CITY GO TOP AS CLASS PREVAILS AGAINST BATTLING BURNLEY

LEICESTER 4 BURNLEY 2

Report by Eddie Blount

For the first time since the miracle season of 2015-16 City sit proudly at the top of the Premiership table. With Man City away coming up next we should probably make the most of it! Few of us would have predicted six points out of six and seven goals to boot given that we were missing three key players and the attendant problems in central defence and defensive midfield that caused.

Strangely Burnley were also missing three of their best players including both centre backs but being Burnley under Sean Dyche there was no doubt we would be in for a battle and so it turned out. This was a stereotypical boxer v fighter contest with City buzzing around with intricate passing sequences based on a possession game whilst Burnley were all bustle and muscle.

In fact the visitors made the better start as City took ages to get out of first gear as Burnley’s pressing game made it difficult for us to manage any significant progress. So it came as no surprise when they took the lead when a deep left wing cross to the far post found Wood up against Justin. The ball was not cleanly won by either man finally hitting Wood’s upper arm before a blatant shove on Justin removed him from the scene allowing Wood to volley past Schmeichel into the bottom corner of his net.

Last season the goal would have been VAR-ed but rule changes allowed it to stand though why VAR didn’t pick up the shove I cannot say. Wood took it well but Justin should have been stronger and you could make a case for Soyuncu swopping with Justin as Wood had been signalling for the cross several seconds before it finally came.

City reacted well to going behind and ten minutes later we were level. Barnes found Vardy with a lovely through ball. The striker pulled both central defenders across the goal before giving a short pass to the excellent Castagne who cleverly laid it into the path of the on-rushing Barnes who in turn slotted the ball without fuss into Pope’s right corner.

City were on top for the rest of the half winning numerous corners which did nothing other than reveal our inadequacies at set pieces. Burnley were bigger and more physical and knew it. We have too many butterflies and not enough wasps. As well as lacking some physicality we are weak in the air for a side with top six ambitions and better sides than Burnley will make us pay for this.

On 40 minutes Burnley suffered another injury blow when playmaker Brady went off with what seemed a rib injury. However such is their spirit they reacted like a limb-depleted Peperami and pressed on as if it mattered not a jot! The half closed with A Tielemans shot from outside the box which was easily dealt with by Pope, touted by many to be England’s next keeper.

Although he was to concede four goals in this match there was no evidence that this will not come to pass. At half time City no doubt took consolation in the fact that last season we went a goal down to Burnley but finished up 2-1 winners. I imagine Rogers’ interval advice to his team was more of the same and chances will come

The second half was only five minutes old when City took the lead with the sort of luck the fates usually reserve for teams they wish to favour. The opportunity came from a magnificent slide-rule through ball by Tielemans which found the over-lapping Castagne whose low cross deflected wickedly off defender Pieters and left Pope flat-footed as it entered the net unopposed.

The match continued to provide opportunities for both sides, Wood spurning a very good chance with a feeble shot straight at Schmeichel and Praet shooting over when set up by Castagne.

The match seemed settled after 61 minutes when a good run by Castagne and clever dribbling by Perez resulted in the latter setting up Justin for a simple finish. This was a reward for the full-back’s good play in every area apart from defensive marking, a rather important reservation. At this point Maddison came on for Perez resuming his injury rehab.

Both sides continued to create chances, Rodriguez shooting over from close in and Praet at the other end had his close range shot blocked. Burnley were far from out of it and indeed they actually had more shots overall than City.

It came as no surprise when they scored again with almost a carbon copy of their first goal. A left side free kick flashed across City’s goal and was headed home by debutant centre-back Dunne. This was another bad goal to concede. We had men back but Dunne got in between Soyuncu and Justin and found the net with a stooping header. The impression was that he wanted it more.

This led to an anxious few minutes but nerves were settled when Praet scored on 78 minutes with a super strike from the edge oof the box which gave Pope no chance. Barnes set up the chance and a dummy run by Castagne created the time and space. Great goal!

Typical of Burnley they responded strongly and a free kick in a dangerous position went just over Schmeichel’s bar, followed immediately by a great block by Soyuncu to deny Wood who shortly afterwards hit the post after some very sloppy defending.

