Coming Up – Crystal Palace

Saturday July 4th 3pm Kick Off – Sky Pick (Freeview Channel 11)

Preview by Chris Griffin

After some uncertainty following the reintroduced lockdown in Leicester, City’s home game against Crystal Palace on Saturday was confirmed.

Palace have had a mixed return after the restart. They took three points in a smart 2-0 win at Bournemouth but were hardly at the races last week when they visited a vibrant Liverpool and lost 4-0. On Monday this week they slipped up at home to Burnley, losing 1-0 to a Ben Mee goal.

Nevertheless, Palace are a team with recognisable and reliable qualities. They sit comfortably in mid-table with eleven wins and nine draws. They may only have scored 28 goals but they make opponents work very hard to take anything from a match.

As would be expected from a side coached by Roy Hodgson Palace are tactically tight and consistent. They pack the middle third of the pitch and press opponents hard to close down opportunities. Kouyate and McArthur provide a strong midfield holding duo. They have experienced centre backs in Cahill and Dann. Van Aanholt is particularly effective pushing forward from left back. Milivojevic is an accomplished dead ball specialist. And in Zaha and Townsend they have players who provide very special moments. Ayew can be very sharp in the box.

It was early November when City travelled to Selhurst Park for this season’s away game at Palace. So impressive were City that day it now seems to belong to a different age given our recent performances. Soyuncu and Vardy scored. Tielemans and Maddison were excellent in midfield constantly looking for the penetrating forward ball. City showed pace and played at a fast tempo while looking like a side for whom anything might be possible.

After the match Jamie Vardy commented “The creativity and attacking talent we have is incredible.” Few would have disputed that assessment on that November afternoon. But today fans wondering and asking where that creativity and attacking talent have gone.

City have been struggling. The games against Watford and Brighton were grim affairs. Overall City looked to be treading water. Manchester United’s easy disposal of Brighton this week shone a light on how ineffective we were against Albion.  Against Chelsea Brendan Rodgers put out the team who gave us so much return in the autumn (with the exception of the injured Maddison and Ricardo.) The side had a bright opening twenty minutes but the cohesion and precision which led to so many goals in the autumn were missing. Confidence drained and Chelsea fought back. City gave it a go in the last ten minutes but composure at the vital moment was missing.

And so to Everton. Here surely was an opportunity to find our feet and put ourselves back on track. But no. Everton strolled into a two goal lead in the first 15 minutes. The first half drinks break gave Rodgers the chance to reset his team’s mentality and there was some improvement. Near the end Sigurdsson blocked what looked to be a goal bound Perez effort, but in all honesty, for much of the last 15 minutes we lacked any idea of how to break through Everton’s well-drilled midfield shield. This won’t do against Palace whose defensive shield will be equally strong.

12 premier league matches in 2020 and 13 points: bottom six form. Gratitude to West Ham for preventing Chelsea gain any points but we cannot rely on others slipping up to retain a Champions League spot. With some challenging fixtures in the run in we need points urgently. Saturday would be a good place to start.

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

NO LUCK FOR OUR BESIEGED CITY

Everton 2 Foxes 1

Match report by Graham Tracey

Hopes of a morale boosting victory for everyone connected with Leicester were dashed by 6.15 on Merseyside as we slipped to a frustrating defeat in our post-resumption slump. While Chelsea’s later surprise loss at West Ham (which I didn’t watch due to being thoroughly fed up of footy by then) kept us in third place, the odds of us finishing in the top two places of the remaining 6 game mini-league with Chelsea, Man Utd and Wolves seem slim unless there is a dramatic change in momentum.

The FA Cup defeat had, as every year, hit me hard. I would much rather win the famous trophy for once than qualify for the Champions League – for me football is about winning things, and the thought of European matches behind closed doors at the KP, or glamorous away trips our fans can’t participate in, leaves me oddly cold.

However, I do not want this season to fizzle out into the biggest anti-climax since 1982 (one of my first so scarred on my memory), with the FA Cup semi-final defeat and then blowing promotion. Living outside the Midlands, I am unaffected by the lockdown, but understood from friends the gloom this has brought with it. I hoped we could raise spirits by returning to our autumn form.

There was only one change to Sunday’s line-up as we emerged from the Goodison portacabin – Albrighton replacing Perez. I would much rather have the purposeful ‘old school’ product of Albrighton rather than the flattering to deceive touches of the more technical Perez (based on his time with us to date). I can’t believe that the Mercury ratings described Albrighton as ‘as bad as he has ever been’ in the first half when he put cross after cross into the box.

