1) It’s hard to be angry...just disappointed?
The predictable nature of playing like that and granting Fulham a first away win is all so very Leicester isn’t it? The media can make this out to be a shock result, which I guess makes a change from telling us we’re punching above our weight, but for Foxes fans, it was anything but. There’s been at least one of these a season for a long time now (title winning season aside). What makes it so hard to be angry? Fulham utterly deserved the points. We were so flat and lifeless until the last ten minutes. That’s the disappointing point.
Rodgers spoke afterwards of it looking like a performance of too many boys, not enough men. We do have a young side, which is why getting too angry won’t help. It’s an argument that holds some weight, but this was still a side on paper who should have enough about them to put in a dogged performance and dig a little deeper. Worryingly, this fits a pattern of the last time we got a bit of a beating from Liverpool, we looked incredibly knocked for confidence afterwards.
Either playing into the Foxes’ hands or not, depending on your opinion, there are two more chances to turn it around this week for Rodgers and his side. And hopefully some good team news on the horizon, as Ricardo and Ndidi may be fit to return!
2) Rodgers’ stubborn insistence on keeping a central back three isn’t working
Lining up like this may well be doing the best he has with the available, fit players (the blow about Timothy Castagne is further frustration), but there’s something that seemed far too negative in this choice. While not a direct back-five - Luke Thomas and James Justin in wing-back roles and encouraged to get forward - it’s pretty unforgivable to line up with this many defenders at home to a team like Fulham. Given they’d sit and look to counter, we needed more balance and cover up top to support Vardy.
If Rodgers had to insist on starting that way, it would have been wise to abandon it and drop to a flat back four before half-time as it was clear rather quickly that it wasn’t working for us. This wasn’t as bad a defensive display as at Braga, but it wasn’t pretty either. The insistence on keeping three centre-backs, and playing a left-back in one of those roles, just doesn’t seem to make us look good. This was a very telling game that, effort and workload aside, Christian Fuchs is not a good centre-back candidate.
Praet hasn't been involved, Maddison has been on his bum longer than he's had the ball, Vardy not effective, Fuchs (I love the guy) is not a centre-back.... and they could play 4 at the back quite readily. That would feel more comfortable than playing 3 with one makeshift player— Jason Bourne (@JasonBourne1986) November 30, 2020
For another game running, Wesley Fofana looked nineteen and naive. Superstitious natured fans would say our performances, and his, have gone downhill since he went blonde, thus he should be forced to change it back. When the experienced players around him look nervous and uncomfortable though, it’s hardly a great experience for him either.
Credit to Rodgers for switching at half-time, though it was slightly surprising that Luke Thomas came off and Fuchs slotted into left-back. Rodgers’ post-match comments suggest he felt we showed our youthful age too much yesterday.
3) Fan presence seems to be a factor in the worrying home form this season
As some lucky cities prepare to welcome football fans back into stadiums (not if you’re forever locked in Tier 3 in Leicester) our home form is looking pretty concerning. I’ll admit to being slightly surprised that we’re missing fans this much, as there’s often a tendency for support to slide into pressure territory at home games, but the likes of James Maddison and co. have been insistent that it does matter.
The stats would agree. Last season, with fans, we lost just four home games in the league. We’re not even halfway into the season and we’ve already lost three. There has been a theme in each of those too: Our opponent pressing better than us, looking to want it a little more from the get-go. It’s not proven that having our fans there to spur us on would have altered those outcomes, but with a pretty uncertain road for when Leicester will regain some normality, Rodgers will have to find another way of solving this problem.
It’ll be interesting to see how it does help those clubs who will have fans back, given the relatively small number allowed into a stadium. So far I’ve fallen more in line with Chis Wilder’s take of it should be all clubs or no clubs. For the Foxes, the first side we’ll play who will have some fan presence is Tottenham on December 20th. 2,000 fans in that huge stadium may seem more like a few ants than having any effect on the atmosphere.
4) After some midweek magic, Maddison failed to influence the game
The Foxes were a significantly better side against Braga when James Maddison came off the bench. He had something creatively that nobody else did and he does bring something a little different. Against Fulham though, we couldn’t seem to get him into the game. And dare I say it...it seemed to be at the detriment of our overall game?
I’m a big fan of Maddison, so saying this gives me no pleasure but I’m surprised he survived being substituted last night because it just wasn’t working for him. One thing that’s painfully obvious following that first half is that playing Dennis Praet and James Maddison in the same eleven, isn’t something that helps us. It’s a little odd that Rodgers opted to do so too because pre-Leeds, he’d implied it’s one or the other in that attacking role. Maddison survived the half-time changes where Praet did not. It makes sense because Maddison is capable of that spark, of that one chance, but it never looked likely last night.
It’s about time we considered trying some new options on corners too, because either every team knows what we’re going to do, or we’re failing to execute whatever it is that they succeed in doing in training. Maddison’s corners have been sub-par for a while now.
5) We need to talk about corners
Ok, Foxes fans have pretty low expectations where corners are concerned. We know we’re pretty poor at defending them and even worse at scoring from them. We’ve yet to score from a set piece this Premier League season and you feel that when we do, it’s more likely to be a free-kick than a corner. It could have been a lesson post-Braga as the sheer number of corners we had really highlighted just how poor they generally are. However, it came to a head against Fulham due to one particular corner.
You all know which corner don’t you, because it probably should have granted Fulham a third goal. With virtually no time on the clock, I am always in favour of throwing Kasper Schmeichel up for a corner or free-kick. It not only shows the desire to snatch something, anything, but you feel our big Dane can do something. So it’s pretty astonishing that taking this into account, we took such a terrible corner. Taking a break, Cengiz Ünder stepped up and for some reason, decided to do a short corner. Cue Tielemans losing the ball and Fulham breaking. Why they didn’t just chip the ball into our empty net is a mystery. It was the cherry on top of a really poor set-piece game from us.
Because we've discussed it so much on the air I have an answer.— Ian Stringer (@StringerSport) December 1, 2020
Leicester City have now taken 52 corners (worst in Prem) without scoring.
In fact, their last goal was an own goal from Norwich keeper Tim Krul on Dec 14th 2019, nearly a year ago.
Stat credit @cacollinson
Guess that explains why I was struggling to remember the last one...
Something that continues to baffle me with corners is that we know it’s something the likes of James Maddison practices a lot. Yet, we so rarely come close to scoring them. Evans is a powerful header of the ball, except when attacking them for us, and Fofana has looked more likely to get on the end of one. Last season, too many of them failed to clear the first man. That particular issue has been largely overcome, but they still lack a threat more often than not.
Bonus Learn: As players seem to be braving vocalizing their hatred of VAR and it’s many oddities this week, it wasn’t the decision that went against that left a bitter taste for me (Fuchs was clumsy, silly). It was how long play was allowed to continue before they stopped to properly review it, and even then, they still advised the referee to view it. Clear and obvious but takes an age to get to a decision? Hm.