The final whistle was as much a relief to City as for their opponents who showed exactly the sort of spirit you hope we will show in similar circumstances. My Man of the Match was fullback Castagne by a whisker from Harvey Barnes

City: Schmeichel, Castagne, Ndidi, Soyuncu, Justin, Mendy, Praet (Albrighton 83), Tielemans, Perez (Maddison62), Barnes (Morgan 90), Vardy

Burnley: Pope, Bardsley, Long, Dunne, Taylor, Brady (Pieters 40), Westwood, Brownhill, McNeil, Rodriguez (Vydra 70), Wood

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

Waffles in the sun as Belgians set up victory

West Brom 0 City 3

No fans to see this view (photo taken in 2018), but still a happy hunting ground

Report by Graham Tracey

After a low key first half, a debut goal by Timothy Castagne opened the floodgates for a very comfortable victory to keep up our great record at The Hawthorns. With so many reasons to expect a hangover – last season’s collapse, the lack of transfer activity, our makeshift defence – drawing a line under the post-lockdown mini-league was crucial and we did it in emphatic style.

The only caveat is that WBA look sure bets for relegation so anything less than a win would have been points dropped – I don’t subscribe to the theory that it is all about performances at the start of the season and all about results at the end of the season.

Looking good in maroon (unlike the tacky shirts sported by Rodgers and subs), our line-up was largely as anticipated given our available resources, with Ndidi moving to central defence. Much as I enjoy players moving position as a throwback to Walshy, Elliot and Marshall in the carefree 90s, this must have felt like a kick in the teeth for our younger players like Johnson, Knight and Hughes who must think they will never be trusted with a chance.

Mendy took over shielding duties, with Justin moving to left back so that Castagne could play right back. For me, the surprise was to prefer Perez over Albrighton or Gray, but presumably he had impressed in pre-season.

The first quarter (thankfully no longer marked by a drinks break) was worrying, with familiar failings. Vardy was left isolated, Perez struggled to get involved, and our initially cumbersome midfield were being out-muscled by Livermore. Luckily, WBA looked fairly toothless, with only Diangana (controversially sold by West Ham) looking dangerous. Ndidi was not put under much pressure in his temporary role and was pleasingly quick to hoof clear when required. The two moments of danger came fairly early when Justin had to take a yellow for scything down an opponent breaking through just outside the box, and Schmeichel’s only save, with his legs shortly before the break.

We started to flow towards the half hour, with Mendy shuttling the ball quickly and Praet and Tielemans pressing further forward. Three chances came in quick succession to Barnes, with the keeper parrying the two on target comfortably. Whether Harvey can improve his finishing is for me one of the key metrics that will determine how well we do this season.

Despite this improvement, it was a game I felt we could struggle to come back in if we fell behind, so it was a huge relief when we went ahead on 54 minutes. Praet was played in on the left goal-line, and when his chipped cross was powerfully headed home it was a terrific surprise to realise it was our new right back who had committed to getting forward so aggressively.

The Baggies’ heads seemed to go down in the heat after that, and we were not flattered by two penalties that were put to bed. Barnes broke through on the left, and though his shot was saved, the ref had spotted that Vardy was pulled down lest he tap in a cross. He got up to find the bottom left corner, and then after Justin was fouled clumsily, Jamie went to the same side to give us confidence that this could be another 20 goal season.

In further good news, Madders came off the bench and looked in full fitness. Gutting though it is not to be able to be there, our fans could choose to toast the Belgian combination with chips and mayo, waffles and maybe some Leffe in their gardens for tea.

With our fairly kind opening run of fixtures, hopefully this will be the spark to set us on a good run to put June and July behind us, and set us in good stead ahead of some new faces and the Europa League fixtures.

FOXES: Schmeichel 6, Castagne 8, Justin 6, Ndidi 7, Soyuncu 6, Mendy 7, Barnes 7, Praet 7 (Maddison 7), Tielemans 6, Perez 5 (Albrighton 6), Vardy 8

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

Join the Foxes Trust Prediction League 20-21

We are now launching our 2020/21 Prediction League competition which is open to all LCFC fans.

