After a few weeks of weekend matches followed by mid-week matches, the Foxes finally have a chance to catch their breath with this international break (well, unless your name is Jamie Vardy, in which case you have some work to do with the Three Lions). Leicester City moved into the international break with a 0-0 draw with Southampton last Saturday.
Most of the match, particularly the second half, was dominated by Southampton – owning 62% of possession through the course of the match. It was a match that saw the Foxes struggle. None the less, they earned a point along the way, and as always, there is much that we can gather from this week’s clash with the Saints.
Kasper Schmeichel– the guardian of the net
If you are searching for a man of the match from the weekend, look no further than between then posts. Schmeichel was fantastic – making saves throughout the match to ensure that the Saints would not find a way to get on the board. In particular, he made some crucial saves early on from shots sent on goal by Southampton striker, Charlie Austin. We earned a point on Saturday, and there is no one that we should thank more for that than Kasper Schmeichel.
While the result was important, the journey to the result is worth considering Schmeichel’s contribution. In his absence, newly signed goalkeeper Ron Robert Zieler stepped in between the posts for the Foxes. Zieler is a strong option at goalkeeper as well, and it is easy to see why he has earned call ups to the German National Team.
However, perhaps one of the most noticeable aspects during the course of the match was the play of the goalkeeper. Schmiechel’s quick reactions, ability to clear the ball, as well as play the ball out from the back made a tangible difference in the play of the side. It created a better fluidity in those moments that Leicester City had the ball, and seemed to bring a calm to some of those moments that the Foxes’ back line was under duress.
Is this to say the Zieler is not a great option at goalkeeper for the side as well? Absolutely not. Zieler is fantastic, but it was noticeable that he was still adjusting to how the Foxes play, while Schmiechel automatically locked back into the Foxes style when he stepped on the pitch last Saturday. It will be an interesting to watch Zieler continue to grow into this team, and continue to show all that he has to offer. Most of all, it is great to see the posts have some strong guardians to stand watch.
Time for a bit of rest for #9
Not a long term rest for Jamie Vardy– no need to get too anxious. He is a big part of the heart and identity of this squad, and part of what made last year so special. However, in about the 60th minute this past weekend, it became pretty clear that the forward looks exhausted – not to the point that he was refusing to move up the pitch or press- he is still doing plenty of that. Rather, he lacks the edge that is quintessential to the Vardy playing style.
Now is a great opportunity to allow Ahmed Musa or Demarai Gray to step in. Regardless, Claudio Ranieri has some decent depth with his forwards, and this seems to be a good moment to utilize this to give Vardy a bit of rest. There is a lot of football ahead of the Foxes this season, and we will need to Vardy Party to help us along the way. Thus, now might be a good time for some Musa Madness (ok, maybe there should be a better descriptor for Musa).
Finally, when considering opportunities for give Vardy a chance to rest a bit, an interesting trend has come up with selection amongst forwards. Ranieri has been selecting Leonardo Ulloa ahead of Ahmed Musa, which is a tad surprising. Musa came in as a big signing this summer, and showed off want he can do on the pitch against Barcelona in the International Champions Cup. Ulloa brings many great things to the table, but with the skill set that Musa has, it would seem that he would have the edge come off the bench, let alone make the squad listed for the match. After all, it would appear that his style would be a perfect match.
As always, some things as well look great on paper in theory, but much different in practice. This has certainly been the case with Musa. Ranieri has said that he is adapting to the style of play in the Premier League, and that does make sense. The situation may be that the Nigerian just needs a bit more time in that transition, and he is almost ready to go. Time will tell, but I would hope to see Musa in the squad soon – he brings far too much to the table to not have an opportunity to contribute for the Foxes.
Rest up everyone. Big match day ahead of the Foxes after the break.
Up Next: The Foxes have the week off leading up to next weekend’s clash with Chelsea – unless you are Jamie Vardy. Vardy and the Three Lions have some qualifying matches for the World Cup in the coming days - Saturday vs. Malta and Tuesday vs. Slovenia.