Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Thoughts on Leicester City

I have very little to go on save a few conversations and a brief highlight from one game, but that never usually stops me chucking my oar in so heads up.

Away in the Champions League last week Leicester City produced an outstanding away goal to give themselves a chance in a two-leg tie. The goal, scored on the break in their stylish counter-attacking way, involved a perfect Danny Drinkwater cross and a late-arriving Jamie Vardy putting it away. Cracking goal. Shortly after that their manager, who had led them to the Premiership title the previous season, was sacked.

The next match saw Leicester beat Liverpool 3-1. Vardy scored twice.

Some people pointed out that the sacking of the manager gave them something to prove. Well that worked then. We'll see if it continues so to do.

But I see something different. That Premiership-winning season showed us what can happen if a team has everything go like a dream. Since that can rarely be expected, Gary Lineker's offer to present Match of the Day in his pants was not one he thought he would have to keep.

All teams are trying to do what Leicester did. For few does it come right. In my judgement last season Leicester played teams in the right order. There is a right order and you want to play teams on a run of confidence-sapping defeats, with star players missing or with nothing to play for. Their team suffered minimal injuries. I reckon their defensive pairing of Morgan and Huth avoided a lot of deserved suspensions. Their style worked. Shots went in the corner of the goal rather than hitting the post.

Then they sold KantĂ© to Chelsea for £30m and couldn't re-invest it in anyone similar. Teams such as Leicester need to take £25m profit when they can get it. The big four will buy the players from the next ten teams, if they are vaguely any use, to keep themselves as  big four.

Chatting to fans I learn that the style was the same this year but it simply didn't work so well. Final passes were misplaced. Shots narrowly missed, were well saved or hit post or bar. A bad run sapped confidence. Players got injured. Huth and Morgan were a season older and slower.

In that away goal at Sevilla I saw the season turn. That was Leicester at their best. They would probably still have beaten Liverpool who are depressing right now.

In football details are everything. You have to expect that everyone is trying to do the big things right. The detail of that away goal should have put the Leicester owners on notice to keep faith with Claudio.

Leicester City aren't a great team any more. Last season they were a little above average and this season are average. They will finish mid-table. 

My own team, West Brom, are having a remarkably good season but eighth is our rightful place and seventh the dizzying heights of ambition.

Last season was a joy for football fans because it gave us all hope. Which is stupid. It shouldn't have. Normal service is resumed. Chelsea walking it. But the teams still in the Champions League haven't experienced a Leicester moment yet. I wonder?

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