‘I know the score’ is not running for season 2020/21 so we have identified the Superbru game as the closest alternative, where players still forecast the results of every Premier League game, but with a different scoring system to previous years

Predictor score input and scoring system

Take the link below to register with Superbru. Select Log In and then Create Account options. The individual leagues are called pools, please look for pool ‘Foxes Trust’, we then get an email from Superbru to accept your entry.

Some hints, when entering your profile page, you may want to review the email preferences and privacy tabs and opt in/out of selected preferences. as appropriate.

It is also worth noting that your name is available for all to see by clicking on your username in the pool. Thus, if you do not want your full name to show we suggest just use just your initial for surname: your email address is not shown.

As before, if you wish to participate in entering for the Foxes Trust prize for the winner of the pool, you must send your email address and player name to colin.murrant@foxestrust.com in order that we can contact the winner

Good Luck

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End of Season Review 2019-20 Part Nine

To conclude our series for articles from our match reporting team, Colin Hall gives his views on last season and looks ahead

Before the season started what were your hopes on what we could achieve?

With a number of elite clubs going through transition periods, there was a possibility of one or more of the clubs from the next level breaking through. As long as we could produce a little more consistency, and bring the best out of new recruits, there was definitely a chance for us. I also hoped we could finally put together a decent run in one of the cups.

Given how the season panned out, in terms of success how do you rate it out of 10 and why?

Ultimately it was a season of two halves – 9 for the first and 5 for the second, so 7 overall.

The last three months of 2019 saw us produce our best form since the title season. While a repeat of that miracle was never on – Liverpool were always too far ahead for us to mount a realistic challenge – a Champions League spot was well within our grasp.

To see it slip away from us in the weeks following the restart was especially gut-wrenching. While some might moan about the injuries, the vagaries of VAR and the machinations of the Manchester clubs on and off the field, the reality is we can only blame ourselves for falling short in the end. A return of 9 points from the last 9 games was inexcusable, especially as we had already beaten 8 of the sides we faced during that run in previous encounters.

With the pandemic hitting the economy both here and in Thailand, the money from the Champions League would have been particularly appreciated. But as things stand now, we look likely to lose a number of key players and any prospect of stadium expansion looks increasingly remote.

Overall how do you rate Brendan Rodgers’ performance?

Let’s start with the positives first. Very few City managers have overseen successive top-10 finishes in the top flight, and only his compatriot Martin O’Neill had previously done so in the Premier League era. He also deserves credit for helping to develop several of the younger members of the squad, and for his audacity in taking a virtual shadow team to West Ham and winning there just two days after the hiding by Liverpool. I don’t recall any concerns being voiced then about the lack of depth in the squad.

But the wheels started to come off for him when we lost in the League Cup to Villa. The over-cautious approach he adopted in the first leg – fielding THREE central defenders against a visiting side with no strikers – left us vulnerable in the return, and avoidable defensive errors saw us miss out on a trip to Wembley.

The team’s nerve, which had been an issue on several occasions in previous seasons, started to become so again after that, especially on our travels where we had been so impressive beforehand.

Would an O’Neill in his prime have let the situation slide away from us in the way it did during the closing weeks? I seriously doubt it.

If this manager had plans to move on from City to an elite club in due course, those plans have now been dealt a serious blow. He has a credibility issue, both within a section of our fanbase and in the wider game, which he needs to deal with and resolve very quickly.

Jamie Vardy won the Player of the Year Awards, would he have been your choice and who else do you think deserves praise for their performances?

It was an incredible achievement for him to win the Golden Boot – the first time any City player has ever topped the scoring charts outright in the top flight – and so it’s no great surprise that many fans backed him.

However that doesn’t quite tell the full story of his season. When he was in the mood and on his game, he was unstoppable, But there were also times, particularly after the turn of the year, where he looked distinctly off the pace and left our attack somewhat limited and one-dimensional.

So my preference was Çaglar Söyüncü, who had a tough challenge in filling the gap left by the departed Maguire, but rose to it magnificently. Apart from a series of impressive displays for City, he also made a breakthrough into a Turkey side which could well cause a few shocks at the Euros when they are eventually happen.

