After the League Cup exit, and disappointing performances in every game against the top 4, it felt like Leicester City might have a big game problem. They assuaged that at least slightly by outplaying Chelsea on Saturday. Here are some things we can take from the performance.
1. Vardy not 100%
Of all the things you might expect to see at the King Power Stadium, Jamie Vardy being subbed off with 10 minutes left to play is right at the bottom of the list. Its especially unusual with the game still level and there for the taking.
Even more strange is that the change was somewhat warranted. The former England striker worked as hard as ever and was certainly impacting the game, but was struggling with his primary job. In the end he mustered just one touch in the penalty area - fewer than he had in his own half.
When a striker isn’t getting good chances, it’s often due to a lack of creativity behind him, but that wasn’t the case. Even against a very strong pair in Kanté and Jorginho, Tielemans and Maddison were able to create 7 chances between them, but without Vardy on the end, most were wasted.
It could be that he’s still struggling with the injury that forced him off against West Ham - this was his first game back after all. Hopefully the extra rest will get him back to his best soon, but with Iheanacho in good form it’s not so crazy to make changes.
2. Support from out wide
The team’s primary goalscorer might be struggling for goals since Christmas, but the rest of the team is chipping in well, especially the wide players. Both fullbacks and wingers had more touches in the area than the strikers combined, as well as providing both goals.
I think everyone is remaining positive. We’re in a good position in the table, there’s still a lot of games, a lot of points to play for. For us it’s just about focusing on the next game, and making sure we go there with 100 per cent focus and everyone is fully prepared - Barnes is feeling positive amid his great run
Harvey Barnes certainly seems to have arrived, at least for now. The young winger has hit a fantastic vein of form, providing three goals and two assists in the last four games, although his miss from the best chance of the game showed he still has inconsistencies to work on.
And speaking of inconsistency, Ben Chilwell seems to have re-found his best form, at both ends of the pitch. He’s a hugely talented player and often unfairly maligned by the fans, possibly because of the great play of Ricardo Pereira on the opposite wing.
Full-backs in today’s game, you have to be able to defend well, but you’ve got to get up the pitch and attack as well. Me and Ricky like to be able to do both, and the manager wants us to do both - Chilly told lcfc.com that Rodgers wants his FBs to contribute goals
Ayoze Perez has often been the afterthought winger in the first half of the season, but might have had his best game for the Foxes. He works just as hard as Vardy off the ball, and his excellent first touch is really starting to make his partnership with Pereira click.
3. Size matters
The days of Wes Morgan and Robert Huth are gone. Çağlar Söyüncü obviously still provides some physical presence, but when Wilfred Ndidi is out, the team is noticeably struggling with the ball in the air.
On paper, the Foxes’ record defending set pieces is still very good, but has taken a sharp downturn in recent weeks. Against Chelsea, they simply couldn’t handle Rudiger, who put away the only good crosses he was provided, with ease.
Rudiger scored a rare brace yesterday at the King Power to rescue a point for Chelsea— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) February 2, 2020
Report and highlights
The Blues aren’t the only team to go after us in the air. Southampton in particular seemed to base a large amount of their game plan around bullying the Foxes off the ball, while Chris Wood has his way with us every time, apparently.
I’m not sure there's an easy fix. Ndidi will be back next time, and that should certainly help, but the team is just a little small. None of Pereira, Chilwell or Vardy are going anywhere soon (hopefully), so the answer will have to be tactical.