1) Deja vu as Foxes find themselves toothless against Liverpool again
I wish this didn’t feel so familiar, another loss to Liverpool. Giving them too much respect and looking so unthreatening against them by our standards. The display against Manchester City implied we’d turned a corner for our approach to some of the bigger teams, but this highlighted the consistency question again. Make no mistake, Liverpool were good but we made it too easy for them too.
There were shades of Boxing Day 2019 again with just how toothless we looked. Losing momentum again following an International Break raises an entirely different debate, but we looked a shade of the team before it. Losing a game 3-0 is never fun, but if you feel the team gave 100% and really put up a fight, it’d be more forgivable. That’s the kicker from this loss, it felt like we barely challenged Liverpool. When we did, we lacked that clinical edge to make it count and the whole thing was a pretty dull affair.
Us every time we play Liverpool pic.twitter.com/zqmSlkx1Ua— David Bevan (@db_writing) November 22, 2020
Sitting back and allowing your opposition to dominate possession is an understandable tactic. It never hurt us previously to just counter, but you feel we’re not that team anymore. This time the tactic to invite pressure from a world-class front three did us no favours and seemingly took the best parts of our game, and our players, off the table as a threat. The truth is, Liverpool were a class above, but we let them dictate the game. On another day Barnes would have buried his chance when it was just 1-0 and maybe this would have been a different story.
2) Kasper Schmeichel spared further blushes (again)
November hasn’t been particularly kind to Jonny Evans. Back issues, directly at fault for a goal against Slovakia as Northern Ireland lost their Euro play-off and now this ridiculous own goal. It felt like the timing of the own goal couldn’t have been much worse either. The Foxes had weathered an early storm as Liverpool began to enjoy more possession. This gave them the upper hand and we were fortunate their lead wasn’t doubled very quickly after.
We owe Kasper Schmeichel for keeping it a more respectable score line. He’ll be frustrated to concede three, but with the amount of times we forced him into action, ignoring the disallowed goal he was fouled during, it’s credit to him and some luck that this was a frustrating defeat rather than humiliation.
In his tenth season now, it’s getting harder to remember the pre-Kasper years. A hazy fog suggests there were many goalkeepers, many injured loanee goalkeepers and a feeling of dread that we might concede every time an opposition broke past our defenders. We’re lucky that the Dane makes you feel so reassured and he can’t take the blame for the goals here. It does re-flag up the question of where we go post-Kasper though (not a concern for today but one day). It’s going to be one very hard pair of boots to fill for his successor.
3) Rodgers’ changes were too little too late
Brendan Rodgers has deserved a lot of plaudits lately. He’s masterminded some excellent results and his general tactics, substitutions and timing of them have been almost faultless. Unfortunately not against Liverpool. Much debate was had about whether this was five at the back, or three centre-backs with James Justin and Marc Albrighton operating as wing-backs. It looked more like an in-between, the aim to flex between the two depending on the flow of the game. Something that didn’t seem to do us much favour.
For the focus on our defenders and their shape, so much of the game felt like it was being lost in midfield. It gives me no pleasure to say how ineffective Youri Tielemans was. Dare we say it, he looked a little tired too. Understandable when he’s started almost every game for Leicester and Belgium since the summer. With Tielemans unable to influence our game, James Maddison looked more isolated, not helped by having to chip in so often defensively, and Jamie Vardy even more so. On a different day, you’d relish the thought of Harvey Barnes and his pace going up against that Liverpool back-line but we failed to utilise that more than a couple of times.
It was surprising that Rodgers didn’t make any changes to personnel at half-time, opting instead to only tweak the formation. That worked, or at least helped us get Maddison and Vardy more touches of the ball. We looked brighter too for the changes when they eventually came. Dennis Praet added some much needed determination and a little more aggression. Part of a double-change along with Cengiz Under replacing Barnes and Christian Fuchs felt like it could make a difference. But at 2-0 down to the defending Champions, it all felt a little too late and when the third came, it extinguished any fight in the Foxes.
4) It seems blondes don’t always have more fun
There was no ignoring Wesley Fofana’s new blonde hair (nice touch to keep the heart in black though). The old saying didn’t hold up though, he didn’t have anywhee near as much fun as he’d have hoped. It was a bit of a rollercoaster match for our summer arrival. Several times in the first half, his charging runs forward presented some of the most entertaining, and attacking, moments for the Foxes. But he found himself caught out or wrong-footed several times defensively.
It was his worst display in a Leicester shirt, which even typing that feels harsh. If you’d forgotten just how young he was, and that he’s not yet hit fifty first-team matches, this was the first reminder. I guess it’s polite of him to show us mere mortals that he isn’t a flawless robot. This performance wasn’t necessarily his fault, it’s where inexperience, youth and having a makeshift back-line around him do him no favours. At least we have a fantastic man-manager and some experienced heads to help keep him focused and continue his learning.
Wesley Fofana has been fabulous so far this season. And he’s 19. Tonight is the first time it’s showed that I’ve seen.— Matt Smith (@msmith850) November 22, 2020
Too often Fofana was left to deal with an empty hole where our full-back should have been and to cover for the fact that Albrighton brings a lot of effort, but not so much pace.
5) That Chilwell-sized hole at left back is looking a little bigger
Playing three world-class strikers will highlight any team’s defensive frailties, especially in a defensive line that’s ramshackle (to be polite). It wasn’t the ease at which Liverpool cut through it that’s a surprise but happens in the position that looked weakest. Who is our first-choice left back this season? It’s possibly the position with the biggest question mark over it. In letting Ben Chilwell go, handsome fee or not, a replacement was still needed. Luke Thomas and Christian Fuchs are at opposite ends of their careers and both can do a job but not for a full season. James Justin is capable of playing there, but he’s enjoyed mixed success. Unlucky not to get a goal last night, but looking vulnerable when Liverpool surged forward.
Signing Timothy Castagne, again competent on both sides, seemed the solution but we’re yet to play him on the left. Admittedly the ongoing injury to Ricardo and his own injury, mean he’s still bedding in. He plays on the left for Belgium but despite this, Rodgers opted to start the season with him on the right still. Perhaps that’s to do with balance in the side when it’s almost December now and we still can’t field our 100% first choice eleven.
The shopping list won’t be huge for the Foxes, nor will the budget, but will left-back be one of them? For all the criticisms some had of Chilwell, he did bring a good balance in that position and it does feel like the spot most up for grabs still.
Bonus Learn: Did you know Liverpool had some injuries? I think somebody might have said something. No? Because a team playing Christian Fuchs at centre back and Marc Albrighton at right back wouldn't understand how that feels. Ahem.