The only problem was of course our lack of aerial prowess in open play and shortage of numbers to support Vardy. I’ve lost track of where Slimani is, but if his loan ended on 30th June could we not have got him back in the squad? Or even at some point resorted to playing a centre half up front like Walshy or Matt Eliot did so well when asked? Managers do seem to be wedded to current trends too rigidly.

Vardy’s heavy touch denied him a great chance early on when put through by Tielemans (who seems to play better when Maddison isn’t there – presumably a space / position thing). However, we were then dissected down our right and the youngster Gordon cut the ball back to Richarlison to bury it to open the scoring as he had at the KP in December. It was the sort of dynamic goal we were scoring before Christmas.

Conceding first post-resumption does not bode well, and the match decisively turned minutes later when Ndidi was penalised for handball when jumping for a free kick. The ref didn’t give it, but VAR did after literally 20+ replays taking 3 minutes. Even then, I couldn’t tell whether Ndidi’s elbow made the first contact, or whether Keane headed it onto the elbow. It was like watching an lbw shout with a possible faint inside edge. Way too many penalties are given for handball for me, matches shouldn’t be settled by their often random nature.

Moreover, VAR’s involvement summarises why fans rightly have complete contempt for the operators of it – it was clearly not a ‘clear and obvious case’. Ironically, Schmeichel could have extended his penalty saving heroics by just sitting down, as Sigurdsson gently rolled it down the middle.

2-0 in the first ever July league game in history was a mountain, and it was good to see Rodgers visibly angry and animated for once at the annoying drinks break (the time added on was less than the drinks time and VAR delay – what hope have we got when off-field officials can’t even start and stop watches accurately).

This did prompt a response and we dominated the rest of the half. I feel we benefit from a range of dead ball takers, rather than a Madders monopoly. The closest we came was when Pickford blocked Evans at close range, although it would probably have been overturned for offside.

We dominated the second half thanks to the impetus of the introduction of Iheanacho and Maddison. Both are able to receive and turn in one motion, and were willing to take on defenders. We were rewarded within minutes, with a scruffy goal rebounding in off the Nigerian.

Everton made tactical changes and were prepared to sit deep and try to counter-attack, which they didn’t really do and Schmeichel could have been furloughed for the rest of the game. Our hopes rose as Pickford began to wobble, letting a tame ball through his legs which had to be literally cleared from half-over the line, and then missing a cross which Iheanacho, off balance, couldn’t keep under the bar. For all his creativity, Maddison’s finishing was poor again, and another chance fell to Chilwell, who blazed over on the volley in contrast to his Watford screamer.

Unfortunately we seemed to become a bit unbalanced. Barnes had gone off at half time as he again struggled post-lockdown, but while Chilwell saw loads of the ball on the left, he didn’t have anyone to work with. We could have done with Gray coming on sooner on that flank as he could deliver the ball in on his right foot without having to beat anyone or reach the goal line.

This was the best we have played in the 4 games over the past 12 days, but we will have to wait to see if it acts as a catalyst now that the heat is fully on. Many players remain out of sorts so I am not overly confident. Vardy was involved more than in previous games but still sparingly and more as a provider. Iheanacho will have to start the next game I imagine. Praet will surely improve, and while Justin has done well for his first run of top flight action, his best game has remained when he was at left back against Villa. Probably like many, I have concluded that being second or third was in all honesty a false position for us, but this is no reason to throw in the towel.

LEICESTER: Schmeichel 5, Justin 5, Chilwell 6, Evans 7, Soyuncu 5, Albrigton 7, Ndidi 6, Praet 5, Tielemans 6, Barnes 4, Vardy 5. Subs: Iheanacho 8, Maddison 7, Gray 6, Perez 5

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 – Everton

Wednesday 1 July 2020 – 6pm Sky Sports

Kate Thompson previews our return to league action…

So what effect will the loss to Chelsea in the FA Cup have on Leicester?  As I see it, it can go one of two ways.  Either it will galvanise the team to try to hang on to a Champions League place – as the only competition now available to them – or they will crumble, rather like Spurs did four years ago when they lost out to City in the Premier League title race. 

Obviously, all Leicester fans will much prefer the former, but I feel there was more riding on the FA Cup result than just a place in the semi-final.  Rodgers said the players’ performance was much improved, but this glosses over the fact that they were unable to score despite a poor Chelsea performance in the first half.  Once Lampard brought on three subs for the second half, they were like a team transformed and deserved to win the game.

City used to have a poor record against Everton, but since we played them on the day we lifted the Premier League trophy, we have done better; of nine games, we have won five and lost four – which actually contrasts well with results prior to that season. 

