We’re talking Leicester and getting unashamedly excited about Sunday. Mail us at email@example.com
Collapse? We’re getting better all the time
In response to Ryan, Dundalk FC in this morning’s mailbox I thought I would offer a Leicester fan’s point of view.
First, I couldn’t let it go unsaid – Surely the surrendering of the league comment is justified in that Wenger has repeatedly faced criticism for failing to sign a decent CDM, yet keeps making the same mistakes? It was no secret that Arsenal started the season with a lack of adequate cover in that department which I think ws pointed out repeatedly on here at the time, Coq’s injury had such an air of inevitability about it. N’Golo Kante was available in the summer for a paltry £5.6m – and with him in the team I’d be willing to bet you’d be doing better than you are currently. Not that I’m complaining of course.
Anyway, regarding this weekend I’m looking forward to the game a lot. I agree with you that you go in to the game as massive favourites. Away at Arsenal is always going to be one of the hardest fixtures of the calendar and despite recent successes it’s hard to go into the fixture optimistically. I think maybe other people are giving us a better chance than I would myself.
Mind you, I’m trying to remain humble – balls out I would say if we play anything like we have the last few games then we are in with a real shot. Never mind falling away, if anything we seem to be getting better.
We do have a point to prove after the 5-2 game earlier this season. On the face of it we got battered, I think if Vardy hadn’t have hit the post early doors the game might have gone a bit differently. But you were clearly the better team and it was undoubtedly Sanchez’s best performance all season – any team would have struggled. With hindsight I think that was the most important result of the season for us for two reasons:
1. Everybody expected us to crumble afterwards, we didn’t. We went on to carry on the positive results and carry on surpassing expectations. I think that was the first point it looked like we had learnt a lot from last season.
2. We changed from playing De Laet and Schlupp (came through as a forward at Leicester) at full-backs and switched to Simpson and Fuchs. Simpson has undoubtedly grown into the campaign and Fuchs has been incredible and consistent throughout, I would argue a strong contender for the LB slot in the team of the season so far. Since we made that switch our defensive record has completely turned on its head.
Can’t wait to see if that progression can be demonstrated on Sunday. I’m fortunate enough to be heading down to the game, although me and another Leicester mate are going to be in the home end. I did the same at the Spurs game and it was pretty hard to keep quiet, couldn’t stop from p**sing myself laughing when Huth scored at the end though! More of the same would do just fine!
Ben (Complained to a mate when Leicester didn’t get a 16 conclusions earlier in the season, he replied ‘they only roll it out for the big clubs’ – two in two weeks? Definitely big time now) LCFC
Leicester will over-think it…
As a Nottingham Forest supporter raised in Leicestershire with Leicester-supporting friends, I am in the somewhat unique position of being both delighted at the prospect of Leicester bucking the sorry trend of most obscene wage bill = Premier League champions, and delighted at the prospect of Leicester City throwing it away.
I suspect they will will.
I am reminded of the 2005 Ashes. The third test at Edgbaston. That one. The Aussies were down to their last wicket but their batsmen needed only 20 or so. English hearts were in mouths. However, when asked about England’s chances, Ian Botham (citation needed) remained supremely untroubled. And I paraphrase (vaguely remember):
“When they’re looking at just six or seven runs, they’ll think about it and they’ll crack.”
And they did.
I think you cannot over-estimate the level of scrutiny Leicester will be under as the season progresses to its conclusion. Especially against the lesser Premier League teams, (who will sit back and deny Leicester the space Man City so naively afforded them, whose fans, at least in the moment, will revel in derailing the fairy story) Leicester will over-think it.
At the start of the season, not one Leicester player was famous. From this point onwards they will all be subject to the level of scrutiny afforded normally to only THE most celebrated of players. Sunday newspaper back pages. Fifteen minutes on MotD. Think Stevie G. Think the slip against Chelsea.
‘Don’t slip, don’t slip’ Drinkwater/Simpson/Huth will hear in the Emirates wind.
I appreciate there’s little evidence of this so far. They remain defiantly confident, (a couple of Mahrez’s penalties aside) but then we’re only two-thirds of the way. When you only need nine points from the last five games, and Spurs and Citeh have won three on the bounce. Then you think.
If only for Wes ‘Royal Oak’ Morgan and all that is right and good for football, (Oh but just couldn’t it be someone else! Anyone else! Ipswich or Birmingham! Even Sheff U!) I hope Leicester do win the league. But now they’re out at a price, I’ll be putting my money on City, the Manchester variety.
