You know how sometimes the scoreline doesn’t tell the true story? Yeah, this was not one of those games. 5-0 was exactly the appropriate scoreline for the match. The attack was inept and the defense was naive, the goalkeeping was suspect, and the substitutions were puzzling.
I have no desire to write about this game, but we here at Fosse Posse have a professional obligation to bring you all things Leicester City: The good, the bad, and the match report for this match.
There were warning signs right from the start. Ben Hamer, starting for the injured Kasper Schmeichel, punched a corner directly onto the head of James Tompkins. His goal-bound header was alertly cleared off the line by Kelechi Iheanacho. I am not exaggerating when I say that this was the defensive highlight of the match.
On the quarter hour, City should have been in front. Iheanacho slipped a clever reverse ball to Jamie Vardy whose shot beat Wayne Hennessey but was just cleared by defender Drew Ward. That’s it as far as the Leicester highlights are concerned.
Palace immediately countered, working the ball down the left side deep in the Leicester half. Perhaps the Leicester defense were trying to over-compensate for playing Marc Albrighton out of position at right back, but the shape completely came apart. A short ball between the touch line and the penalty area was closed down by Morgan. Another short pass to the left edge of the area was then defended by Wilfred Ndidi, then another by Harry Maguire. Yet another short pass just outside the penalty spot drew in Ben Chilwell. That meant the next pass, to the right side of the spot saw Wilfried Zaha completely unmarked. He blasted the ball past the stranded Hamer and it was 1-0 to Palace.
On 38’, Palace deservedly doubled the lead with another attack down their left. Patrick Van Aanholt get in behind Albrighton and Ndidi and found Zaha in acre of space at the edge of the area. Closed down by Morgan, the Ivorian slid the ball across the to James McArthur. Both Chilwell and Gray moved to shut down a potential pass, so McArthur simply reversed the ball into the opposite corner. City were twice beaten by a breakdown on the defensive right and defenders getting out of position trying to provide cover.
Claude Puel obviously needed to change things and change them he did. On came Fousseni Diabate and Adrien Silva for Hamza Choudhury and my Man of the Match, Iheanacho. The substitutions, which seemed puzzling at the time, were made to look worse when Ndidi picked up a knock on 51’ and had to come off. As there were no more central midfielders in the squad, Aleksandar Dragovic came on and Maguire went in to the midfield.
Disaster struck just minutes later when an errant Ben Chilwell header in the center of the Palace half was collected and knocked long to a streaking Zaha. Albrighton got a toe to the ball to knock it back to Hamer, but he was unsure he’d got enough on it and he pulled the attacker down with both arms. Referee Mike Dean missed it and was going to let play proceed, but the lineman had a better view and Albrighton was shown a straight red card.
It was difficult enough to guess the Foxes’ shape prior to the sending off, but afterwards, it was impossible. Palace took their foot off of the gas, but City, down to 10 men and those being decidedly the wrong ten men, were unable to mount much in the way of attacks. Time after time, the fullbacks brought the ball down the flanks and tried to find the isolated Vardy with a high cross. Shockingly, there was no joy to be found in this mode of attack.
To City’s credit, Palace struggled to take make their man advantage count until the floodgates opened on the 80th minute. A poor Chilwell cross was picked out by Mamadou Sahko. He strode forward unopposed and spotted the run of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who was played onside by Dragovic. Loftus-Cheek cleverly side-stepped Hamer and slid the ball into the open goal.
Just two minutes later, Dragovic was beaten in the midfield by Zaha. Former Fox favorite Jeffrey Schlupp dashed into the space vacated in the defense. The Ghana man was unable to beat the Leicester keeper, but Van Aanholt got to the loose ball first and easily scored with a low shot into the corner. Tellingly, for these last two goals, captain Morgan was the only defender still running to try to provide cover once the first defender was beaten.
The final Palace goal was a bit of a gift courtesy of Mike Dean. Maguire closed down Christian Benteke deep in the penalty area and knicked the ball cleanly off him, but Benteke went down like the frail, waif-ish player he is and won a penalty. It didn’t really matter, though. I’m not going to waste too much breath defending the fifth goal of what was a well-earned 5-0 performance.
I just realized that I’m at the end of this report and I haven’t mentioned the names of Demarai Gray and Riyad Mahrez, but, in truth, I can’t think of any reason to have mentioned either of them. Harry Maguire certainly didn’t do anything to impress England manager Gareth Southgate, who was in attendance, and I think we can now safely write off any chances of Marc Albrighton replacing the injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the national team.
I’ve also said almost nothing about the attack, but what is there to say? The players either do not understand the system or they aren’t capable of playing it yet. We’ve failed to trouble some of the poorest defensive sides in the league and we’re entirely too reliant on Jamie Vardy converting an incredible (and likely unsustainable) percentage of his chances.
Claude Puel in the foreground walking off the pitch alone after Crystal Palace 5-0 #LCFC— Ian Stringer (@StringerSport) April 28, 2018
As bad as I’ve seen The Foxes for a long time.
If Puel survives this then the senior management have tremendous faith in him. pic.twitter.com/JNWfwu3QSX
I wrote earlier that the run in to the end of the season would be an ideal time for Puel to experiment assuming that his job was safe going into the summer. I don’t believe that that assumption can be made any longer. City have now not won a league match since January. While the result doesn’t much matter, the performance does and this was a Leicester side that simply were not up for the fight.
The danger of performances like this one isn’t that it will cost us in terms of points or position in the league; the danger is in what effect it will have on our summer. If we continue to play like this and Puel stays, you have to wonder which players will be eager to stay. Will Maguire be more or less like to remain at the King Power? What about Ndidi? Or Gray? Does Jamie Vardy want to stay for this style of football or take what might be his last chance to move to a so-called “big” club?
I feel almost as though I should apologize for such a long write-up. When I started, I’d intended to report the scoreline, write “we were awful,” and call it a day, but the more I thought about it, the more things seemed in need of saying. This is one of the worst results I’ve seen, but it may be the single worst performance.