Now and then here on Fosse Posse, we get a chance to chat with members of SB Nation’s other blog sites about the upcoming matches for the Foxes. In his particular case, Charlie Walsh from West Ham blog Brace The Hammer took some time to answer some questions about the clubs’ upcoming match on Saturday.
With the Hammers seemingly back in form, Leicester will have their collective hands full (as seems to be the case every week lately) with the King Power Stadium’s latest guests.
Check out the full Q&A below and be sure to check out the great work being done by Brace The Hammer...after you’ve had your fill of Leicester content, of course.
Fosse Posse: West Ham experienced a similar slow start to the year that Leicester has but has seemingly turned it around the last few matches. What’s been the biggest reason for the change in fortune?
Brace The Hammer: Being honest, I wouldn't describe it as favourably. Our draw at Anfield had whiffs of last season's West Ham about it but our two subsequent 1-0 victories at home against Burnley and Hull were undeserved. Hull especially can consider themselves highly unfortunate to not have come away from The London Stadium with 3 points. We were undeniably the better side during our Boxing Day fixture at Swansea however. It would be fair to say that the home side's horrendous defence which eventually got Bob Bradley the boot made it easier for us but you can only beat what's in front of you. We did that with aplomb.
The change back to a back 4 was vital to this. We thought we would be all trendy and play 3 CBs while injuries crippled us all over the shop and for a while it stopped the rot. However it became glaringly obvious that using the system isolated our forward line and stifled passing. Apparently it's really easy to cut out passing lanes when there is literally only one player to pass to anyway. Who knew? The change meant we had more bodies in attacking positions and actual options.
We have also thankfully started to get something resembling a full strength squad together. Our big bumbling bag of limbs Andy Carroll has returned, giving opposition CBs "something to think about" while record signing Andre Ayew gains match fitness with each passing moment. It should also be noted that Darren Randolph has given us a serenity in goal that the loveable yet unnervingly unpredictable Adrian didn't.
FP: One of the more controversial matches of last season’s title-winning campaign for Leicester was the 2-2 draw with West Ham in this fixture towards the end of the season. What was your impression of that match?
BTH: My two predominate memories were of the away fans singing "Jamie Vardy's having a shower" and that it was a very grabby affair. Is that a word? Grabby? Sure. By the end, all anyone wanted to talk about was the referee and that's never a good thing. At the time I thought both the penalties were soft but believe Vardy's sending off was both correct and needless on his part. He put your title chances at risk by getting sent off so stupidly. It meant we were the better side and, from my perspective at least, deserved at least a point.
Some of the rules exposed during that encounter still need clarification and I'm in favour of retroactively reviewing of decisions and incidents in order to get them correct. Referees can't be asked to get them all 100% correct on the spot every time when the pressure is so high. A single decision can make or break a club.
FP: Who has been the Hammers' standout performers this year? Who should Leicester fans be aware of?
BTH: Michail Antonio is incapable of not scoring. It's quite unbelievable that a guy who had played at RB, RWB, RM, RW, ST, LW and LM has still managed to get 15 goals in 2016. For context, Vardy's tally is 14. Of those 15, 11 have been headers. The weirdest thing about it is I don't particularly rate Antonio. I think that he's considerably lacking technically but he has the invaluable ability to be in the right place a the right time.
Pedro Obiang has also been consistently fantastic since breaking into the side. Both sturdy and strong defensively, he doesn't dive into challenges but rather collects the ball from you and has the passing ability to calmly find a teammate. The aforementioned Darren Randolph has to get a mention as well as he seems to be getting better and better with every game. Reliable and calm with good distribution and fantastic reflexes when called upon. He's just a lovely lad.
Oh also we have this French bloke called Dimitri Payet. He's pretty decent.
FP: Are the Hammers a team that will be strengthening in January or is the squad in a good position as it is?
BTH: I highly doubt it. Our owners are notoriously tight when it comes to January. A friend of mine put it very well when he said "Ambition costs money and our owners aren't willing to open the chequebook". We desperately need a new RB and calls for a new first choice ST haven't been quelled despite Carroll and Sakho returning to fitness.
I suspect in reality we'll loan a random young South American forward and sign a veteran cheaply for 18 months if we're lucky.
FP: When you look at Leicester’s season as an outsider, what do you think is the main reason for their change in fortunes?
BTH: The loss of Kante and your being in the Champions League.
Kante was my player of the season. He was unbelievably good. The joke about him covering more of the Earth than the sea is played out but it's damn true. Any team would struggle to replace a player of that quality. I'm a big Slimani fan but I think that money should have been used to get as good a replacement for N'golo as possible.
The Champions League is another thing most teams struggle to deal with and it certainly seems like Raneri has focused on the European fixtures. I don't blame him and topping the group is quite the achievement. If I were him, knowing there are realistically 3 teams worse than Leicester in the league, I would go for it and see just how far Leicester can go. A top 4 finish is beyond even Leicester's capabilities now so why not win the whole thing to qualify for the whole thing again?
FP: Give us your three sentence assessment of how this match will go!
BTH: Michail Antonio will most likely score and it'll probably be a header somehow. Randolph will pull off a save he has no right to. West Ham will win 3-2... hopefully.