Nobody here really wants to write about this, but you know, that’s why we get the big bucks, right? A few hours have passed and I think I’m ready to face this. Leicester City were roundly thumped by Manchester City at the Etihad this Saturday afternoon by a score of 5-1. You could argue that the scoreline was a little flattering to the Citizens, but there’s an equally good argument that it wasn’t. The home side could realistically win the league as early as next month, so getting any kind of result would have been impressive.
Manager Claude Puel hasn’t been shy about changing up the tactics and he’s had success doing it, but today’s starting XI and formation left a few of us scratching our heads:
We went in to what was likely to be the toughest match of the year playing a left back as part of a three man back line, another left back out wide in a five man midfield, and Fousseni Diabate, a winger by trade, up top with Jamie Vardy. I’m not saying it couldn’t work, but I am saying that it didn’t.
Man City went up 1-0 through Raheem Sterling on 3’. The Foxes’ defense looked confused from the start and Kevin De Bruyne was given far to much time to pick out a low ball across the face of the goal. The former Liverpool striker was too quick for makeshift wing back Marc Albrighton and tapped in from close range.
Well, they kept it tight for the first 90 (seconds).#LCFC #MCFC— John Bennett (@JohnBennettBBC) February 10, 2018
Puel changed the shape almost immediately, reverting to the tried and true 4-4-2. Here’s a fun game: The gaffer didn’t change the personnel, so try to guess who played where! Give up? The correct answer is that Fuchs went to left back, Abrighton dropped into a convention right back position, Diabate moved to the right wing, and Silva played the 10 just behind Vardy.
The change in shape made the Foxes look a good deal more comfortable even though the hosts continued to boss the game. Ederson was came out of his area several times to prevent balls over the top from reaching Jamie Vardy. Still, there wasn’t much of a threat on when the Foxes equalised on 27’. A dreadful Nicholas Otamendi pass found Vardy in the centre of the Man City half. He still had a lot to do, riding poor challenges from Oleksandr Zinchenko and Ilkay Gündogan and dragging Aymeric Laporte to the right before burying a shot in the opposite corner.
Somehow, it remained 1-1 until halftime. The Citizens had been dominant and the visitors had only the one shot on goal, but the score was level. Could this be one of those smash-and-grab affairs? Could we take something from this match?
The answer, of course, was “no.”
Puel brought on Danny Simpson for Adrien Silva to shore up the back line, but that didn’t stop the champions-elect starting the second half the way they did the first, with a wide-open De Bruyne sending a low cross into the Leicester box. Harry Maguire was caught flat-footed and Sergio Agüero tapped in of off Kasper Schemeichel’s hands from six yards.
Man City doubled the lead, again through Agüero, on 53’ when Schemichel miss-hit a clearance to Fernandinho, who slipped it to, who else, De Bruyne. The Belgian found Man City’s all-time leading scorer, who fired a shot that hit the Leicester keeper’s body and arm but was too strong for the Dane to keep out.
The Leicester manager then brought on Kelechi Iheanacho and Riyad Mahrez (!!!) for the ineffective Ben Chilwell and Diabaté. The Foxes’ comeback was not to be and the match was put beyond reach when Schmeichel cut out the middle-man and slipped a short pass directly to Agüero, who chipped the exasperated stopper and completed his hat trick...but not his scoring for the afternoon.
As the clock approached 90’, Phil Foden passed to Agüero a few yards outside the Foxes’ box. This time, he unleashed a pile driver that, had it not been stopped by bouncing off the bottom of the bar, would likely have torn off the back of the net. giving him a....double brace? A poker? A sombrero? What’s the term for four goals in one match? Whatever it is, that’s what the Kun Agüero had this afternoon. (Editor’s note: it’s a hat+1-trick).
I hate to single out one player in what was so obviously a team effort in the worst sense of the expression, but this was not Kasper Schmeichel’s finest afternoon. He might well think that he should have could have prevented the first three goals of the second half, and he wouldn’t be wrong. But would we have really wanted that?
Imagine if the match had been level and Agüero scored that belter on 90’ as the winner instead of icing on the cake? Wouldn’t that have been worse? I’m telling myself that it would have been because I find a little comfort in that.
Otherwise, there wasn’t a great deal of good news, which I suppose is obvious when discussing a 5-1 defeat. Vardy was lively and took his one chance well. Dragovic continues to impress and couldn’t really be faulted for any of the goals. Mahrez and Simpson are back which bodes well for the future. Most importantly, it’s only one defeat no matter what the scoreline.