Al, (Leicester’s achievements akin to Cloughie’s Forest!! We’ll talk when they’ve won summat) Sierra Leone
Can Vardy score with no space?
Battersea fox I would like to add to your analysis. I believe another huge factor in their success, is being underestimated by teams they have played against. It’s no secret Leicester’s success is largely built on counter-attacking football. This needs a certain amount of compliance from the other side i.e. actually trying to attack them and play football.
It was probably not until after Christmas that Leicester were really taken seriously as title contenders, so teams were still willing to open up and have a go at them. With the way results have gone in recent weeks I would be surprised if teams like Norwich, West Brom, Watford, Newcastle, Palace & Sunderland don’t just pack ten men behind the ball and try frustrate them. I would be interested to see how they do, when teams cede possession and make sure there is no space in behind for Vardy to run into. I have no idea if Vardy is any good in the build-up or if he’s just lethal running in behind. Mahrez is good on the ball so can still create but when teams sit so deep, they can afford to double up on him. Another mailbox contributor (sorry can’t remember who) said Leicester’s biggest challenge will be teams lower down the table, I believe this to be true.
Teams like Man Utd, Everton and Swansea are stylistically a good match because they will want to play against them, they will want the ball and want to attack them. But they will be wary of Vardy’s pace on the counter so may alter their styles to combat this. It will be interesting to see if they actually do.
On another note. Will Vardy play for England this summer? I believe Rooney and Kane are guaranteed seats on the plane (Not saying in Rooney’s case it’s entirely justified). So who will get the other two forward spots? In recent months Alli, Dier, Barkley, Kane & Vardy have all shone. Roy likes his 4-2-3-1 which only requires one forward and one attacking midfielder. If Sturridge is fit he should probably go. Welbeck who is another Hodgson favourite is nearing a return to fitness as is Jack Wilshere. Then you also have Walcott, Chamberlain and Milner who are usually in the squad.
Even though I’m not English I will be following them closely this summer because I can’t remember the last time they went into a tournament with a genuine selection dilemma.
Dan, Ireland MUFC (the good kind of selection dilemma)
Will Leicester go back to whence they came?
A quick question for the mailbox – it might break from the ticket conversations.
What next for Leicester? I know it is early to make the call, but what do people think will be their status next season? Whether they win the league or not, it is a remarkable season and Champions League football looks a certainty.
They may hit some sticky games between now and May (especially if Pulis et al decided to treat them like they would Arsenal or City) but I have decided to embrace the fact that they will win the league.
But, what about next season? Will Ranieri be poached by Italy to lead their World Cup charge? Huth or Morgan snapped up by defence-hungry managers?
They’ll do well to hold Mahrez and maybe Kante, but I think Vardy will stay at Leicester. His goal return will drop but still be respectable.
Or will the CL be enough to keep everyone there for a season?
Look back through the league at the other nearly-weres? Mainly Liverpool, I guess, who have on several occasions finished second and then dropped back to seventh the next season. Newcastle never repeated their heights, while Blackburn were relegated a few seasons later.
In other countries, it didn’t go well for Alkmaar, Kaiserslautern and Montpellier after their wins.
AZ sacked Ronald Koeman (who replaced LVG) after seven defeats in his opening 16 games. They finished fifth, 24 points of Steve McLaren’s FC Twente.
Montpellier finished 9th, 31 points off top having lost some big players.
Kaiserslautern finished fifth, but it has been a downward slide since.
It’ll be interesting to see if Leicester hold on, firstly, but also what they do next. Personally, hope the league follows the Dutch pattern – France and Germany reverted to type immediately with the big guns winning and restoring balance. It is certainly more likely, but it would be great to see someone else win it after Leicester. My footballing life has been post-Blackburn PL era, so surprises are not something I’m used to!
Kevin, LFC, Cork
Remember Forest 1994/95
On the subject of Leicester’s incredible season and in comparing them to the Nottingham Forest team of the late 70’s under Clough, there is actually another Forest team that came close to greatness and is deserving of a mention. While not as successful as Leicester at this stage of the season it was thrilling to watch. In 1994 Forest were promoted to the Premier League after one season in Division 1 where they finished second. They went on to take the Premier League by storm with brilliant counter-attacking football, eventually finishing third behind Manchester United and Blackburn (Winners). Stan Collymore was the star of the show, scoring 22, his catalogue of goals from that season on YouTube is breath-taking. A 2-1 win at Old Trafford in particular was glorious, with Stan scoring a beauty and Stuart Pearce adding another if I remember correctly. It mirrors Vardy’s rise to prominence in many ways.
