The Fit Factor


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I could comment on a number of factors about Leicester City’s current success, and in combination they compliment each other and give the club a foundation that hopefully we can build upon to maintain Premiership status for many many years to come, but I’m just going have a go at writing some words on one area, with little structure, overuse of poor humour, and self-deprecation.

I remember the Bolton side ‘the man that ordered some chips’ developed up to 2005, and the remarkable work keeping pros going at ages that seemed impossible, but somehow they extended some careers and put experience, quality, and a higher level of maintained performance. All of which proved successful for a club of Bolton’s stature to punch way above its head instead of fighting an expected relegation.

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They managed on a modest budget between 2003 & 2005, and seriously brought to the club experienced quality. After this they went and signed the Big Sulk (enter big pic of Anelka) for a whopping £8.5m like a bunch of mentalcases.

But what they did before that was draw in decent players albeit on serious wages, and used their sports science department to keep them fit, and get the most out the experience they had to formulate tactics that suited what they had and got the most out of these strengths.

This article about sports science and the impact of a successful use of it probably spells things out better than I can. 

An extract:

“At Bolton, Allardyce conceptualised a rigid game plan around data. His backroom staff included David Fallows, a former Prozone analyst, Gavin Fleig, who had studied under Mike Hughes, and Ed Sulley. Allardyce and his performance analysts had a model he called “the Fantastic Four”: four areas that dictated success. Out of 38 games, they knew that a team had to prevent the opposition scoring in at least 16 games to avoid relegation. They knew that if they scored first they would have a 70 percent chance of winning the game. They knew that set pieces, free kicks and corners accounted for nearly a third of the goals scored, and in-swinging crosses were more successful than out-swinging, so they practised not only those types of crosses but also defending against them. They also discovered that they would have an 80 percent chance of not losing if the players outworked their opposition by covering more distance at speeds above 5.5m/s. Allardyce insisted on players using long throw-ins, deep into the opponent’s area — if a player failed to follow that simple command he’d go crazy because he knew the odds of scoring had been reduced. Bolton’s performance analysts studied a huge number of throw-ins and Allardyce would organise players in the places on the pitch where the ball had the highest probability of landing, the so-called positions of maximum opportunity, or “pomos”, to increase the odds of scoring. “Pomos weren’t just relevant to throw-ins. In training, he would shout to the players to attack their pomos when trying to score,” says Sulley. Between 2003 and 2007, Bolton recorded consecutive top-eight finishes in the Premiership, a record of consistency bettered only by the top four. They qualified for the UEFA cup for the first time in 2005 and again in 2006. When Allardyce left in 2007, they had an impressive 39 points after 21 games.”

 

Show me the numbers

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Now I’m not comparing like for like with Leicester City, by no stretch of the imagination, but what we’ve done is similar to a degree. We’ve spent much more, but on the scheme of things is we’ve taken our sports science to the next level in conjunction with better tactical scouting based on statistical analysis of what will compliment and strengthen what we already have, for higher but still marginal sums of money.

Ranieri couldn’t have come into a better set up.

PICTURE ALEX HANNAM - Burton Albion v Leicester City - Claudio Ranieri - STORY

A long link with Loughborough University going back to 2009 (under Milan Mandaric), that clearly had been building a foundation of solid knowledge and expertise. With our new owners they improved our own facilities, and have clearly invested in staff, facilities, and equipment necessary, to have one of the best departments in the country.

Anyone who cares disagree, may need to look at the number of injuries we’ve had, the money we’ve spent, and an ubiquitous snapshot of the Premiership table, and some of the results we’ve managed to produce so far this season.

http://www.lboro.ac.uk/service/publicity/news-releases/2009/21_LCFC.html

‘A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed in which both parties will work together in a broad range of research, consultancy, training and other areas of mutual benefit.

The agreement is thought to be the most extensive of its kind between a football club and an academic institution – consistent with the Foxes’ vision of being at the forefront of technology in a cutting edge industry.’

