Another week, another pair of varying outcomes. Last Saturday, the Foxes fell to Manchester United in a 4-1 loss that featured an abysmal first half, but a second half that demonstrated what makes the Foxes special – their never say die spirit. Perhaps this was best encapsulated with the brilliant strike that came from Demarai Gray give the Foxes their lone goal of the day.
Tuesday was a much different story, as we saw Leicester City earn their second consecutive Champions League win thanks to a great goal by the Dragon Slayer himself, Islam Slimani, to lift the Foxes to a 1-0 victory over FC Porto. It was a great performance by the Foxes that saw them control the match for the most part, though FC Porto did find opportunities to make the final minutes of the match stressful.
As always, we can learn a great deal from the happenings on the pitch. Here are some takeaways from this week’s matches:
Set Piece Defense
I think it is best that we just get this out in the open - set piece defense was far from ideal on Saturday. Three of the four goals scored on Saturday were conceded off of set pieces, and in each instance, there was poor marking in the box. Simply stated, it was not the best day for protecting the goal.
Is this a massive moment of concern? No. Not yet, at least. Coming of a week where a few of our players completed 120 minutes of football midweek, it’s not hard to imagine that we would have some tired legs out there. That being said, it does raise a good question – with the amount of football the club is playing, could we consider a formation that could assist in protecting the back line when we will likely see more fatigue potentially from our players?
It is an interesting question to ask. Claudio Ranieri earned the nickname the Tinkerman for his constant adjustments in his previous management roles. This isn’t exactly a description that works for Ranieri while at Leicester City. Instead, he has been a beacon of consistency, providing an often predictable lineup when they are released prior to a match.
However, a change from a 4-4-2 could be an opportunity to help with this process. Instead, playing in a 4-3-3 to allow the midfield to be more restrictive to opposing sides, and force them to play wide – which was our preference last year. One initial concern with this could be our attacking options with his, but with Jamie Vardy, Islam Slimani, Riyad Mahrez, and Ahmed Musa the options for a front three are plentiful. Likewise, there are ample midfield options as well. It could be an exciting possibility to consider.
Will we make this change? I don’t know, but as we continue into the season, continuing to assess ways that the side can keep that edge the enjoy playing with should be considered. Furthermore, with that group, a front three could be a wonderful front three striking force.
He was mentioned last week, but he needs to be mentioned again. Islam Slimani has not waited to make his presence known for the Foxes. In four appearances, he has now netted three goals. Nothing like that should be overlooked. He is every bit of a special player that we all hoped he would be. He was brilliant against FC Porto (where I assume that his name strikes fear in the heart of Porto supporters), and even in the chaos that was Saturday’s match, he looked determined and composed against Manchester United.
He is a dynamic player. Quite frankly, he is the perfect player to have brought in with the current circumstances that the Foxes face. They are the defending champions, and they are bound to get everyone’s best shot when the walk out on to the pitch. Luckily, we already had a group that had that edge and fearlessness to handle this a bit already, but Slimani adds more to the group. He is that player that holds nothing back. The player that is looking to play in a gear higher than everyone else. He is a perfect addition to this group, and I hope to see some more special moments from him.
What Should The Foxes Aim For?
This is a question that I think some of us have already asked. The Foxes are competing in Europe this season, and that brings a whole new wave of benefits, as well as challenges. One of those being managing all competitions that we have to compete in. We have already seen the Foxes exit the English Football League Cup, which if we are all honest with ourselves, I think we can agree that we did not expect to win that competition, but would have liked to see a strong run. Ultimately, while a tad disappointing, I do not think that any of us are particularly distressed by this reality – but rather turn our focus to the next match.
In this school of thought, perhaps we need consider our expectations for the competitions for this season. From a supporter’s perspective, all of us would be overjoyed to see the Foxes hoist three new trophies, but I think we all know that likely will not happen. So, what should we be aiming for? What should be our main focus this season?
I would love to see what the Foxes can do in the Champions League. While only two matches, they have two wins out of two, and I am curious to see how far these Foxes can go. They lifted the Premier League trophy five months ago, and tasted great success. Let’s see how much they can accomplish in Europe with that spirit still fresh in their minds. The Premier League and FA Cup are both important competitions in the season as well, but the Foxes have no guarantee of competing in Europe next season. I am optimistic about what these Foxes can do, and I if they continue to focus on doing what they do best, they can certainly have a great chance to get into the round of 16.
By no means does that mean we should ignore the Premier League or the FA Cup, and I do not expect the Foxes to ignore them. They should do their absolute best in competing in these as well, and Ranieri will make sure that they do. Last season was a magical time for the Foxes, and let’s see where that magic can take us the remainder of the season.