City second best throughout

Leicester City 0 – 3 West Ham United

Report by Chris Griffin

The gloom of a wet East Midlands afternoon was matched by the gloom of City’s performance. This was back to earth with a bump following the excellent performance at Manchester City last week. West Ham played to a disciplined game plan, pressing all over the field while defending in numbers. Smartly taken goals by Antonio, Fornals and Bowen saw the visitors take the points despite City having 69% of possession. Leicester lacked the inventiveness to break down a well-organised defence while at the other end Leicester’s own defending left much to be desired.

Perez replaced Praet who had not recovered from injury. City stayed with the three at the back system they used at the Etihad. New signings Fofana and Under were on the bench. Maddison was not involved due to an injury.

A pattern for the game was soon established. Leicester took charge of possession but were unable to play the telling final ball that would open up the opposition defence. Vardy made a good run into the box but his attempted cross under pressure was claimed by Fabianski. The goalkeeper was alert again when a Tielemans through ball for Justin threatened danger. Mendy had a shot deflected for a corner after good work by Tielemans.

Barnes and Vardy worked tirelessly to make runs but the ball seldom came their way due to the tight organisation of the West Ham defence. Then in the 14th minute West Ham took the lead against the run of play. Ogbonna cleared a City free kick and Antonio collected the ball in the City half near the right touchline where he was unnecessarily fouled by Soyuncu. Reacting quickly Antonio took the free kick himself, sweeping the ball across field to the unmarked Cresswell. The left back sent a cross into the City area to the far post where Antonio had made his ground to head in past Schmeichel. It was a smart cross and a good header but Antonio had been allowed to run more than 30 metres with no City playing taking any notice of him and he was left totally unmarked.

City continued to have most of the ball but moves kept breaking down in the West Ham defensive third of the field where Ogbonna, Coufal, Cresswell and Balbuena were keeping a tight grip on any situation. Vardy made a superb run into the box but was crowded out. A move between Vardy and Perez saw Barnes set free but again he was overwhelmed by the circling defenders.

West Ham’s pressing was putting City’s midfield under a lot of pressure and attempts to move the ball quickly resulted in imprecise and inaccurate passing which the defence easily dealt with.

Meanwhile the threat of a West Ham counter persisted and Amartey had to be very alert to cut out a pass into the City box following a Justin misplaced pass. Then Schmeichel had to be off his line quickly to gather another through ball into the City area.

In the 35th minute Leicester were caught by the counter again. The back three were up to the halfway line when Cresswell launched a clearance into the space behind them. Fornals was on the ball in a flash and despite a valiant effort by Soyuncu to recover the forward took aim and drilled a fierce shot into the net: 2-0.

The game’s pattern reverted to Leicester having most possession and pressing forward but the West Ham defence stood firm.

Neither side made any changes at half time. City tried to get on the front foot. Justin played a good ball to Vardy. The ball fell to Barnes but his snatched effort sailed high and wide. Then Tielemans very nearly played Castagne through into the box but Cresswell and Ogbonna closed the door between them. This was becoming the story of the game.

A great run by Barnes earned City a corner but the ensuing set piece was a disappointment, not even clearing the near post.

West Ham remained a danger on the break. An Antonio header was taken by Schmeichel and then Balbuena headed wide from a Rice free kick.

In the 53rd minute, while Evans was being given a yellow card for clearing out Fornals, Leicester were forced to make a substitution and debutant Cengiz Under came on for the injured Amartey. Leicester switched to a back four. Under certainly added energy and determination to the attack but West Ham held firm while still threatening the home goal. Evans did very well to block a goal bound Fornals attempt. At the other end smart interpassing saw City threaten the goal but Ogbonna was on hand yet again to clear up.

On 64 minutes Iheanacho came on for Perez but West Ham kept up their momentum with Balbuena heading over after another Rice free kick.