I think this partnership was a major turning point leading to the club’s current success, and it seriously shouldn’t be overlooked in its enormity.

Nigel Pearson talked to the media during his tenure, I can’t seem to find it specifically to link you to it, but he was keen on the small percentages. Basically if you make small improvements across the board, minor positive percentage increases, then this can make the difference. Doing this across the board and involving the players actively in this process has clearly paid off.

This includes the fitness, but not forgetting the psychological work that’s done with players to get motivated, positive, and enthusiastic, and overcome challenges as team and personally.

Pearson mentioned this in the past, and I know that we’ve got successful momentum currently in our favour, but a supportive department in that area for those who are not making the team, but have the hunger to step up. It’s something that Bolton aligned with their fitness and tactical work too.

Here’s an article on OptaPro, By Ryan Bahia, Inside Leicester City. A real good professional insight into the work that’s done behind the scenes.

This percentage improvement ethos seems to be prevalent across the club. Small gradual but significant improvements all adding up to success. Whether we now, having exceeded our own expectations, have to take a leap of faith and inject much more so soon will be up to the owners. The question of the stadium upgrade and a European adventure, may twist the arms holding the chequebook.

Ranieri has asked the players to adhere strictly to the training routine devised for them over the break prior to today’s game with Norwich City FC, even though they could do what they pleased.

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The bit that’s important is whether the players can stick to these without question. It is paramount that they have the full buy-in’, and can see themselves the benefits of doing so, which is being ready for the challenge ahead now the break is over, which is mountainous, but not impossible.

I always bark on about the final third of the season and its importance, and this season has been no different (though VERY different). If we can maintain that extra edge physically in our forthcoming matches then we can do continue to do what others teams have failed to do.

Look at all the major clubs failing to meet expectations. The amount of injuries this season for big-name and big game players has been astounding. This hasn’t been the only factor but has been a serious contributor to our own success, as, we seem to have a consistency that other teams have not been able to put together, because their teamsheets have been forcibly muddled, or key areas have opened them up either in defence or in attack.

When you look at Jamie Vardy, he’s another kettle of fish. His determination even when he was injured, and playing with a broken wrist, and a groin injury has been a different phenomenal factor and maybe needs its own article alone.

Not only are we playing with a level of fitness that most haven’t achieved once this season, we are playing tactically with our competitors during the match. Our levels are such that we, now we took our foot off the gas over Christmas, run rings around teams that are nowhere near our level in this aspect, and we’ve turned the screw on them in the early first third of the season, with stunning comebacks and thrilling disregard for our foes with wins where there never was a window.

We have had another rest, and if come back with a hunger, we could threaten to do the impossible, and achieve something very very special indeed.

 

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Don’t forget to read from tuppence wot I wrot last week etc!!!!

Oh Captain…my Captain!

 

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Oh Captain…my Captain!


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I won’t bother you or bore you with a paragraph of excuses to why I’ve not written anything for awhile, because a.) you’ve probably not read this blog before, and b.) it’s not that interesting anyways.

However, in my interlude things have massively progressed and we’re at this time top of the league and playing out a dramatic thread of heroic magnitudes from relegation to prospective title contenders. It simply is unreal!

Last week’s game against Man City, nearly brought me to tears. Now…I was poorly with a shitty cold, and hadn’t really slept for the week prior, so I was vulnerable, and my guard was down. We were gifted with the improbable, and we played like incredibles.

I’ve been extremely interested in the attention the team, and the club have garnered over for the last year or so, and how it’s gone from write-offs from the media and our gambling factories.

 

The X Factors –

Like a perfect storm our situation has been a combination of momentum, hard work, scouting analysis, training, and tactics. And seemingly a faltering elite, who with a cataclysm of injuries, unrest, management disasters and continuing executive failure, an opportunity arose to whomever was ready to accept it.