Others in the squad who deserve commendation include Ricardo, who had another solid season until his knee went against Villa, James Maddison, who earned international recognition and showed glimpses of real class, and Wilfred Ndidi, who continued to excel as one of the league’s leading defensive midfielders. Young defender James Justin also did himself proud while earning more game time than either he or the City management might have expected.

What were your views on the signings made during last season?

The tag of City record signing has regularly seemed a curse over the years, and there were times during this season when Youri Tielemans seemed to be another struggling with the burden. But he did show signs of a return to form during the closing weeks.

Ayoze Perez, the other flagship signing, also had a mixed campaign, though he wasn’t helped by often being used as a square peg in a round hole. It may be significant that many of his better games came when Vardy was absent.

As previously noted, James Justin quickly established himself as a dependable member of the squad, while Dennis Praet also adapted quickly to the intensity of Premier League football. However Ryan Bennett looked a little rusty during his few appearances in a City shirt and it was little surprise that his move from Wolves was not made permanent.

Which player do you think made the most progress last season and why?

Söyüncü’s astonishing rise from fringe squad player to become one of the league’s more accomplished defenders makes him the obvious choice here. The influence of Kolo Toure, a distinguished international defender in his day and now part of the City coaching team, is obvious.

He is one of a number of City players who would have done themselves and us proud at Champions League level, and we should cherish every appearance he continues to make in a City shirt.

Harvey Barnes was another player whose improvement was noted during the season. Although he was another whose form fluctuated quite a lot in the run-in, he can be pleased with his overall tally of both goals and assists during his first full season in the top flight.

Which player did you think underperformed the most last season and why?

The name of Demarai Gray has come immediately to mind here at the end of the previous two seasons. Sadly, it does so again now. Although successive managers have shown infinite patience with him, once again he promised far more than he delivered. How much more satisfied would we have been had he produced the same level of output that Barnes did?

It would be wrong, though, to hold Gray solely responsible for the team’s ills.

I recently watched a Sky re-run of one of the games from the title season, in which the leadership, character and belief within the team were all on display. The contrast with many of the games we witnessed last season was only too apparent.

There were times when we were struggling in games and needed senior players to step up, only to see them fail to do so. In particular, for all the service he has given to the club, Kasper Schmeichel is unlikely to be remembered for his captaincy skills.

What was your personal highlight of the season?

How many times in our lifetime will we see City win 9-0 – and away from home too? The Southampton game was an occasion when everything we did came off. The only regret I have, in common with many others, is that I wasn’t there to see it in person.

VAR – how do you feel about its effectiveness last season and what would you change?

I hoped that it would ensure that all clubs were treated fairly and that it would enhance the integrity of the game. Sadly its operation during the first year fell woefully short on both counts. The standards of refereeing has fallen rather than risen.

I could rant at considerable length about the incidents that blighted our season, but most fans will recall them vividly anyway.

In my view, VAR should only be used to overturn clear and obvious errors. If folk in a studio are spending two or three minutes to make a decision, that suggests they have enough doubt to leave well alone.

Managers should also be given a chance to refer incidents to VAR – as happens in American football – especially since we know technology isn’t entirely failproof.

Moving onto next season

If you had to choose one position where we needed to strengthen, what would it be?

With Jonny Evans suspended for the first three games of next season, the need for another centre-back is imperative, especially given the extra games in a condensed schedule which will require regular rotation of the squad.

What other changes do you think are necessary to improve on this year’s squad?

Given Ben Chilwell* appears set for an imminent move to Chelsea, another left-back seems likely, although already seem well-covered in that area. The priorities should be another right-sided player, together with another striker to share the workload with existing personnel.

Would you be looking to add some experience to a fairly youthful squad or would you continue bringing in younger players and develop them?

The management will be only too aware of the need to keep a balance between youth and experience, but the limits on squads imposed by both UEFA and the Premier League mean that homegrown players will be given more opportunities than previously.

Hopefully this will be a time when the club’s investment in academy and training facilities starts to reap rewards.