Smart work by Iheanacho saw him dribble into the West Ham area but before he could shoot Ogbonna recovered and conceded a corner which came to nothing. At the other end a terrific Rice dribble outpaced Mendy. Rice’s shot beat Schmeichel only to rebound off the cross bar.

As much as Leicester were trying to find a way through a West Ham third looked on the cards. Sure enough in the 83rd minute Rice, deep in his own half, played a good ball forward to Fornals who turned and then placed a fine ball through the City defence for Bowen to run onto and drive the ball into the net.

Leicester kept going. A lack of physical effort was not the problem today. Choudhury came on for Mendy. Barnes slipped Vardy through for a one-on-one with Fabianski but as the keeper rushed out Vardy flicked the ball past the far post: chance gone. A superb series of one-twos between Barnes, Iheanacho and Vardy saw Barnes shoot home but VAR decided that Vardy was offside by the width of a cigarette paper and the goal was ruled out. It sort of summed up City’s day.

Brendan Rodgers was forthright in his assessment.  “Everything was missing – it was poor. We started the season well and scored goals but we lacked aggression in our defending and West Ham have shown they are a good side…Dennis [Praet] and James Maddison [both injured] give us extra quality and we lacked precision in our passing. We couldn’t get our front players involved and didn’t give the back line a chance to get up the pitch.”

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Castagne, Evans, Amartey, Soyuncu, Justin, Tielemans, Mendy, Perez, Barnes, Vardy.

West Ham United: Fabianski, Ogbonna, Balbuena, Cresswell, Coufal, Rice, Soucek, Masuaku, Bowen, Antonio, Fornals.

Referee Andy Madley

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

FT VAR Survey results: A thin red line was not required to differentiate your views

By Steve Moulds

With the new season underway, and fans being unable to watch from the stands, it is some relief to get back to moaning about how useless (or “helpful” – in the interest of balance) VAR continues to be – after all, who would deny us the inexplicable joy of losing our sense of perspective as Vardy is denied a goal by a pixel-width line on a monitor in Stockley Park!

The Foxes Trust had a great response to the VAR survey circulated at the end of last season. Most of the results were unsurprising and it remains to be seen if any of your concerns are addressed by changes implemented by PGMOL* for 20/21. What follows is a brief analysis of the results. A download link to a summary document, showing the percentage responses to each question, is at the end of this article.

Clearly, with more VAR decisions during matches at the KP (up to lockdown) than at any other ground, City fans were well placed to comment on how VAR had operated. This was evidenced by answers to Question 1, with over 70% of respondents rating themselves at 7 or above (on a scale of 10) for their understanding of the rules pertaining to the use of VAR. However, for those who regularly attend matches, 84% had not seen referees use the pitch-side monitors, as we had been advised that they would by the Premier League. This may have contributed to the majority (57%) being unclear that the on field referees decision is final – which it should be under the rules of football governed by IFAB* – intimating supporters think the VAR is having more influence than it should.

Question 4 dealt with the communication of VAR decisions on the screens in the stadium. For regular attendees, it seems these messages need to be displayed on-screen for longer but for most, what is shown is clear and easy to understand.

The next section dealt with how VAR is affecting the way fans view the game. It is clear for the majority that decisions are taking too long to resolve and that this is not helping referees get the decisions correct anyway. What is more, VAR is used on too numerous occasions and is changing the way fans react to incidents in the game with 86% or regular attendees agreeing that goal celebrations were becoming muted, leading to reduced enjoyment of the game. So, helpfully, we can understand what is blatantly annoying us and disrupting the flow of the game?!

The above being said, over 80% of respondents agreed that continued use of VAR would not effect their attendance of matches.

Turning to questions on possible solutions, over 50% of respondents think that some alteration to the laws of football may be required in order for VAR to work more effectively. Around 70% would like to see VAR used only for objective decisions – but that obviously depends on how the laws dictate what is deemed “clear and obvious”.