Interestingly, we used to have a lot of draws but no longer it seems.  A useful website, https://www.11v11.com/teams/leicester-city/tab/opposingTeams/opposition/Everton/, shows that since December 1908 we have won 38 games, drawn 32 and lost 42.  At the beginning of the season, Everton were tipped by some pundits to be in with a shout of a Champions League spot, but they are currently 12th, with 41 points, so a disappointing season for them so far.  They did beat Norwich away in their last game, on 24 June, something that we were incapable of doing.

Many Leicester fans thought they had turned the corner with an impressive 4-0 win over Villa, in the last match before the lockdown, but it seems that we should view that as an aberration rather than a return to the previous form. 

Certainly the two league games were instantly forgettable, Chilwell’s wonder goal aside, and the home game against a determined Brighton side was one of the poorest I have seen in recent times.  Everton have some good players, who can hurt teams on their day.  Richarlison is a tricky little player who gets into good positions, and Sigurdsson has often been a thorn in the side of Leicester and can score excellent long-range goals.  Pickford, despite being an irritating moaner, is still a good goalkeeper.

Like all City fans, I will be watching this match with some trepidation and wondering if our season is going to end with a whimper, not a bang.

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

CITY’S RE-START CONTINUES TO STUTTER

LEICESTER CITY 0 CHELSEA 1

Match Report by Paul Weston

I did not know how much a part sport, and football in particular, plays in my life and my diary. You do not realise it until it is not there anymore. After weeks of being deprived of football during lockdown, apart from the Bundesliga, I had been longing to see the Foxes in action again as we aimed for the Champions League spot and progress in the FA Cup.

I coped with the disappointment of throwing away three points against Watford and was rather secretly pleased that Nigel Pearson’s team earned a well deserved point. I put City’s failings down to rustiness after the lay-off. However, after the Brighton snore draw I became much more concerned. What had happened to our style of play, pressing and fast inter-passing? We had become slow, ponderous and predictable.

It was therefore with some trepidation on my part beforehand that the FA Cup tie with Chelsea on Sunday took place. Although City were playing at the King Power, the absence of a crowd negated any advantage. Chelsea arrived on the back of a fine victory against Manchester City which handed the Premiership title to Liverpool- worthy winners. City however were struggling for form with too many players off their game.

Rodgers made several changes from the Brighton game. Maddison was not in the squad due to a hip injury. Perez, Tielemans, Praet and Barnes came in. At least Rodgers has abandoned his two holding midfielder formation which was a failed experiment against Brighton. Mike Dean was the referee with his new lockdown beard giving him a fearsome image.

City began the match on a very positive note against a strangely hesitant Chelsea defence with N’Didi playing well in front of defence. The Perez/Vardy/Barnes link up play was good but on several occasions Barnes mis-controlled when in a good position to shoot. Tielemans had a shot from distance well saved by Cabellero. Evans missed a header from a great position.

In the middle of this action Soyuncu earned a booking from Mike Dean and, in a rare Chelsea attack, Perisic cut in from the right and Schmeichel made a smart save. City continued to look lively and Barnes and Vardy shot over and wide without bothering the goalie. The first half ended 0-0 although City should have scored at least two goals from the chances created. One felt that City would rue these misses and that Chelsea would up their game in the second half.

Lampard showed his displeasure with his team’s first half performance by making three substitutes at the beginning of the second half. Chelsea were much more energised and closed down City’s passing out of defence. From a good move Abraham scored but was clearly offside but the omens were not looking good.

Although Rodgers brought on Choudhury and Albrighton for Praet and Perez Chelsea continued to dominate the game and scored in the 63rd minute when Berkeley, one of the half-time substitutes, scored from a Willian cross that should have been cut out. Gray came on for a disappointing Barnes but made little impact.

City improved slightly after the second drinks break and Soyuncu was unlucky with a header that glanced off a Chelsea defender from an Albrighton cross. City tried to press forward and left gaps at the gap. Schmeichel made an amazing save from Berkeley when Chelsea were 4 against 2 close to the end of the match. Right at the close Ndidi went close with shot which swerved just wide. And so City lost the match 0-1 and Chelsea meet Manchester United in the next round of the FA Cup. In truth City never looked like winning the game from early on in the second half.

So what have we learned from this performance and other matches since the re-start? Certainly City started at a faster pace in this game than recent matches but the final ball and control were poor. Ricardo is badly missed for his marauding runs which galvanise the team. Justin is improving all the time but understandably is more reticent in attack.

The defence looks reasonably solid and Schmeichel has made some good saves that we have grown to expect. Ndidi has played reasonably well but no other midfield players (including Maddison) and wing players have been more than 6 out of 10 throughout a whole match. Vardy and Iheanacho have both struggled, starved of good chances and strangely lacking in control and confidence.

