Leicester City were somewhat flattered by the scoreline of their 2-1 loss to Southampton, almost totally unable to cope with a very strong Saints’ display. Here are some things we can take from the performance.
1. Praet’s versatility
Someone (other than Schmeichel) had to have at least an ok game, and for me that was Dennis Praet. The Belgian was industrious, relatively skilful and, of course, scored the Foxes’ only goal on the day.
He also managed to string together passes in a game where the rest of his team was really struggling. Only Choudhury and the CBs could beat Praet’s 78% pass completion, with no other starter managing even 65%.
The thing that has regularly impressed me most about Praet this year though has been his versatility, and it was on show again. On the surface he’s a central midfielder and has only played there, but in reality his job was much wider.
When Ricardo storms forward from RB, someone has to drop into the gap. When Ayoze Perez drifts inside, someone has to provide width. When he’s played, Praet regularly fills in both rolls with aplomb, and his versatility really allows them around him to play to their best.
2. Pressed off the pitch
You've got to hand it to Southampton. After last time, who could blame them for dropping deep to defend their own half, but instead they pushed up mercilessly, sometimes even trapping the panicked Foxes inside their own penalty area.
Danny Ings and Shane Long was especially impressive. They worked very hard as a pair, cutting down any chances for Söyüncü and Evans to make easy forward passes. The team’s regular out ball to the defensive midfielder was almost exclusively cut off.
The main problem in that half was retaining possession for #LCFC. Ricardo and Perez lost the ball 12 times, Maddison 13 and Chilwell 20 times. A big improvement required. In terms of possession gained, Ricardo and Praet lead the way with 6 each.— Rob Tanner (@RobTannerLCFC) January 11, 2020
Even when the ball did make it to midfield, there was just no one to pass to. Ben Chilwell was a particular scapegoat for Foxes’ fans and he did have a poor game, but he also had the ball (and therefore could lose it) more often, because he was free to receive it more than anyone else.
No one else could find space. Whoever was on the ball had no real options but to hold onto it too long, or try something too ambitious. With Southampton also comfortably winning the physical and aerial battles, Leicester also weren't really able to turn to plan B. All in all it was an excellent and well executed game plan by the Saints.
3. Time for a rest
Even if he wasn’t quite as bad twitter would have you believe, Chilwell did look like he could do with a rest. He wasn’t alone in that, in a game where Youri Tielemans had already been dropped because he was so clearly off the pace.
The good news is, the team actually gets a whole week off between games. It’s been a while. The Foxes haven’t had more than 3 days off in a row for a full month, playing 9 games in 29 days, but now they get a chance to relax for a short while.
End of Matchweek 22 report:— The LCFC Stat Man (@TheLCFCStatMan) January 12, 2020
Expected points: 34
Actual points: 45
Expected league position: 7th
Actual league position: 3rd
Unexpected points gained: 19
Expected points dropped: 8#lcfc pic.twitter.com/u7jFNgWsNO
Things have dropped off a little through December and January, but the season is still going ridiculously well for Leicester City. They’re 3rd. 3rd! They have an 11 point cushion above 5th place, which was the very highest we predicted for them preseason.
A finish anywhere in the Champions League places would absolutely put this team ahead of schedule, and they’re currently still in both cups, one win away from a Wembley final. If you’re not happy with this season, I honestly don’t know what to say.