We’ve not just been lucky as some bitter supporters have griped, and even some media up to this point have muttered under their breaths and now have mostly had to concede their preseason predictions and inability to swallow that lump of broken pride. I give credit to them for changing their minds and admitting they had been hasty, that lump has some sharp edges. But the facts can’t be denied.

Now a lot has been written on the momentum, the scouting, the playing personnel, the consistent team sheet, and the Pearson legacy. All important in their own rights, but attention to each has been the key. Improvement across the board. But the underlining successful ethos isn’t rocket science. Identify your strengths. Play to them. Identify your weaknesses. Don’t try to eliminate them, just improve all of them by a small percentage. Obtainable improvements that build positive reinforcement of a strong team ethos and collective desire for achieving their goals.

 

Bang for your Buck –

Nobody can deny that one of the key elements of Leicester City’s success has been the team spirit. This spirit of course has been gorging on success at the table of the top. The difficulties of our relegation struggle a memory that helped forge a stronger bond, and the development of an even fiercer union, as we emerged from relegation ashes and escaped from its seemingly inevitable clutches not with a whimper, but with a roar.

There’s uncertainty of why or how all of a sudden something fell into place, and I’m not going to add my tuppence to that historic conversation, as it would be supposition and conjecture that at this point doesn’t change the outcome.

I also won’t gloss over Pearson’s graft. The methodology was all laid down prior to Ranieri, and I am grateful to Pearson for laying the foundation of what could be a fine erection once it’s finished.

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This attention to areas that conceivably can be improved in detail by one or two percent is applied to aspects across a players’ training, utilising and analysing the data, and more importantly extracting and identifying where those weaknesses if improved could make the most impact. Like the scouting network’s ethos, of biggest bang for your buck. Lean thinking and avoiding wastage of time and efforts that only return the same or only a minute difference on overall result. Coming up with a calculation for success, and then finding players that can offer characteristics and prospective attributes to achieve these mini goals has been the less sexy side of our success story. Data, maths, and analysis.

If you review the type of players have brought in you can if you watch with any succession, a team of hungry, driven, players in unison that with underlying fitness that most other teams dream of.

Each player with their own plan, fitting into the overall team’s firm and achievable objectives of improvement.

 

The 2% Percenters –

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As I watched our team formed. I noticed a common trait amongst the majority of those employed.

I recall (or I’m imagining?) a quote from an interview Alex Ferguson made about his cup and title winning team. Asked why he made a substitute of his Captain, his stern response was that he had a team of captains, and when the actual captain came off for whatever reason that he expected his team to step up and show a collective leadership on the pitch.

When you look across the team sheet and you see not only International captains, strong work ethics, and a never say die approach from individuals, a camaraderie that even facing what on paper looks like insurmountable odds there is a united fearlessness that drives them forward hammering the opponents with relentless attack, and composed defense.

From actual large physical specimens to the even the smallest in stature it seems to me that the hard graft behind the players, and their purchase to the core ideals proposed them and the belief in the tactics from a manager who has been unrightfully questioned in appointment by detractors and unbelievers, has taken us from what I believed to a season finishing in midtable to a team now looking forward to a competitive tour of Europe and the tantalising prospect of a title.

Whilst the latter is still for me only prospective, I will not question whether we have the bottle nor the talent, nor the manager to pull it off.

There is bound to be more eventful drama ahead. I genuinely predict that there is going to be a team that’s going to face us yet, that is going to receive a colossal defeat as I think we’ve yet to hit our full stride following our lull during the Christmas period, which was a transitional period tactically, as Claudio focussed on sewing up the defense and helped form a team that maintains shape, works a focussed unit, and has helped improve our goal difference, for which I think may prove an important factor in our positional finale.

Claudio and fox

 

Tomorrow’s game against Arsenal is not the benchmark on which we can draw conclusions for the season, as Claudio says, it’s just another game. A game that will be a lot different to the game we played back in September. We’re not a different team. It’s just we’ve just gotten even better.