The final section tried to draw out some views on how VAR is affecting the way the game is being played. Over 50% think that defenders and attackers are reacting differently because VAR is in operation. 63% think players are asking referees for VAR reviews – which supposedly they should not do on penalty of a yellow card. Most of you agree that VAR has done little to alter the number of incidences of diving nor has it helped referees correctly judge red cards for poor tackles. It is noted that a red card was rescinded on the first weekend of the new season, when the referee reviewed his decision on the pitch-side monitor – perhaps things are already changing for the better?

Many thanks to those respondents who took the time to leave comments at the end of the survey. Stuart Dawkins provides a summary.

VAR Survey Comments

The VAR survey included the question: “If you have any other comments on the use of VAR that haven’t been covered above, please leave them below.” This produced a total of 121 responses.  these covered a variety of topics, but a few dominated the responses:

  • Simply scrap VAR.
  • VAR takes too long and spoils the flow and enjoyment of the game.
  • If a VAR check takes several minutes, it is surely not ‘clear and obvious’.
  • The match referee should retain full control of decisions, using pitch-side monitors when required.
  • The lack of effective communication with fans within grounds, often referring to rugby union or cricket where spectators are kept fully informed of the decision process.
  • A variety of comments re changes to the VAR protocols and/or Laws of the game to make VAR work better.
  • Simply ‘VAR is here to stay’.

A few sample comments on each topic follow…

Simply scrap VAR.
“Should be scrapped immediately”.

VAR takes too long and spoils the flow and enjoyment of the game.

“A significant amount of spontaneity and joy is being lost to the game because of VAR.”

If a VAR check takes several minutes, it is surely not ‘clear and obvious’.

“Ruining the joy of football. If it takes 4 minutes and 30 replays across 6 different camera angles, it’s not clear and obvious. A decision should be made within 5-10 seconds – if it’s clear and obvious that’ll be enough time”.

The match referee should retain full control of decisions, using pitch-side monitors when required.

“VAR should be used to aid the referee, not overrule him. As in the World Cup, the infringement should be brought to the ref’s attention and then he reviews the incident on the pitch side monitor before changing his mind or not.”

The lack of effective communication with fans within grounds, often referring to rugby union or cricket where spectators are kept fully informed of the decision process.

“Crowd at game should be respected and fully shown decision making process.”

A variety of comments re changes to the VAR protocols and/or Laws of the game to make VAR work better … specific suggestions included:

  • Giving each team captain a specific number of VAR ‘appeals’ – akin to the process used in cricket.
  • A tighter restriction on what VAR is used for: for example, for matters of clear fact not subjective opinion.
  • Tweaks to the offside law to try to overcome the issue of very marginal decisions.
  • Removing the recent addition to the rules re the ball hitting an attacker’s arm during the build-up to a goal.

Overall, the majority of respondents (53%) think VAR is for TV audiences and not fans in stadia. A significant percentage (35%) think VAR works neither for TV nor live football. The Premier League has promised to release statistics revealing how VAR has operated in 19/20. It started off this process by stating it thought the system was outcome neutral – so let us hope VAR proves to be more helpful than that for referees and less contentious as we move forward this season. With fans only able to watch via TV (for now) and any chances of supporters attending live games hanging by a thread, the fear is there may be more serious consequences for the game than the usefulness of VAR.

*  PGMOL – Professional Game Match Officials Ltd – employs PL referees and runs the VAR at Stockley Park; IFAB – International Football Association Board – guardians of the Laws of the game.

(Thanks to Sarah Hubbard for her assistance in analysing the data.)

https://foxestrust.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/FT_VAR_Survey_summary.pdf

“WAKE ME UP I MUST BE DREAMING!”

