King are back for Bournemouth but Smith was badly injured against Spurs and looks certain to be out. Maddison and Chilwell have not recovered from injury so it will be interesting if Rodgers selects three at the back again with five across the middle.

At times against Arsenal it worked well but there were also times when we needed desperate defence and excellent saves from Schmeichel to keep out Arsenal. Bournemouth, as with Arsenal, also have a fast moving forward line but I feel that if City press hard and get down the flanks against their defence, then our mobile attack, with perhaps Barnes coming on as sub, could be too good for Bournemouth.

I will be on the edge of my seat on Sunday wearing all my LCFC clothes and scarf willing them to victory. Let’s cheer them on to a much needed win!

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

A great night for VAR and Vardy

Arsenal 1 v Leicester City 1

Emirates Stadium 7th July 2020

Report by Colin Murrant

With Chelsea beating Crystal Palace in the early evening match, The Foxes started the match in the unusual position of fourth. The earlier result in South London sent Chelsea two points clear in third place and, with Manchester United in fine form in fifth, the pressure was on City to win away at Arsenal, a task they had not achieved since September 1973: in fact, their last point was in back in 1995.

City were notably without Chilwell and Madison, Rodgers going to a back three with Ryan Bennett making his first start and only second appearance for City.

Following the ‘take the knee’, City kicked off wearing their all blue kit on a rain-soaked surface. It was a fairly uneventful start and it was the ninth minute before Vardy had the first shot of the match, receiving the ball on the edge of the box with his back to goal, he turned and his low shot was saved by Martinez. 3 minutes later and Martinez saved Arsenal again as, following a neat short corner, he blocked an Iheanacho shot with his legs.

City were generally in control with some aggressive pressing. On 20 minutes Tierney had a shot from 30 yards that stung Schmeichel but a few seconds later Arsenal took the lead. Ceballos passed to Saka who in turn fed Aubameyang, unmarked at the far post, for his 20th goal of the season.

It was now Arsenal having the better of the play and on 32 minutes Schmeichel made at first an excellent save from Lacazette, and then had to push the ball over for a corner, which led to nothing. On 35 minutes Vardy centred the ball and Iheanacho put the ball home only for the goal to be disallowed for a coming together on the edge of the box in the build-up. Up the other end, Bellerin picked out Lacazette who should have done better with his header as the ball was straight at The City keeper.

Ae the match moved into added-on time, Justin had a header following a cross but the ball sailed wide of the far post and that concluded the first half action in which City had had their periods of domination but in which The Gunners had had the best chances.

City started the second half brightly and Vardy broke down the left and his ball, in towards the near post, found Justin whose shot hit the Arsenal defender and was cleared. Evans took Lacazette out on the edge of the box, from 25 yards Luiz shot and a slight defection meant Schmeichel had to keep his eye on the ball as it skidded to him as he turned it away and behind for a corner.

Vardy then laid a beautiful ball into Iheanacho, his half volley was saved by Martinez. On 58 minutes Fuchs and Barnes came on to replace Iheanacho and Albrighton as City switched to 3-4-3. City were having good possession and a ball from Perez found Vardy who turned but mishit his shot from the middle of the box. An Arsenal corner was flicked on by Luiz who found the unmarked Lacazette marginally offside when he put the ball in the net.

Willock and NKetiah replaced Lacazette and Saka on 70 minutes, Nketiah soon in the book for a nasty looking foul on Justin, which was checked by VAR and for once the match referee checked the pitch side monitor before it was upgraded to red for serious foul play.

Rodgers immediately brought Gray on for Bennett as City tried to make the extra man count. Torreira came on for Ceballos as Arsenal were defending deeper; Praet came on for Ndidi and Leicester stepped up their attacking intent. On 84 minutes the breakthrough, as a great ball from Gray found Vardy at the far post, although a long wait for a VAR decision was more than nerve racking. But Vardy had netted for the 10th time against Arsenal and his 22nd of the season.

It was all City but little in the way of chances materialised. The board went up for 8 minutes added on time as Leicester commanded possession and patiently built up attacks. Aubameyang was replaced by Maitland-Niles as Arsenal went more on the defensive. City had got the point that their performance deserved; how significant it will be in the context of the season will become more apparent over the next 4 games.

For once City had benefitted from VAR, both decisions correct. Vardy remains at the top of the scorers, chart, City are gradually regaining form but most importantly City have a point against the Arsenal to remain in Champions League contention. Finally, pity anyone who was at Highbury to see Mark Draper score the equaliser 25 years ago and could not be at The Emirates tonight to see the next point gained. The scorers Draper and Vardy (20 years apart) cost City £1.25m and £1m respectively, now there’s a thought!

Arsenal: Martinez, Mustafi, Luiz, Kolasinac, Bellerin, Ceballos, Xhaka, Tierney, Saka, Lacazette, Aubameyang. Subs: Papastathopoulos, Torreira, Maitland-Niles, Holding, Pepe, Nelson, Willock, Nketiah, Macey

Leicester: Schmeichel, Bennett, Evans, Soyuncu, Justin, Ndidi, Tielemans, Albrighton, Perez, Iheanacho, Vardy
Subs: Morgan, Gray, Ward, Barnes, Choudhury, James, Mendy, Praet, Fuchs

Referee: Kavanagh

Attendance: c300, although Arsenal usually add a few thousand on the gate!

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

Next up – Arsenal

Tuesday July 7th – 8.15pm Sky Sports

Graham Tracey previews the game

How many times have you we thought that this will be the season we win at Arsenal? I was in nappies when we last did in 1973. We’ve certainly chucked it away spectacularly since we’ve been back at the top table. One up in our title season before Wasilewski gave away the free kick we lost from just as the ref was about to blow for full time. The crazy 4-3 in the opening game of 2017-18. And not forgetting Paul Dickov putting us ahead in the game the Gunners needed to avoid defeat in to become the Invincibles.

We’ve had some drubbings too. I think it was a 6-1 over Christmas under Peter Taylor. But that should all be water under the bridge. I don’t think Brendan Rodgers was quite born by 1973, let alone the players. Most importantly, we’ve been done the three-peat over them at home, and on that joyous wet Saturday evening last November I couldn’t believe how petrified they were of us from outset.

Arsenal are one of those teams you don’t know what you’ll get from. They were worse than us after the restart, dismantled by Man City and then rattled by Brighton, but have come back strongly, winning at Wolves being an eye-opener.

They have got a mix of the sublime – top class strikers and skilful youngsters – and the ridiculous – David Luis is an accident waiting to happen and get Xhaka booked early doors and it puts him out of the game. They’ve also got a keeper inexperienced in this league.

So without a home crowd, and with Vardy and Barnes hopefully full of confidence after Saturday, this could be our best chance in years, as well as most important. A draw may not be enough, with the momentum of Man United and Chelsea. I think the way to beat Arsenal is attack as well. So let’s play with tempo and expose their weaknesses.

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