If you like what I write, or even if you think I’m garbling nonsense, then by all means leave a comment, or if your interested what else I might dribble, then follow me as below!

 

Thanks for reading (and making it this far!)

 

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All Things Blue and Beautiful


What more can be said about our return to the Premiership? I’ve been using all sorts of adjectives to describe our start, and specifically ran out of ways of describing the Manchester United match. I do hope West Ham, Everton and West Brom are exceptionally grateful for us literally breaking their defence. Without a first team CB available, they are going to have score a lot of goals to avoid a repeat of what for me is the most joyous Leicester City match and performance I’ve witnessed for a very long time.

So many years ago I adopted LCFC, the local team to my immigration. Not the big boys. I wasn’t diligent, it was a slow process.

The first game I saw was the Crystal Palace playoff match in 1996. I saw it over a good friends house. What a match to begin my journey.

I’ll be honest, it wasn’t a season ticket I went out and bought at the next opportunity. I’ll even admit at one point sneering at the game itself. But I followed the progress of the club and watched games I could, and went to the games I could afford to, and those I gratefully sorted out by others.

Now over the years, you don’t need me to repeat in detail our ups and our downs. Some of those downs were truly heartbreaking, and some of those snatched highs were fantastic.

Over the last 4 years for me have been a increasingly exciting and full of drama, and looking back maybe I wouldn’t have had it any other way, as this season wouldn’t taste a sweet as it does, and last week’s result wouldn’t have given me a temporary physical disorder for two days.

Whilst this was great, work was none to pleased, and driving was made pretty much next to impossible.

So Saturday has come, and it’s been a long, long exasperating week! The waiting has been killing me.

A look at Palace this week in the Cup, they put out a strong side. That side played extra time, and they’ll be weary, but shouldn’t be underestimated. Their own results have been commendable. A 3-3 draw against Newcastle away, an away 2-3 win against Everton, and though a loss against a second team sided Newcastle, they are still scoring goals, are a serious threat. Or defence will need to be on their game. The whole team needs to be.

I can’t see Nigel wanting to change a winning formula, but he may take more conservative approach to Selhurst Park. I would be delighted to see Warnock complain about the ref, and blame everything but his players for not totally dominating and be the better team.

I think there are still some surprises to come from us this season.

Players that to be honest I felt might be sitting on the bench have stepped up to the plate and made major impacts in our current momentum, making Nigel’s job picking the team a difficult one.

It’s going to be a long slog this season, and the competition within the team gives me confidence that we can maintain our place in the premiership, and hopefully push on to bigger and better things!

KTF!

If you are interested in being involved with a video I’m putting together, then read my previous article and see the video below.

Nextpectations

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Nextpectations


So I’ve been bored again, and wanted to do another LCFC video after my last one.

 

 

As that’s a little out of date, it makes sense now we’re in the Premiership to make one that’s not going to go out of date within a week!

So here it is, it’s not finished so please don’t be too harsh!

 

 

However I’d like to fill it out as the season progresses, but I wonder whether you’d like to be involved? If you’d like a photograph or video of yourself at a game, on the way to a game, watching the match celebrating etc, then please do post them on my Facebook page, and I will add them to the video:

Spherical Fox Blog – Facebook

By the way I don’t make any money whatsoever doing this, it’s a hobby, and one that I’m not exactly great at! But practice makes perfect, and it keeps my idle hands busy!

I’ll be putting mind to digits following our Arsenal match, so keep an eye out for my blabblings on our season so far, the drama of our transfer window, and my thoughts on the year ahead! (I know you can hardly contain yourself! Ha!)

Up the Foxes!

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The Money Shot


I always seem to be apologising for my lack of writing with some lame excuse. It truly has been some time since my last tippety-tap on the keyboard related to Leicester City Football Club and the sharing of my unqualified and probably unwanted views.