MANCHESTER CITY 2 LEICESTER CITY 5

Match Report by Paul Weston

Admit it – how many City fans feared the worst for our team against Manchester City on Sunday before the match, especially with the knowledge that N’didi would be sadly out for 12 weeks and that we were playing a back five with Daniel Amartey playing his first full match for a long time? It seemed like a damage limitation exercise. However, what took place will live in the memory for a long time…

All the news was about Manchester City’s injuries (my heart bleeds!) but they still decided to play Garcia instead of Stones and had a galaxy of stars able to score from every position. City had Johnny Evans back although not perhaps match fit. Ricardo was still sorely missed but with Castagne fitting in so well and quickly.

It did not take long for Man City to dominate possession and they scored in the third minute through Mahrez from a corner cleared by Justin. It just had to be him didn’t it but it was a wonderful shot with his right foot. Although City did not panic after the goal it seemed that we were playing too deep and, as our ball possession was so limited, I could not see how we could get anything out of the match. Vardy was playing almost in central midfield marking Rodri and therefore was receiving few touches of the ball. Barnes occasionally was breaking forward but the last touch let him down.

A Rodri headed goal was rightly ruled offside as the match progressed and, although Man City still had the lion’s share of possession, there were a few glimpses that City could break through the lines and get at Man City’s defence. After a great turn by Mendy in midfield Barnes slipped in Vardy who was clumsily brought down by Walker.

Vardy confidently scored the penalty to Edison’s right. 1-1 and, although against the run of play based on possession, it set up an intriguing second half. On Sky TV Graham Souness praised City’s tactics but I doubt if even the most fervent City fan would have predicted how the second half would have developed.

City made a compact start and clearly had gained confidence from the first half goal and a knowledge that their game plan was working. Guardiola brought on a striker, Delap, for Fernandino but, if anything, this played into City’s hands. City pressed Man City into their corner in the 53rd minute, Amartey set up Tielemans who fed a delightful ball through to Castagne on the right. He crossed low and Vardy with an exquisite flick scored at the near post. 2-1 to City. It was a goal of the highest quality and no doubt had every City fan jumping out of their armchairs at home.

City continued to look threatening, breaking through and swarming towards an increasingly panicky Man City defence. Ederson saved well from Barnes but soon after Vardy was played in and Garcia, this time, was the defender who clumsily brought down Vardy. This time he scored a perfectly placed penalty to Ederson’s left. 3-1 to City.

Worryingly Vardy started to limp but, as Praet was apparently more seriously injured, Maddison was brought on as substitute. He had only been on the pitch for a few minutes when, in an interchange with Justin and Barnes he picked up the ball on the left and, even though 25 yards out, sent a fabulous curling shot into the top corner beating Ederson all end up. It was a stunning strike and 4-1 to City.

Evans limped off to be replaced by Fuchs- hopefully not a serious injury – and Iheanacho replaced hat trick hero Vardy. There was still time for more action as Ake scored from a Man City corner, losing his marker Maddison easily. Then, unbelievably, Maddison was played in on the right and brought down, this time by Mendy. Tielemans confidently scored the penalty- his first goal for about 12 months. 5-2 to City and an amazing match ended.

So how do you sum up a match like that? For a start it brought cheer to us City fans in these strange times. When you woke up this morning it felt good didn’t it? Even better to read the churlish comments from Rodri that City were lucky. Rodgers tactics sometimes are criticised but, this time, against a top side, he got it spot on and the players did remarkedly well to take it on board and to concentrate on their game plan, despite going a goal down so early.

Vardy will rightly get the plaudits for his goals but I would find it difficult to name a man of the match as it was a wonderful team performance with no weaknesses and a masterful tactical strategy by Rodgers. Mendy, Amartey, Tielemans and Castagne were particularly outstanding. Mendy and Amartey have often been overlooked by City fans and it was heartening to see that they could play a more major role in the team this season.

So City sit on top of the Premiership table after three games. Enjoy!

Man City: Ederson, Walker, Garcia, Ake, Mendy, Rodrigo, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Sterling, Foden.