If you had a chance for a word in the owner’s ears, which player(s) would you be advising to sign?

Bournemouth’s David Brooks and Burnley’s James Tarkowski are both players who could add quality and depth to our squad.

I also kept an eye on the progress of Southampton’s Che Adams, who I suggested we should have signed last summer. Although he took a long time to find the net, he continued to put the effort in whenever he appeared and I still reckon he could be an effective understudy to – and potential long-term replacement – for Vardy.

What are your expectations and fears for next season?

I very much doubt, given the changes other clubs have made, whether we will make the top six again, especially with European competition likely to prove a distraction for us. I would be concerned if we made a slow start, but the release of next season’s fixture list makes that slightly less likely.

This group of players has enough to keep us clear of trouble, but needs to step up both mentally and physically to do itself justice in some of the more high-profile encounters.

With the Europa League, Premier League and 2 Cup competitions, along with a condensed season, what would you give priority to and what would you be prepared to sacrifice?

Our priority, as always, is to reach 40 points as soon as possible to ensure we stay in the league for another season. Once that target is met, I’d hope we could have a real crack at the FA Cup, or the Europa League if we’re still in that. If progress in either or both of those competitions costs us a few league positions, so be it.

The manager knows that his legacy, in England at least, will be defined by his trophy count. If further opportunities arise during his time here, he has to make the most of them.

Any other observation you would like to make.

I fear the consequences of the pandemic will mean that the days of regular full houses at the King Power may not return for some time. Many people will have far less money to spend, while others may decide they can cope far better without football, and City in particular, dominating their lives.

The only consolation we can salvage from this is that other clubs will face the same problems. We can only hope that when we emerge from this dark age, we can still be a reasonably competitive force in England’s top league.

*This article was written before Ben Chilwell’s transfer to Chelsea

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

End Of Season Review 2019-20 Part Eight

With just over a week to go before the start of the new season, Colin Murrant continues our series of match reporters views on last season looking at the season ahead

Before the season started what were your hopes on what we could achieve?

Top 6 was a definite chance the way we finished the previous season and with BR having his first transfer window to strengthen the squad. The cup is always a dream and, with BR saying he would take the competitions seriously, a semi-final would be progress.

Given how the season panned out, in terms of success how do you rate it out of 10 and why?

Up to Christmas 10/10, in the second half of the season 4/10, therefore 7 overall. If the two halves of the season were reversed, I guess the sentiment would be different, but the disappointment of the second half leaves a feeling of what might have been in both Cups and CL qualification.

Overall how do you rate Brendan Rodgers performance?

At first impressed, but latterly very disappointed. Not least with the substitutions to a more defensive formation at Bournemouth when we were well on top. There is a stubbornness with BR over not playing certain players, Iheanacho substituted or not brought on and why pay £30m for Perez and then not play him alongside Vardy, his best position.

The defensive formation against Tottenham was a disgrace in my opinion: I said in my match preview about the threat from Spurs pacey attack, and BR did nothing to counter that threat. I also think that Soyuncu and Evans are far more effective when they play left and right side respectively yet, at times, BR chose to reverse them to the detriment of the performances.

Having said all that, I would not advocate changing BR, I hope that he is able to organise and motivate the team to play as brilliantly as they did up to Christmas when they won eight games in a row and were pushing Liverpool for top spot.

Jamie Vardy won the Player of the Year Awards, would he have been your choice and who else do you think deserves praise for their performances?

For his 23 goal golden boot achievement alone JV was a worthy winner. I think that Soyuncu, Evans and Ricardo were also contenders. Soyuncu for his performances in replacing Maguire, Evans for his steadiness in position and nurturing of Soyuncu, Ricardo for being an exceptional full back.

What were your views on the signings made during last season?

Tielemans has been a shadow of the player he was when on loan although I thought he played better in the post-lockdown games; does he play better when Maddison is not there? Perez, I have spoken about already and needs to be played nearer to Vardy, after all if he can get 12 goals a season with Newcastle he should better that at City.

Praet is a very classy midfielder who has time on the ball and rarely wastes a pass, I think he should have had more game time. Justin’s form was in and out; initially poor after Ricardo injury, I thought his performances improved a lot as his confidence grew with more game time.