Rodgers needs to galvanise the team into a win against Everton which is desperately needed otherwise I can see this season slipping away and the chasing pack snatching the Champions League place away from us. Come on you Foxes- you can do much better than this!

Leicester: Schmeichel, Justin, Evans, Söyüncü, Chilwell Ndidi, Pérez (Albrighton 57), Praet (Choudhury 57), Tielemans. Barnes (Gray 76) Vardy

Chelsea: Caballero, James (Azpilicueta 45), Rüdiger, Zouma, Emerson, Mount (Barkley 45), Kanté, Gilmour (Kovacic 45), Willian (Pedro 78), Abraham, Pulisic (Loftus-Cheek 72)

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

Oppos Viewpoint – Chelsea

A bit about you:

Name: David Chidgey

Current home town: Winchester

Birthplace: Winchester

How long have you supported your team? 40+ years

Overview of your club:

Favourite thing about your home ground: The East Stand (the only bit remaining from when I first went!)

Favourite match played by your team & why: Champions’ League Final, Munich 2012 – underdogs, backs to the wall performance; fairy tale ending for Drogba, never thought I’d see the day where Chelsea were crowned European Champions. Tears were shed!

Favourite player of all time who played for your club: Frank Lampard. The consummate professional. Not the most gifted, but worked so hard at his game; his record number of goals underline his intelligence and understated brilliance. His quiet, determined leadership was a major factor in Chelsea’s most successful period ever.

About our forthcoming match against you:

Your favourite current player in your squad and why? How can you not love N’Golo Kante. Probably the only genuinely world class player in the team. He’s had a rough time recently with injuries and all the nonsense about his best position. He’s good enough to play anywhere in the team; perhaps not in goal as he’s vertically challenged. Apart from his talent on the pitch he’s such a humble and genuine chap off it.

Player in your squad we should most fear and why? Tammy Abraham. Presuming he’s now fit; he has raw talent and capable of surprising teams with his strength and ability and knack for scoring goals.

Player in our squad you most fear and why? Jamie Vardy. Great striker. Would love to have seen him play for Chelsea. A really irritating player too which I like. He’s had a resurgence under Rodgers who has had the sense to play to his strengths.

Up and coming prospect in your squad? Billy Gilmour. Very young but so much talent and maturity. His first two matches against Liverpool and Everton he was man of the match. Incredible. The best prospect I’ve seen at the club for decades.

Where do you think you’ll finish this season? Fourth

How do you think you’ll do against us? Win, of course 😊

General Questions:

Who do you think will qualify for Europe ? Top 4 – Liverpool; City; Leicester; Chelsea. Man Utd; Spurs; Wolves to get Europa League

What are your thoughts on both the introduction of VAR and how it has been applied so far this season? Appalling on both counts. It’s a disaster and ruining the game for match going supporters. Robotic administrators taking the passion and humanity out of football. Put it in the bin!

Recent Events:

How do you feel your club has handled the current situation ? The infractions by Mason Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi apart; very well. They’ve led the way in their generosity with donations and facilities for the NHS and those in need. The work the club does with its Foundation and the money they donate is streets ahead of other clubs. Very proud of them for doing so.

What do you think about games behind closed doors ? A necessary evil. Clearly needs must, but it is the antithesis of football for match going fans. I hope but fear that it may prove to be the thin end of the wedge, if the PL and TV companies deem it successful.

How would you like to importance of fans represented for the rest of this season? Well give we are not allowed to be there, there’s not much they can do tangibly to make up for that. Paying us back ticket money obviously; keeping the flags and banners there is important too. Chelsea are displaying season ticket holder’s names on the LED ad boards which is not a bad idea but all the other ideas such as piped in atmosphere; cardboard cut outs of fans; Zoom boards and the like just seem like poor gimmicks and a very poor substitute for the real thing.

Looking forwards to the 20/21 season, has your Trust formed a view on the potential of having some fans attend games in socially distanced crowds ? We’ve not discussed yet as a group; but personally, I’d be against it. Who gets to decide who is allowed in? All in or none at all would be my view.

Has your Trust have you been doing anything different since lockdown ? We’ve worked hard to keep in touch with members, given the circumstances. We’ve continued meetings virtually and we’ve been in constant dialogue with the club to put forward the views of the supporters. So, much the same as always to be honest!

Any other comments?

Good luck on Sunday and may the best team win, with no manipulation of the game from VAR!

David Chidgey is a Board Member of the Chelsea Supporters Trust who handles Media & Communications. Read the latest from their Trust here http://chelseasupporterstrust.com/