As we are in the international break, it gives us a chance to reflect on club football and look at the 2018/2019 campaign so far for Leicester. After eight games, it’s four wins, no draws, four defeats and 12 points.
Slow starts have been an achilles heel this season. In the season’s opening game against Manchester United at Old Trafford on 11th August, the hosts were awarded a penalty just three minutes into the match. Daniel Amartey was adjudged to have used his arm illegally in the penalty area; United man Paul Pogba dispatched the penalty for 1-0.
Since the first game of the campaign, there have been other slow starts to matches and it has become a continuing theme for Leicester. The 2-0 win over Wolves at the King Power Stadium and additional home games against Liverpool and Huddersfield Town were also slow starts.
In the Premier League, you have to be at it from the off. I don’t think with Leicester it’s necessarily that we are always starting games poorly in terms of our play, it just seems to be lapses of concentration or something similar which is leading to opposition goals early in games.
With the competitiveness of the league, it’s not good to give any opposition the opportunity to exploit your weaknesses, but it can be especially difficult if you concede early doors against the top six.
Slow starts is an area which manager Claude Puel has acknowledged needs improvement, and is something which is being worked on in training. Hopefully there will be a stronger collective vigilance to this issue so it can be ironed out moving forward.
The 2018/19 season so far has been somewhat inconsistent. It has felt in recent weeks we take one step forward and one step back relating to both performances and results. It’s this inconsistency which makes Leicester under Puel a difficult side to judge currently.
I’ve questioned whether our inconsistency is in line with the normal inconsistencies of other teams. Maybe that is the case, when you look at our current position in the table, but if the club have ambitions of qualifying for the Europa League this season, the potential/promise of this team will have to be shown on a more frequent basis.
It’s also important to consider whether this squad is capable of finishing 6th or qualifying for Europe. Again it’s difficult to give a clear opinion but I’m not so sure this squad is good enough yet to make that leap.
A defensive view
When you look at the stats for goals against in the Premier League so far this season, we are equal to Watford, Everton and Burnley on 12. If you judge Leicester defensively by that, there isn’t a glaring cause for concern. At the same time, in my view there’s still some defensive worries which need addressing. Many supporters suggest centre-back Wes Morgan is an issue due to his performances and discipline this season.
An area which particularly concerns me is the right side of defence; new signing Ricardo Pereira has not been convincing as a right-back in this league yet, but has posed a threat at the other end of the pitch. Daniel Amartey has been the familiar face at right-back in the campaign so far, a player who divides opinion.
Recent transfer reports from The Mirror and The Sun link Liverpool right-back Nathaniel Clyne with a move to Leicester City in the January transfer window. Clyne cannot currently get into the side at Liverpool, following long-term injury troubles. He is though a very good full-back at the top level and at the age of 27, with ability in both defence and attack, Clyne would be a signing I could very much get behind.
On an analytical note, there appears to be a change in set piece defending this season. It has been noted that Puel’s men are now using the zonal-marking system. An interesting tactical change and one which doesn’t seem to have done much harm thus far. It also looks like new techniques have been implemented when attacking corners.
Given that we have a side that is relatively small in height, maybe this has been picked up to improve on by Puel and his staff over the summer.
There is a noticeable divide amongst fans on manager Claude Puel. I think it’s fairly common knowledge that the start to the 2018/19 season was always going to be closely monitored after the second half of last season. Will we see more of the same as this campaign opens up or has Puel done enough to keep himself in the picture at City? That story continues Monday at Arsenal...