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5 things we learned from Leicester City v Aston Villa

Please, somebody lift the injury curse already

Leicester City v Aston Villa - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

1) Brendan Rodgers’ theme of substitutions that don’t work continues

It’s easy to ignore it sometimes, because credit where it’s due, the tactics have been spot on at times. But it’s not so easy to ignore in games like this. It’s been spotted before that his substitutes are so often baffling, or ineffective, but it sticks out like a sore thumb when the player you substitute on is directly at fault for the late, winning goal. In a game where a point a piece would have been fair, it’s all the more frustrating.

This isn’t intended to be a huge criticism of Hamza Choudhary. Although it does feel that his progression at the club isn’t going quite where we expected, or wanted. He was brought on for Nampalys Mendy who’d been quietly going about his business in midfield as usual, but clearly more effectively.

Unless we were concerned of injury or fatigue to Mendy (hello crammed fixture list), bringing on a defensive midfielder when the game was at 0-0 is disappointing. Especially when only two outfield options on the bench were defensive minded. This could have been the perfect chance to unleash Cengiz Under or Marc Albrighton and push for the win. Instead, it’s one of the big talking points given the loss.

2) We really need to find and destroy the hex bags and voodoo dolls

Admittedly a slightly niche Supernatural reference, but it’s close to Halloween and is it really beyond the realms of possibility that the Foxes are cursed? This is one of the darkest injury periods we’ve faced as a club. Every week seems to bring a fresh blow. Or two in the case of this week’s Jamie Vardy knock (I wasn’t the only one surprised he didn’t even make the beach, right? He usually plays when it’s just a ‘doubt’) and the more alarming blow to Çağlar Söyüncü. Three months out? Presume the club are mostly going to be using the ‘this is fine’ meme for a few days.

It’s what made this loss slightly less frustrating, considering the amount of key players we have been without for a while, and continue to find ourselves without. James Maddison still isn’t ready for a full game yet, which doesn’t help, and that squad depth begins to look more and more alarming. Yet, it’s not something that comes as a surprise.

Which perhaps makes those Championship-loan deals all the more concerning. If you’re Filip Benkovic and your parent club has a defensive crisis but you’re loaned out, it isn’t looking good for your longevity.

Without wanting to be cynical, or find issues where there are none, is this spate of injuries bad luck? For example, it’s hardly our fault that Soyuncu got injured given it happened on international duty that asked players to trot the globe during a pandemic and so soon after the season started. But the others? It’s no secret we overhauled the physio department, long-term head physio Dave Rennie leaving the club over the summer.

3) Wesley Fofana showed exactly why Leicester were so persistent in signing him

Ask a casual fan watching this game how long Fofana had been at the club and providing they hadn’t fallen asleep, I bet they wouldn’t have guessed it was his debut. Without wanting to get carried away by an outstanding debut, see Sol Bamba, he was very impressive. He wasn’t afraid to pass out but held his own in his aerial duals and with some fine tackles too.

At 19, his confidence levels and composure on the ball are outstanding. One tiny misunderstanding between him and Jonny Evans aside, and he looks like a very smart purchase. It won’t be the debut he’d dreamed of, but he barely put a foot wrong. It’s very easy to understand why the Foxes were so adamant that he was the one to pursue.

We’re lucky he hit the ground running too given the fairly lengthy absence of Söyüncü. Perhaps in 2021 we can see them play together. Those two in the centre, Ricardo on the right and Timothy Castange on the left should be worth the wait!

4) The Foxes dependency on Jamie Vardy continues to be great...until it isn’t

It’s beginning to feel like our dependency issue may never be solved until we absolutely have to. So essentially when Vardy is no longer playing. There’s no issues building the team and the tactics around him, he’s clearly still close to the top of his game and very important to us. Yet, despite the persisting issue we’ve had for seasons now, we have no solution for games where he’s absent.

There’s no guarantee that had Vardy played instead of Kelechi Iheanacho, the outcome would have been different. But I can think of several pieces of play that definitely would have been had our talisman been there instead. His ability to create space rather than run into the same area as our attacking player for a start. The Foxes also have a problem with playing to the strengths of the players that do replace Vardy.

Islam Slimani is back in a Leicester shirt. Some will argue he did nothing and isn’t the answer. That feels a knee-jerk reaction and doesn’t address the real issue. We brought him on, a big man with the potential to win aerial battles, and then failed to put in more than a couple of good crosses for him to attack.

5) Ayoze Perez’s defensive efforts deserve some praise

While I can understand the frustration many have with Ayoze Perez, I don’t agree with them. File this under unpopular opinions, and I expect to be told that I’m wrong, but Ayoze was one of the better players against Aston Villa. It may not be what we’d ideally have him doing, but as the Fosse Posse chat concluded, his defensive efforts and work deserve some plaudits. It’s likely what kept him on the pitch, because we needed players like that against Aston Villa.

It was hard to fault much of Ayoze’s game. He didn’t have success in front of goal, but he was trying to make things happen. He likely doesn’t want to spend much of ninety minutes defending, yet he did it. It might have made sense to give him a go up top when Iheanacho went off, but it’s clearly something we’re not going to do. He’s a largely unselfish player too, opting to pass more than he tries audacious shots. But because he isn’t scoring twenty goals and doing tricks, it’s easy to just write him off.

Ayoze is a popular scapegoat and it’s been a tough start to the season for him. He rarely gets to play in his best position, but his work rate and his efforts never falter. He’s one of several players putting in extra work off the training pitch too. I can understand why fans get angry with players who so obviously don’t care, but I have a lot of patience for those who do put in the effort and want to do well. Maybe it’s why I feel the need to defend Ayoze.

Bonus Learn: Rodgers coaching James Maddison on the touchline, seemingly talking tactics and play was pleasing to watch. Is there a future coach/manager within Maddison? You’d certainly trust him with man management, everybody loves him. Watching that sort of helps re-squash those ridiculous rumours from the end of the transfer window too.