Which player do you think made the most progress last season and why?

Unquestionably Soyuncu, he was rough diamond at the beginning of the season but some of those rough edges have been smoothed. He will be disappointed with his escapades at Bournemouth but he is a fan’s favourite as a result of his effort and skills, a real old-school warrior.

Which player did you think underperformed the most last season and why?

I think Tielemans, I like him a lot, but he did not exert the influence he had at the end of season 18/19: there is so much more potential with him, hopefully we see it in 20/21.

What was your personal highlight of the season?

Being at St Mary’s with my grandsons on the night that City scored nine without reply and Vardy and Perez scored hat-tricks: only once before had I seen City have two hat-trick heroes in the same match, Lineker and Lynex versus Carlisle. It mattered not that we got drenched that Friday night in Southampton. I was so worried the Covid Pandemic would curtail the season and that the 9-0 would be eradicated from the record books.

VAR – how do you feel about its effectiveness last season and what would you change?

I think the hooah over the off-side interpretation is misguided, whether it is a millimetres or not is missing the point. To my mind wherever you draw the line it will always be down to millimetres at the end of the day, the decision is objective so I would say we have to get used to it.

Where I have a problem is the subjective decisions) such as sending off offences, penalties etc) being taken away from the on-field referee. I think if VAR spots an incident then it should be brought to the attention of the referee who should then make his decision at pitch-side from the monitor. I think this might speed the decision up as well rather than the often relentless replaying of action to prove what is meant to be ‘a clear and obvious error’.

Incidentally the thing that annoys me most is the attacker handball decision which is a rule issue not a VAR issue, other than VAR permits closer analysis. How a defender can accidentally handle a ball which then accidentally hits the attacker’s arm (Iheanacho at Norwich) who then scores from 20 yards, and the goal be disallowed is beyond me.

Moving onto next season

If you had to choose one position where we needed to strengthen, what would it be?

Difficult to choose one position as we need a central defender, creative midfielder, winger and attacker. I will go for a player that is apparently available, reasonably priced and with Premier League experience; David Brooks from Bournemouth.

What other changes do you think are necessary to improve on this year’s squad?

Greater quality squad depth as we were exposed at the end of the season as injuries and suspensions kicked in; with Europa League squad depth is even more paramount.

Would you be looking to add some experience to a fairly youthful squad or would you continue bringing in younger players and develop them?

With Europe in mind I think someone with European experience would be welcome. Overall, I like youth as City have recent success in developing young talent. With Schmeichel, Ricardo, Fuchs, Albrighton, Ndidi, Vardy, Evans, Praet, Perez and Tielemans, we have a lot of players experienced at playing top division football. Depending on whether he is sent out on loan again, I think that Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall might come through the ranks this season.

If you had a chance for a word in the owner’s ears, which player(s) would you be advising to sign?

As stated above, David Brooks is a sensibly priced option. I think we might have to pay over the odds for a quality centre back so could not recommend on the basis I do not know the cost; if the price is right, Lewis Dunk.

What are your expectations and fears for next season?

Fears are two-fold, firstly we have a carry-over of post-Christmas form, secondly the Europa League takes its toll. Expectations are a long run in the Europa League and a top 10 finish.

With the Europa League, Premier League and 2 Cup competitions, along with a condensed season, what would you give priority to and what would you be prepared to sacrifice?

Always the PL and this time the Europa League which I think offers our best route into the Champions League. I think the home cups have lost their magic year’s ago, if I sacrificed one it would be the Carabao. Deep down, I would still love to win the FA Cup, but not a priority.

Any other observation you would like to make

I just think we lost an unbelievable chance of progressing in the EPL and Cups by not investing in January. To get Ryan Bennett in on loan and let Filip Benkovic go out on loan when we were short of a quality and quick centre back was beyond comprehension. I think there was almost a sense of we accomplished what we set out to do (top six) and the rhetoric from BR underlined this. Once you look like accomplishing your targets you re-assess, City chose to sit on their laurels: it is to be hoped the lesson is learnt.

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