Leicester City 3 v 1 Swansea City
Post match analysis by Stuart Dawkins
The walk to the match, in notably chilly temperatures, was the third in eight days as a combination of TV-dictated date changes, a home FA Cup draw and a mid-week league fixture piled up. Maresca had saved most of the team from overload by making ten changes to the line-up for the Cup game, but today it was back to probably the strongest available team. That is allowing for the fact that Fatawu completed the final match of his ban and that Justin was seemingly unavailable. This gave starts to McAteer and Doyle. Daka – home early from the African Nations Cup – was chosen up front and the fit again Praet in the Ndidi-role.
It was visibly the smallest crowd for some time, compounded by there being only a reported 300 Swansea fans at the match. I’m guessing the option of a long drive in January on a school night was thought not that compelling, notably as – thanks to EFL broadcasting rules – the match could be live-streamed legally for a tenner as it was not a 3pm Saturday kick-off, nor was it being broadcast on TV.
From the kick-off, Swansea pressed not terribly well, allowing Leicester to break through the lines more frequently than usual. From the start, City’s passing at the back was a bit sluggish, allowing the Swansea press to win the ball more often than usual. Those two sentences sum up the first twenty minutes of the match. They also sum up the first two-and-a-half minutes, during which Hermansen made an excellent save to prevent Swansea scoring from a gift, and then Daka released a perfect pass for Dewsbury-Hall to collect unmarked, stride forwards thirty yards and score past the keeper. At last, City start a match by scoring a goal rather than merely creating half-chances!
Leicester were by far the better team for the first quarter of the match. Swansea had a few half-chances, all caused by sloppy Leicester passes, but otherwise seemed only to play the long-ball not very effectively. Leicester should have scored at least another couple. KD-H received the ball behind the Swansea defence on a handful of occasions, with one left-wing low cross to Daka that should have been finished, but Daka managed to steer it wide.
The rest of the first half was fairly dull. As Swansea pressed less, Leicester passed the ball about at the back more, and little of note occurred until Mavididi hit a 20-yarder approaching halftime which was tipped onto the bar by the Swansea keeper. Daka then fired another decent chance over the bar.
As so often, Leicester should – on chances created – have been out of sight. Instead, Swansea were still in the game … and surely Leicester could not let slip yet another late goal in a game they dominated??
Swansea made one change at half-time. City were unchanged and the home crowd waited to see whether their team would come out all guns blazing, as has happened after a number of restarts this season. But … no. Bar one half-chance for KD-H it was, again, fairly dull stuff.
Yunus replaced Praet in the 54th minute. Praet had been OK, but nothing stood out. Yunus, as is his wont, bombed about at full speed.
On the hour, there was a blast from the past with Kyle Naughton coming on as a sub for Swansea – now aged 35, and many years after his season at Leicester.
The home fans are still getting used to Maresca’s style, and the third quarter of this match summed up why. Leicester had the possession, they passed the ball around generally safely, but everything was fairly pedestrian, with the lateral or reverse pass most often preferred over the riskier forward pass. With City still only 1-0 up, many found this frustrating. Of course, the counter-argument is that this very style has resulted in Leicester being top of the league by seven points. It is a debate that will continue. Nonetheless, with Swansea offering so little, this was probably the game in which the style was beginning to look – well – dull as a spectacle, marked by ironic cheers late in the game when a long cross-field pass to Mavididi was finally played.
Then, as sometimes happens in football, it all changed in a couple of minutes. Daka again did good work on the half-way line, getting a toe to intercept a Swansea pass and then racing the 60-yards towards goal, chased by a defender. Both got into the box and Daka could not find a shooting angle. You know that thing when you are playing FIFA on the PlayStation and you make a player run the length of the pitch and he simply runs out of puff? It was like that for both players. Sadly for the defender, Wood, he ran out of puff, fell over and brough down Daka for what looked a clear, albeit unfortunate, penalty. Mavididi waited patiently for the Swansea keeper to finish his distracting time-wasting, then scored to make it 2-0.
There was just time for Swansea to make another substitution, then they duly completed their capitulation. Throughput the match, pretty much whenever City had pressed fully they had forced Swansea into conceding possession. This time, that possession was lost near the edge of the Swansea box – the keeper simply passing the ball to KD-H, he chose not to try his luck at the open goal, instead passing to Daka, there was a deflection from a defender and Yunus stroked the ball with the side of his foot past the despairing keeper’s dive to make it 3-0.
That was it as a contest and both managers made more substitutions – including Raikhy, and Nelson getting their second games of the week for Leicester (the latter being greeted already by his own song from the fans – albeit one heavily indebted to the ‘Ben Marshall’ song of many years ago). It also triggered a more pronounced than usual emptying of the stadium which, by the final whistle was barely half-full. Personally, I stay to the end whatever is happening, but each to their own. It did mean that many did not see City concede yet another late goal, this time in the 95th minute when the evergreen Swansea substitute, Joe Allen, poked the ball home after City failed to deal with a left-wing cross. I suspect Maresca would not be pleased that happened again, but at least this time it made no difference to the overall result.
Leicester are now ten points clear in the league. The Maresca plan continues to deliver. This was a professional three points won against a team who did not really show much. Was it the best Tuesday night’s entertainment? Probably not. Was that because there is too much football and three matches in eight days has an effect? Not sure … but there is Stoke to look forward too in, erm, less than four days’ time after all.
Hermansen, Ricardo Pereira, Faes, Vestergaard, Doyle, Winks, Dewsbury-Hal, McAteer, Praet, Mavididi, Daka
Coady, Vardy, Albrighton, Choudhury, Cannon, Akgün, Stolarczyk, Nelson, Raikhy
Rushworth, Darling, Wood, Humphreys, Tymon, Ashby, Fulton, Grimes, Cullen, Paterson, Yates
Fisher, Pedersen, Cabango, Allen, Patino, Kukharevych, Naughton, Cooper, Pereira Martins
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.