If you’re interested since my last foray of self-indulgence and cry for attention, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing my second child being brought into the world through the fine efforts of my wife.

The day that we went for the scan, we parked in the hospital car park, and were stepping out of the car, Kasabian’s ‘Club Foot’ came blasting on the radio. I took this as a sign that it was going to be boy. This small omen was indeed true. I knew that I was indeed going to be passing down my infatuation with all things Leicester City to my unfortunate unborn heir.

Now that was many, many months ago, and he was born in to the world early June. Our first transfer of the season. <cough>

So there you go, only two weeks after he was born I unfortunately had to move house, so I had another excuse to not sit down and culminate my thoughts and assertions on last season and the season’s expectation ahead.

So do I have a sufficient excuse for parlaying my musings, and making further rubbish videos for, what seems my own amusement? I don’t think anyone else is losing sleep, not like I currently am!

Season of the Twitch

I have to say that last season for me was exceptionally cruel. I felt that the exercise that Pearson was putting in place to cut down costs and still fight for a playoff place was always going to be difficult one. High earners who on the books were actually harming and stifling our chances of not only last season, but this seasons transfers.

Pearson pared back the team to bare bones, with the 2nd smallest team in the league.

Our last minute push into the promotional places was a surprise to me. Lady luck graced us for once, and we crept through on fortunate results going our way.

Reflecting back on the turning points of the last 3 seasons, it seems that we have always been one kick from putting our demons and bad luck behind us. Each of these more devastating than the last.

La Folie des Grandeurs

So leading on to our current season, a minority of our fans had us written off before we even kicked a ball, and felt justified within 20 minutes of our first game against Middlesbrough.

From all forums and mediums came the negatives, and the further calling for Pearson’s head. Justification for their all-summer braying? It seems that once the game finished there was an eerie silence. After a few days of hiding, slowly they came out to evidence that it was only one game, and that indeed we’d be shite the next game. 90 minutes proved nothing.

Well to an extent this is true. Our broadcasted display against Leeds last week was certainly nothing to crow about, but a defiant display by Leeds, well organised, and set out to both disrupt and nullify our new formation worked a treat for them. McDermott is no fool, and a decent manager. Whilst they stopped us from making chances, equally, and more positively we did the same to them. If we can achieve this against the teams in the coming season, who on paper, have exceptionally strong squads we might again push for the play-offs at least.

Cutting the Cloth to Suit the Wardrobe

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So it looks as though, with the transfer window slowly closing we are not going to be doing much business. It’s clear the FFP rules have hampered our ins and outs, and we’ve downsized our wardrobe, which was being put together with allen keys and a rusty monkey wrench last season, to the distress and dismay of some, and seemingly the breakdown of others this summer.

Suit You Sir!

Our owners have brought in Terry Robinson as Director of Football. Terry’s remit hasn’t been made clear by our owners, by Terry, or anyone else at the football club for that matter.

I suggested a very long time ago that the best transfer, at that time, was to bring in a DoF to the club, (see here for my thoughts – All I Want for Christmas ), so as a bridge from the owners down to the manager, as someone with experience in that role, who had successfully performed in that job, could reap rewards for us. I had suggested David Dein, who had left Arsenal, had a done a tremendous job at that club,  a lot of contacts, and had instilled an ethos that, whilst it could be argued hasn’t still yet provided Arsenal with a glut of silverware, it has made them a profitable club, with which in my opinion has the right balance of business and football.

So has Terry been brought in to deal with the transfers, and leave Nigel to handle the coaching and the on-field strategy and preparations?

So many questions are being asked to whether this is something that Nigel can work with, agrees with, or is happy to allow. Some of his interviews regarding transfers of course, as usual have been exasperated affairs, but when pushed has suggested that ‘he’ll have to wait and see’. So does that mean he’s no longer got a say in who in the squad should remain or are key to the team’s success this season?

Why haven’t we heard from our Director of Football yet? Will we hear from them? Do we have an idea of what their plan is, what the strategy will be?