Leicester: Schmeichel, Castagne, Amartey, Soyuncu, Evans, Justin, Mendy, Tielemans, Praet, Barnes, Vardy.

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

GUNNERS POWER PAST SECOND-STRING CITY

City 0 Arsenal 2

Report by Colin Hall

Leicester City’s involvement in the 2020-21 Carabao Cup lasted for just one match, as a Christian Fuchs own goal and a late strike by Eddie Nketiah saw visitors Arsenal claim a 2-0 victory.

Despite the absence of FOURTEEN members of the first-team squad for various reasons, the makeshift Foxes line-up competed well for most of the game, but were ultimately forced to succumb to sharper and hungrier opponents.

With the focus firmly on the weekend’s challenging league clash away to Manchester City, Brendan Rodgers changed his entire starting eleven from the team that had won the season’s first-team games.

Academy product Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall was given a full debut in midfield, while defender Daniel Amartey started his first competitive first-team match since his serious injury on THAT fateful evening in October 2018.

Meanwhile, hopes that Gunners manager Mikel Arteta would view the tie, as some of his predecessors may have done, as an opportunity to blood a host of young players, proved unfounded.

Although his side was some way short of full-strength, it was still led by a Champions League winner and featured several other stars from last season’s successful FA Cup run.

Both sides signalled their attacking instincts early on, with Kelechi Iheanacho firing narrowly wide from long range and Danny Ward forced to turn a drive from Reiss Nelson onto the bar.

The high tempo continued for the rest of the half, with Arsenal having loud claims for a penalty refused following a clash between Amartey and Bukary Saka.

However, it was City who came closest to breaking the deadlock when James Maddison, finally asserting himself after a low-key start, produced an exquisite chip which left Bernd Leno stranded, but rebounded from the far post.

After the interval, with the game now being played in a heavy downpour, the England midfielder bore down on the Arsenal goal again, only to send his effort wastefully high and wide,

This incident provided the impetus for the visitors to step up their pace, with Pepe proving a particular threat to the City defence.

His efforts soon brought due reward, albeit somewhat fortuitously. After his close-range attempts were blocked by Ward and the woodwork, the ball eventually found the net via a ricochet from Fuchs, who was unable to evade its path.

It was some time before City were able to recover from this blow, and only the emergence of Perez and Praet from the bench, to replace Dewsbury-Hall and the tiring Maddison, rekindled any attacking threats.

But the Spaniard, currently enduring an eight-month goal drought, spurned a glorious opportunity to put City level, heading wide from just five yards after an excellent free-kick by Marc Albrighton.

Instead, the Gunners were able to add extra gloss to the scoreline in the closing stages, as Nketiah exploited a tiring City defence to net from point-blank range and thus partially banish memories of his game-turning dismissal in last season’s league clash.

Although cup exits are not pleasant (and nor should they ever be), this one is unlikely to be excessively bemoaned among the City fanbase. As we discovered last season, this squad is not capable of coping with the league’s two top teams in quick succession, especially after the post-match revelation that Wilfred Ndidi could be out of action for the rest of the year with an injury sustained in the Burnley game.

The ability of the side to compete on two fronts in his absence may hold the key to the outcome of our whole season. 

City (3-4-2-1): Ward; Amartey, Morgan, Fuchs; Albrighton, Choudhury, Dewsbury-Hall (Perez 76), Thomas; Maddison (Praet 72), Gray; Iheanacho. Subs not used: Jakupovic, Justin, Knight, Tielemans, Barnes.

Arsenal (3-4-3): Leno; Holding, David Luiz, Kolasinac; Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Willock (Ceballos 78), Saka (Bellerin 87); Pepe, Nketiah, Nelson (Willian 72). Subs not used: Runarsson, Saliba, Xhaka, Lacazette.

Goals: Fuchs (og) 57, Nketiah 90.

Booking: Elneny. 

Referee: Peter Bankes

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