1) All teams should be afraid of the Big Bad Wilf
If it’s Jamie Vardy’s world, then it’s Wilfred Ndidi’s universe and we’re all just living in it. Happily too! His statistics from the Tottenham game tell the story well enough, nineteen recoveries is phenomenal, but he just offers so much more than that. A safety net for our defenders and a springboard for our attacking players.
He probably isn’t the individual player an opposition will talk about or single out in terms of marking, first thoughts likely go to Jamie Vardy or James Maddison, but he really should be. Although watching him yesterday implied that even if opponents swarmed him more regularly, his long legs would still find a way to trap and move the ball in his favour. How he jinks away from some challenges amazes me.
Technically, and tactically, he is a dream asset. Watching how this Tottenham game played out, I’m unsure we could have played the way (or the formation) we did without him. His calmness in the middle of the park, the areas he covers and the speed in which he does it isn’t matched by any other player. It’s a cross between balletic dance and a spider seamlessly crafting a web to perfection. It’s done quickly, efficiently and under the radar. It’s not quite a Christmas miracle that we are where we are with him playing so little in midfield yet this season, but it’s impressive.
Guys just want one thing and it’s disgusting pic.twitter.com/lD9JIq2GFm— marty (@Martyjhill1) December 20, 2020
As this writer can confirm, it isn’t just what guys want!
He’s the extra cog in the machine. It works without him, but it’s a much smoother operation with him there. Man of the match and then some.
2) VAR denies James Justin a phenomenal assist
I’ve yet to see a referee (current or former) weigh in on this latest VAR intervention, but beginning a line from a body part you cannot score with (hand, armpit or whatever they were eyeing up on Madders) seems incredibly counter productive, no? We could all write a case study on why these offside decisions are infuriating, so let’s just say it deprived James Justin of a superb assist.
Some will label it a long range hoof but JJ looked up, spotted the movement of James Maddison and laid it on a plate for him. I’m still in love with that Dennis Praet assist from last season, and this was sure to join the shortlist of pinpoint balls I’ll watch again and again. It would have been an assist worthy of another great performance from Justin. He won’t get the plaudits from this game because so many players looked good, but his shift at right-back and then on the left was so solid.
He’s done what you always want for a player given an opportunity; not just to step in and do a great job but to make a position their own. It’s a little trickier for Justin because his versatility means he’ll be put into multiple positions, but his spells at right-back are very convincing. The fact that his offensive performance was balanced with defensively keeping Son and co quiet makes it all the more impressive. We all want Ricardo back, but Justin will be giving Rodgers a headache because dropping him right now would be very harsh.
3) The sky is blue, water is wet and...wait, Harry Kane didn’t score against us?!
I know, Kane’s track record against us is impeccable. His day was summed up though with a misplaced shot into the side netting late on. Which makes a change because I’d got to use whatever he did against us resulting in a goal. Yeah, I might still be annoyed about the goal he got last year while falling over. He and Son had not had much of a sniff at goal. Partly due to how lacklustre Spurs were, but also credit to our defensive setup.
This was a time that a traditional back four made sense. Having Evans available again likely helped with that decision. Having Ndidi in front of this back-line makes a tremendous difference, but let’s not take anything away from them and their clean sheet. Hopefully Schmeichel silenced his critics again, popping up with an acrobatic, fingertip save at a pivotal moment. A reminder that this is a repeated narrative this season!
Having Jonny Evans back in offers stability, not just for us, but to ease some of the pressure that falls on young Wesley Fofana. Both of our centre-backs were effective at Spurs. Even if our zonal marking on corners, Youri marking Kane gave me nightmares, is questionable. Ok, the home side lacked some of that attacking prowess but I’d like to think we played a huge part in that, tactically frustrating them and staying solid in our formation and our roles.
4) A teasing first glimpse of Timothy Castagne at left-back
Losing Timothy Castange so soon felt unfair, he’d looked so promising in his first few games and his arrival initially helped take some of the pressure off our thin, injured defense. Having him back is a big boost. We finally got to see him at left-back too, which admittedly is why we all thought we’d bought him.
Leicester have James Justin AND Timothy Castagne?!? That's gotta be a nightmare to prepare against— Lamoriello/Alderson 2020 (@KlimCalcio) December 20, 2020
Wait until this guy realises we have Ricardo too!
He got a solid sixty minutes in too. Less offensive than he might be against less attack-minded opponents, he walked the tightrope of staying back when we were on the front foot with Harvey Barnes and choosing his moments carefully. It was a promising first glimpse and crucially, he seems to have come away from it unscathed. He was assisted at times by a very defensively impressive Barnes, but he looked largely comfortable in his first outing on the left for the Foxes.
Somebody else who perfectly demonstrated they know their duties was Marc Albrighton. He wasn’t the obvious starting choice for the right-wing but it makes sense. He’s incredibly disciplined in tracking back and his desire to help Leicester, but if he can get forward, he always has that one pass. That one assist. We’ve looked unbalanced at times this season, and it’s been something Rodgers seems very keen on.
Albrighton offered us that balance, it allowed James Justin to overlap more and it reduced some of the pressure we faced on the right, more so than were Cengiz Under or Ayoze Perez there. Albrighton proves you don’t have to teach an old(er) dog new tricks, you just have to treat him properly and trust them.
5) It’s ok to be both a little excited and cautious
Merry Christmas Foxes fans, second going into the festive period, our players are starting to return and who doesn’t love beating Tottenham Hotspur since the 2015/16 season? Jamie Vardy’s face very much implies he still does!
Regardless of the general disrespect our performance seems to be receiving (somebody please send Mou a video of the game please because based on his post match comments he was busy doing some last minute shopping or something), we earned this win and our place so far in the league. We may not be making any of the graphics for the title race, but oh well. This was a tough test and it was hard to pick a single Man of the Match if you took out Ndidi’s superhuman display. This team is incredibly easy to love.
There’s reason to be cautious of course. It’s still early in the season and we have previous here. We were also second last year going into the festive period and it was generally downhill from there. Brendan Rodgers and his side have talked about learning from that, being more resilient. The next few months are their chance to prove it. Keeping the likes of Jamie Vardy fit are going to be crucial.
Colour me a hopeless optimist, but I’m excited. In the last lessons, I talked about having perspective. The key takeaway being that while we all know the home form is there to be improved on, we’re still up there. This without having lined up our best eleven players. The players showed some fighting spirit after the Everton loss and the group seems as tight knit as ever.
Bonus Learn: He probably deserves his own lesson (Vardy too), but it’s a testament to our squad why I’m cramming it into the bonus learn. Maybe he’d be spoken about more had his superbly taken goal been allowed to stand, but James Maddison put in a really solid shift against Spurs. He was crucial in setting the pace, dictating passes and even though he was well marked, he got in some decent speculative shots at goal. Not the kind of performance that has Sky trying to sell him off to bigger clubs, but the kind the Foxes need more of.