Leicester City boss Ranieri was prepared for predictable Norwich City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Leicester have been something of a revelation this season but we shouldn’t attempt to hide a disappointing defeat behind that.
Southampton aside, we’ve been able to trade blows with every opponent this season, going toe to toe and attack for attack. For a solid half an hour leading up to and just after the interval on Saturday we were properly on the ropes.
The Foxes were decent for that period; Drinkwater might not be the most aesthetically pleasing footballer but he was hugely effective and his commitment and desire shone through alongside Kante. Indeed, with Mahrez being tinkered to the bench, the side didn’t look to have much flair at all but with the likes of Albrighton supporting the tireless Vardy and Huth and Morgan at the back, they were packed with endeavour and players willing to do the dirty work.
That does Leicester a disservice though; there was far more to their game than just effort but it was the hard work that they put in during the opening 20 minutes that allowed them to get on top and ultimately put the game to bed. While they were in the ascendancy they were like a weird animal hybrid as they hunted the ball in packs and then attacked with it in swarms.
They gave us no time on the ball, pushed us deeper and as such rendered our midfield ineffective. Howson and Dorrans were faced with a wall of blue every time they received the ball and in turn Wes dropped deeper to try and elicit an impression on the game. That’s no good. We have seen to devastating effect how Wes can impact a game when he receives the ball in the “hole”, playing that much deeper lessens his effectiveness and leaves Jerome increasingly isolated. Our neat and effective triangles became hurried diamonds involving John Ruddy and our normally assured presence on the ball became increasingly rushed and error strewn.
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Our style of play has earned plenty of plaudits and had served us well thus far but on Saturday we suddenly seemed all too predictable. Ranieri was prepared for us, selected his team accordingly and there’s little doubt that he won the touchline battle. To our credit, we worked our way back into the game and were pressing for an equaliser by the end, though it should also be said that but for Ruddy the scoreline could have been more emphatic too.
Our impact on the game increased when we introduced Dieumerci Mbokani and Nathan Redmond. Redmond’s ability to beat a player and willingness to shoot from distance in accompaniment with the complete unknown of Mbokani suddenly gave Leicester something different to worry about and they looked far less comfortable as a result. We threw the kitchen sink, well, Kyle Lafferty, at them but it wasn’t to be.
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Mbokani’s deft flick to score and the visual impact that he made with Redmond will increase the calls for them to both start next time out. I’d definitely start Redmond against Newcastle, their confidence must be shot to bits after the drubbing they took at the hands of Senor Aguero but it’s worth remembering that they took the lead against City and as such shouldn’t be underestimated. I’d stick with Cameron Jerome for now, his discipline and work ethic allows us to defend effectively from the front and while Mbokani may well end up being our first choice striker; I’m happy enough with his impact from the bench at this stage.
Lafferty is another matter. I really like the bloke, last season I stated that he could become a fans favourite with his all-action displays but I have to admit to being a bit surprised at the current love-in levels. It’s all a bit Becchio at the moment but at least Kyle has an international scoring pedigree and his willingness to fight for his place and subsequent selection speaks volumes about his attitude and commitment. It’s difficult seeing him having more than a bit-part involvement but I wish him well and doubt he’ll let us down when he does play.
Leicester have a different kind of striker in Jamie Vardy; he caused us problems all day with his pace and directness. Leicester always have an “out ball” with him in the side and with us favouring getting our full backs high up the pitch, a simple lofted ball into the channels can virtually be guaranteed to put them on the front foot. He was impressive right up until he got “injured”.
Ok, I get why he did it, all teams do it to an extent, it killed our momentum and helped Leicester close the game out but I haven’t seen a back-from-the-dead recovery like that since Dirty Den in Eastenders and even that took 10 years.
While theatrics are the topic, what is it with Clattenburg? Every decision he gives is like an audition for Hollyoaks. Collina used to referee with an element of drama but he had the charisma (and eyeballs) to carry it off. Mark isn’t a terrible ref, he just needs to remember he’s on a pitch not a stage.
Sour grapes out of the way, the international break gives us some time to right the wrongs of Saturday. It also gives Newcastle a fortnight to dwell on their hammering and if McClaren wasn’t biting his nails, the exits of Rodgers and Advocaat might have got him started. It’s got the feeling of a big game about it as a win for either side would be huge in the context of the season so far. A bit early for “six-pointers” but...
• Blog post written by Duncan Edwards