They suffered a run of poor form mid-season while Collymore was injured but they went on a great run towards the end, cementing their third-place finish. It was by no means a one-man team, they had the likes of Stuart Pearce, Steve Stone, Bryan Roy and Colin Cooper who all contributed.
Following that season, Stan left for Liverpool for a British transfer record fee and he was replaced (inadequately) by Kevin Campbell of Arsenal and some Italian called Silenzi who barely played. They went on to finish mid-table and have a decent UEFA Cup run but were eventually relegated the following season and yo-yoed for a while before eventually settling as a mid-table championship team. It was great while it lasted though.
Michael, Forest fan, Dublin
Liverpool’s attack looked much more fluent yesterday. That also coincided with Lallana’s absence.
Brian (Origi tried his best impression though) LFC
Klopp: Not good
Really quick one, but I think Klopp may be the most overrated coach of all time. It is all well and good demanding years to implement a philosophy but you can teach a defence to organise themselves to defend set-pieces in a couple of weeks. Game after game Liverpool concede from a free-kick or corner. I know that old Klippity Klopp doesn’t believe teams should score off set-pieces against Liverpool but it is happening time and time again. So good luck with gengenpressing or whatever it is, you will need it.
Ben (Boing Boing)
United are the belle of the ball; Jose is the arrogant jock
We are all familiar with this banal plot twist in most tween movies. The high-school jock thinks his social status and athletic achievements have earned him the right to take the prettiest girl to the prom, even though he has broken up with every other girl he’s dated. Prettiest girl is initially flattered by his interest, but eventually sees him for the arrogant, entitled and insecure twunt that he actually is. Inevitably, she falls for the misunderstood rebel or nerd who really gets her, and they live happily ever after. High-school jock settles for vapid air-head cheerleader who is awe of him.
Dear Jose Mourinho, I know you have all the accolades in the world, a sterling reputation for winning trophies, and many burned bridges from your previous clubs. I know you think the Man United job should be yours because you deserve it. However, united will choose a new coach when they decide to. It could very well be you or it might be someone else. But until you do take United to the ball and have your dirty way with her, do us all a favour and shut your yapping. It is distracting, unprofessional and frankly disrespectful to LvG and the Belle of the league.
AJ (Pochettino really gets us) MUFC
But the belle needs the jock
I’m a big fan of Pochettino and would love him at United. However there is something about the prospect of Mourinho at United which is mouthwatering. A big-time manager for a bi- time club. The fact that the reaction to City’s announcement regarding Guardiola is all about how United will respond is telling.
Pochettino makes complete sense on many levels but there is no way the Glazers would appoint him when we have sponsors to please. Jose is brash, cocky, successful and most importantly big time. Exactly what United need right now.
Chris, MUFC, Preston
Relevant, modern, flexible? Really?
Could the Premier League have chosen a worse time to unveil their new logo? With fans walking out of matches due to potential hikes in ticket prices it’s a pretty bitter pill to swallow when hearing Premier League managing director Richard Masters roll out cringeworthy comments like “We are very pleased with the outcome: a visual identity which is relevant, modern and flexible that will help us celebrate everyone that makes the Premier League.” – what utter bollocks.
I’m sorry to debase these pages with foul language but seriously. Isn’t this indicative of the league we are now faced with? Relevant? In what sense? Flexible?! Seriously? It shouldn’t bother me this much, I’m not a staunch football fan, I like the game, but this sort of crap is really difficult to get to grips with and I believe shows the reality gap between a company and their customers.
The recent tone of the mailbox has been one of revolt and I can only assume that this faux pas (not that the Premier League will recognise the unveiling as anything other than a success story) will add fuel to flames. Or not. Football fans seem to be the most understanding of lots.
The Flan, North London
Thank you for the memories, thank you for the coverage, thank you for the highs and lows (Moyes/Van Gaal).
I’m afraid I can no longer frequent your fine site, as nothing, but nothing will ever top an article on Mr. Collina as an Icon.
Thank you and goodbye.
Do you mean Dr Collina of Hull?
Love the piece on Pierluigi Collina, an absolute legend of the game. I remember watching him on TV and feeling like he was staring in to my soul. If more refs were like that now, the respect campaign might not be such a joke. But you missed one major piece of info in the article; for no apparent reason whatsoever, Collina has an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Hull Uni. “It seems like a nice city<” he said, showing the world that this God does not in fact know everything.
