I’m glad I saved trying to write this until this morning, as I think the state I was in yesterday; the excitement and optimism might have read a little differently than what you’ll now read below. I’ve tried to temper it a little.
I read a fair amount of optimistic posts about that we would be turning over a team sooner than later, and certainly and specifically Derby. I didn’t believe it.
Derby have been playing with great spirit. They seem to have been given an ethos of underdog by Clough, to which the points on the board indicate that not only is it working, but the team is full of hard-working, never say die players, picked from the lower leagues, with a few very bright sparks. Sort of reminds me of a team we may have had some years ago.
So on that basis, I gave respect to Derby and Clough’s team, and expected us to win, but on a smaller margin.
For me a lot of the league table is a false one. We can look only back over the last 3 years how at this stage a short run can flip you from lower mid-table to vying for playoffs, and of course riding high at the top of the table to point scrounging relegation fodder.
Derby are a team that are using methods of motivation to get points on the board as soon as physically possible. They aren’t the only ones. It seems to me that there have been a fair few big wins for teams, but also a lot of draws in the CCC. The old adage that this is a tough league, and anyone can beat anyone is true, but only in my view in the first third of the season, and to a lesser extent the second.
It’s the final third where the teams with promotion contention truly come into their own.
My own expectation is that Sven has built a team capable of succeeding in this final third.
The First Third
I feel that we were always going to struggle to dominate in the first third of the season. Expectations was going to be high, an entire team gelling together, and playing against teams all desperate to put vital points on the board in the first third.
To me the first third of the season for a manager with teams with weaker squads is most important. Therefore the expected happens. Teams labelled as promotion contenders by the bookies get turned over, or suffer lost points in dull, counteracted draws.
Of course then there are those who, as discussed in previous articles, and proven to an extent by ourselves, who come up from League One, backed by money, can take their momentum from last season into this. With financial backing, good coaching, can maintain this over the season, can look at promotion with hungry eyes. Southampton and Brighton are following what has been done before them. Norwich City a fine example of how to do it.
The Second Third
Maintaining this forward trajectory for most, through the whole season, is nigh impossible. Moving into the second third we will see the table slowly change. There’ll be some surprise results here and there but at this stage the points difference between the top three and the bottom three truly grows in distance.
It’s in this second third that the games come thick and fast. With this the number of injuries and yellow cards rack up. This can of course be offset with new players in the January window, but it’s been a rare occasion where the January window has been utilised to reinforce an average team to a winning promotion team. An expensive and sometimes senseless window. Leicester had to use this last season, and I think we may well look at one or two players, but the reliance won’t be required.
With the pressure of extra games from playing in the FA Cup, small teams will be stretched.
Leicester City will use it a means to give their strong reserve side some competitive matches, and reinvigorate confidence and momentum.
The Final Third
Going into the final third the area where most teams fail to have the adequate depth is in the midfield. Yes defensively to lose a CB at this stage to injury can be harmful, but to control the pace and matches, for me the midfield is the most important.
Leicester City has had a few detractors who still think we have far too many CMs. I disagree. I think we have the number and quality that we will need to successfully make to, and through the final third, and maintain a cohesive and quality passing game that we can see developing before our eyes.
What sets us apart from other current promotion contenders, but the depth we have across the positions we have, and the formations we play, will enable us to replace almost like for like. This has been our disadvantage, and where we failed to jump the final hurdle last season. We were clearly exhausted in the midfield. Huffing and puffing we couldn’t keep it up. Tiredness led to an exhaustion of ideas and putting games to bed.
Was yesterday a turning point?
Not for me. I think the doubters have been shown another preview of what is to come and what we are capable of when fully flowing. Even they are starting to change their tunes.
I don’t think we are now going to turn over every team we encounter by any stretch of the imagination, but what I think we are seeing is a transitional period for Leicester City, where the pieces are falling in place. It’s unfortunate that the international break has come as we could do with keeping this going. But a very positive result going into a break is still encouraging for the team.
For me the backend of the fixture list is where I see some astounding scorelines.
From my point of view on the players, there wasn’t a bad performance on the pitch. For me the stand-outs were Mills and Bamba at the back. Derby were forced to hoof the ball into and around the box and I don’t remember where either one of them weren’t at the end of it with brilliant clearing headers. Konchesky and Peltier were solid and made great tackles and provided a bit of width when needed.
The midfield knocked the ball around with confidence and fluidity on a beautifully smooth green carpet. They harried and chased the ball down. Danns, Abe, King were brilliant.
Danns was especially up for the game, and delivered some telling crosses. King seemed to be determined to prove his place in the starting line-up and or me had his best game this season. Abe showed great composure, and perhaps (though I would like him to) shouldn’t listen to shoot when the crowd want, but when there is a better opportunity to do so. Maybe a free kick?
Fernandes showed true spirit and was up for the game. His initial visionary pass to Nugent was special, that it was great to see Nugent score from it. He did a great job closing down, and getting stuck in, though it could be said that he can be overzealous at times, and should be careful.
Not forgetting the efforts by Vassell and Nugent, I can say that for those who say that Vassell adds nothing to the team, or doesn’t score enough goals for a striker, I’d argue that it’s his tenacity, and guile that shakes the oppositions defence giving the opportunities for others. His goal was fortunate, as he was in the right place at the right time, but thankfully he put it away.
Nugent has shown statistically that when he is in the team we are a better side. Commentators said he’s back to his Preston form. This is really exaggerated nonsense, though I think he can easily replicate his form from last season, and that will do Leicester City just fine, when we get Beckford on form.
The substitutions should also get some praise. Dyer came on for a tired Danns and proved to me that he can offer more than just the pace that he possesses in abundance. I hope he can prove me wrong more often.
Schlupp is such a great sub to have on the bench. He sometimes looks a bit erratic, but his pace, and sheer determination is fantastic to watch. Getting a goal was great for his confidence too.
I probably have been one of the fans who’ve written off Howard. I hang my head in shame, as when he came on he did exactly what he is good at. Holding up the ball and providing great control and delivery to teammates seeking to score. Dyer will be grateful for his inclusion for sure.
Sven’s Tactics and Plans
For me I’ve been watching Sven’s plan unfold, and I’ve seen elements that have not worked, and seen Sven resolve them. Sven’s overall plan seems evident to me. He’s not just planning for the next game and the game following that. He’s got an overarching blueprint for success and promotion.
There well may be still doubters out there, but we’ve shown the rest of the league on television that they will have to up their game to a magnificent level to get something from us. For this I am excited and the anticipation for each game grows in me like a overwhelming euphoria that I am desperate to tap, bottle, and sell on Ebay.
Let’s hope for the best!
Come on you Foxes!
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