Are the wheels coming off for Maresca and City?

Middlesbrough 1 City 0

Post Match Analysis by Colin Hall

Championship leaders Leicester City slipped to a second successive defeat, as a late Sam Greenwood free-kick gave hosts Middlesbrough victory at the Riverside and ended the Foxes’ run of SEVEN consecutive victories on the road.

It was a frustrating afternoon for the Blue Army, who saw their side control the game for long passages, but fail to convert any of the numerous chances created.

Kelechi Iheanacho (twice), Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and sub Abdul Fatawu all squandered opportunities they might have expected to have taken, and indeed have done so on previous occasions in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, at the other end, a solid defensive performance looked to have contained the home attack, only for a series of lapses to offer up the decisive moment.

Jannik Vestergaard’s bizarre backheel set up a dangerous Boro attack, halted by a reckless, over-impetuous challenge by Hamza Choudhury. Greenwood sent the resulting set-piece over the wall and past the despairing dive of Mads Hermansen.

Despite the belated introduction of Jamie Vardy, the home side saw out the closing minutes with relative ease, and their victory brought exuberant celebrations from a stadium which had remained largely mute for most of the game.

The result has sparked considerable unease among sections of the fanbase, with some online critics even questioning whether Enzo Maresca has the ability to sustain the Foxes’ promotion push against resurgent challenges from Leeds and Southampton.

But while such a reaction may be understandable from those still bearing the scars of the profound managerial misjudgements which saw us crash into this league, the reality is that we remain at the top of the league on merit – and look set to stay there during the coming weeks.

A return of 39 points from the first 16 games – easily the best start to a City season in living memory – is still beyond the wildest of expectations that anyone could have held at the start of the campaign, especially in a division where the manager and most of his squad had very limited prior experience.

Maresca is still in the early stages of a long-term project to restore the club as a force at the highest levels of English football. While his overall progress has been impressive, there were always likely to be bumps in the road, particularly in a league notorious for its mental and physical challenges.

There is also the danger, as happened against Leeds, that a manager with greater know-how in this league will occasionally concoct a game-plan which will prove impossible for Maresca or his side to overcome.

In addition, it is impossible to ignore the impact caused by the spate of injuries that has deprived us of THREE international midfielders in recent weeks.

However, with key players set to return after the international break, and a run of fixtures looming against some of the more limited sides in the Championship, there is no reason why Maresca should not be able to restore his squad to winning ways.

The introduction of Conor Coady – a proven winner and leader at this level – will bring some much-needed stability to a defence that has occasionally looked vulnerable in recent weeks.

And although there remain questions about whether the rotation of Vardy and Iheanacho will yield sufficient returns over a 46-game season, to date the goal contributions from other areas has proved enough to secure victories more often than not.

Despite current difficulties, Foxes should keep faith in the process which Maresca is currently leading, there is every reason to believe that it will deliver not just in the weeks ahead, but for the rest of the season too.

Middlesbrough (4-2-3-1): Dieng; Van den Berg, Fry, McNair, Engel; Howson, Hackney; Jones (Dijksteel 90 + 1), Crooks (Rogers 68), Greenwood; Coburn (Latte Lath 73). Subs not used: Glover, Clarke, Barlaser, Gilbert, Silvera, Bangura.

Goal: Greenwood (83).

Bookings: Howson, Jones, Crooks, Rogers.

Leicester (3-4-3): Hermansen: Faes, Vestergaard, Justin; Choudhury (Vardy 85), Ricardo, Winks, Dewsbury-Hall; McAteer (Fatawu 58), Iheanacho, Mavididi. Subs not used: Stolarczyk, Coady, Souttar, Casadei, Albrighton, Cannon, Daka.

Bookings: Vestergaard, Winks, Choudhury.

Referee: Oliver Langford Attendance: 30 042

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