More Collina talk
Great profile of Pierluigi Collina today. What it didn’t explicitly say, but is fairly obvious, is that above all Collina looks like he could kick your ar$e, which sets him apart from just about any official in any sport. While he became a household name, he did so as much for his ability to officiate a game as for his distinctive appearance, although if I remember correctly, he eventually had to stop refereeing because of his appearance in an Opel advert – they sponsored AC Milan at the time and it was seen as a conflict of interest. I also think there had been an attempt to increase the retirement age for referees so that Collina could continue – previously, there hadn’t been many referees in their mid-40s still fit enough to keep up with players young enough to be their sons, and in this respect he was a pioneer. I know from Twitter that the RFL makes their officials attend fitness camps, and I expect other sports do too, but these are a relatively modern (i.e. post-Collina) invention.
I found the section about his preparation for a game fascinating. There are two distinct schools of thought: some people think that officials should just judge what they see on its own merits, because to do otherwise is to let players’ reputations precede them – Gareth Bale’s collection of yellow cards for simulation, for example – and ignorance of this is fairer.
On the other hand, some referees in other sport do follow Collina’s approach. A few years ago, before he took charge of rugby league’s Challenge Cup final, Richard Silverwood wrote an article for the BBC about his preparation. He said he tried to watch both teams individually, and in a previous meeting, so that he could familiarise himself with any potential troublemakers/flashpoints. He did this so that he could keep an eye on certain players and have a word with them if necessary while play was ongoing, rather than having to stop everything to investigate an incident behind the play. I witnessed a similar approach at an ice hockey game in Whitley Bay some years ago, when I realised the referee was up in the stands watching the warm-up. When I asked him if he was lost, he said he was “looking for that big-mouthed f###er with the sharp elbows”. I feigned ignorance as to who he meant, and when told the player’s name, I helpfully pointed him out.
Collina became a household name through his ability to do his job, which is why celebrating him is so important, rather than through some affected personality or queue of people telling us what a “great character” he was. He deserves his place in Calcio’s pantheon.
The literary Ed Quoththeraven
Mediawatch: Not far enough
I’ve been an avid reader of this site for about four or five years now, not as long as some though! You 10-year leg ends! One of my favorite things you do is the Mediawatch and interpreting The Gossip. I also love the recommended reading of the day, this led me to the Sarah Winterburn interview on Set Pieces. Anyway I thought it was mint! I did vigorously shake my head when I read that she thought Mediawatch was perhaps going too far though these days. I disagree entirely! The absolute trash these pretenders write deserves to have the microscope floating overhead. But alas even though the papers are dying a slow death, it will continue for a while longer. When the sensational headlines stop I expect a change in football of some sort to occur, I digress.
I would take it further than Mediawatch would go however. We would have a press conference, where we line up Neil Curtis and the hyperbole smiths and await theie announcements.
“According to reports Barcelona magician Neymar has been linked to Manchester United/City for £90,000,000”
*My hand shoots up*
“What reports are these? From which source?” At this point the journalists will have to all point at each other.
“How long has Neymar been a magician?” This is important as they will have to then explain that Neymar is a footballer and not a magician or wizard and most likely say it in a condescending way. At which point we should all release a statement/blog/twitter etc that according to news reports Neymar has been accepted as a wizard to begin studying at Hogwarts anyway.
“Where did the £90,000,000 price tag come from?” Shrugs of shoulders reveal it was their best guess.
“Why should anybody listen to you!?”
“Because we’re a professional journalists.”
Conference ends. A long think begins.
Richie, Sofia BG
The clue’s in the name…
I wonder if Stu in this morning’s mailbox realises that the ‘exclusive’ bashing is generally contained within the Mediawatch section. You know, where they explicitly analyse the media and what they do. It isn’t F365’s fault that there is rampant abuse of the word ‘exclusive’. That would be like me complaining that there are too many emails in the mailbox and that the Gossip is full of spurious transfer speculation.
John Matrix, AFC
Should it stay in Mediawatch?
Love the site.
However, one thing has started to annoy me. The ‘lines’ between the Gossip report and Mediawatch are becoming a little blurred.
The gossip is starting to read a lot more like Mediawatch, taking shots at journalists and their not-so-exclusive exclusives. Then fast-forward a few hours later, and you have Mediawatch, repeating the same story with the same /similar shots at the same journalists.
Today’s sections in both Gossip and Mediawatch about Neymar and Antony Kastrinakis being a case in point.
As a consequence I tend to skip through Mediawatch, as I feel I have already read most of it.
Can the Gossip section not be just that? Gossip. Without the pot shots. Leave that to Mediawatch?
Gavin (maybe it is just me?) MUFC