Incommunicado

I think we can all agree that the club has a bit of an issue with its communication. As the aforementioned club plans, to a manager who to an extent finds it a clear chore to speak to local media, and more national outlets too?

The club’s website is both untimely for a great deal of communication (see the Monaco friendly debacle).

The fans, in my view are demanding, in this day and age, a more up-to-date roll out of communications.

I don’t think I expect or want to Pearson to spill the beans on his transfers targets, or give away formations or strategy in interviews, or the club to post daily updates on what’s being served in the club canteen, but an improvement on the existing, or non-existing comms would help not hinder its rep amongst fans, even those in the minority whose vocal negativity can be hear the loudest.

Affirmative Reaction

I’ve been a reactionary over the last season or two, and especially during the off-season. What I have been reacting to though hasn’t been the team, it’s been the minority of fans, who are determined to try to pull the rest of those with optimism down to their negative levels.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with criticism or comment on the team or manager, or the club for that matter, as long as it’s constructive, and actually based on some degree of either common sense or extraction of emotion from the analysis. I won’t point out examples of these, but to say that some have been both distasteful, and utterly moronic at extreme points would be an understatement. Then you have the trolls. But you’ll know who these are if you read various forums, and use twitter, to know that these individuals need this attention to fill their vacuous and empty lives. Paying them any attention at all, biting their hook, just fulfils their sad wish for notice.

I’ve said before that I’ll question Pearson’s methods, and comment critically where I think it might be justified, and again on individuals or team performance, but only when it can be constructive. We as fans will need to be even more together in a strong and exceptionally competitive league.

We have more or less the same team that we had last season, give or take, and the statistics show that last season we barely chopped or changed a thing, which of course, I suspect we’ll be following that trend. A small compact team, with a bit of experience behind them together as a unit, makes us a stronger team this season, not a weaker one, just because we haven’t made 11 transfers in and out.

No Money No Problems?

I have optimism that with the current squad we can still maintain momentum given that we settle into our new formation, and can mix it up when needed. Yes, I’d like a couple of players in to provide us a bit of depth, and Shane Duffy, who we have be linked with on loan, would be a good start, as we are suffering from a blight of injuries at CB, and with a long season ahead, some astute loan signings will definitely make the difference. It was obvious from last season what the protocol would be, and the loan market would need to be leant on for us to try and compete. Pearson’s backroom team have a good eye for talent, and we’ve shown that loan players can succeed and push into the 1st team. Keane being a very good example of this – though I’m sure Fergie’s caveat was that he does play at every opportunity. Whilst he did on occasion show naivety, he proved his worth.

I do hope that this lack of financial clout, will extract the pressure that has been clinging to the club, and the fans, and we can perhaps see ourselves as we have done in the past as slight underdogs, given the amount spent at other clubs, including those who have recently come down from the Premiership, and we can push on from last season and be a success.

So bring on Derby this afternoon! My lack of sleep, my lack of writing, and my absence of personal finance, won’t impact my love and support for Leicester City Football!

I hope to pass this passion to my young son, and hope that he too will join me on matchday and sing from the stands and make his Daddy proud!

Up the Foxes!

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Can You Meme That Player pt.1


Right, so leading on from yesterday, I’ve put a bit of text on some of the memes I was messing with.

Meme That Player

Let me know what you think?

I’ll be updating them bit by bit today, so keep a check out for new ones.

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Meme That Player?


Due to work, my commitments to delivering all things stupid have been severely curtailed in recent months. It’s not that I’m not bothered. Just getting the time is the most difficult. Begging and borrowing time tokens to do stupid man-child silliness.

But as I’ve had the day off today, I’ve got bored and thought it’d be wonderful to see some of our players and even our manager bestowed in meme fashion.

Here’s some of my quick efforts:

I know they are not great, so if you can do better, then share back!

If you want to borrow them and add text and what not, then by all means help yourself and share back!

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