1) Brendan Rodgers is sticking with a familiar formation...for now
In hindsight, perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise. With just the one addition to the squad, it’s the safe choice. After the restart experimentation with a back three, many wondered if we’d see more of that this season. Instead, while some of the personnel looked a little different, it was a shape and a style we’re used to.
Perhaps though with the limitations on squad selection, this was a formation of convenience rather than a guarantee. Wilfred Ndidi had to fill in at centre-back, so a back three was never a real option. It was a squad selection that perhaps didn’t thrill people when it was announced, but to Rodgers’ credit, it worked.
A great start to the season— Ndidi Wilfred (@Ndidi25) September 13, 2020
Love it Lads
Those asked to fill bigger or unfamiliar shoes did well; Nampalys Mendy’s performance in the Ndidi role went under the radar but was quietly efficient. Arguably one of his best performances for Leicester. Ndidi had a couple of early wobbles at centre back but grew into it and it helps when you have the calm and collected Caglar Soyunchu alongside you.
I’m unsure that in a ‘who would start at left-back’ game of bingo, too many people correctly guessed James Justin! [editor’s note: I did. nbd.]
2) Timothy Castagne looks to be a shrewd signing
A clean sheet and the opening goal made for a perfect debut for the Foxes’ latest addition to the Belgian collection. To be clear, Timothy Castagne had only completed two full training sessions with his Leicester City teammates. No actual matches prior to his Premier League debut. If this is what he can do already, imagine what he could be with a little more time.
To hit the ground running in the way that he did today is exactly what Leicester needed. He’ll likely pick up the Man of the Match nominations and as part of a back-shift defensive line, picked up a clean sheet too. He looks like a full-back with real balance, great going forward and perfectly competent in his defensive duties too.
At twenty-four, a rumoured price tag of £21 million seems pretty shrewd. Anybody who had the pleasure of watching the Atalanta side he was a part of last year, saw how attacking and exciting their play was. A style familiar to us and how we want to play. The signs so far are that he is going to fit right in.
Signed, it seemed, as a replacement for Ben Chilwell and to provide another option for a possible formation with three at the back, it was interesting to see Castagne line up at right-back, even if both he and James Justin are adept on both sides.
3) Leicester City might have 99 (positional) problems, but a right-back ain’t one
It was a lot of fun watching Castange bomb forward down the right wing. The position he got himself into to receive Dennis Praet’s cross was perfect too. This might have been the first time since Ricardo’s injury that we didn’t miss what he delivers offensively.
James Justin stepped in very well to cover Ricardo at the end of last season, but he didn’t quite have the same impact on the attack for the Foxes. Castagne’s performance today had shades of that with his pace, ability to pick out the right run and looking dangerous pretty much every time he got forward.
Various positions in the Foxes’ squad look light on cover. Centre-back is the obvious one, as you can tell from us starting our best holding midfielder there, but strikers too. There was definitely a heart in the mouth moment when Vardy was hobbing. At least we can strike right-back off that list though. Ricardo should be back next month and in the meantime, we have both Castagne and Justin to call on. Not to mention Daniel Amartey made a comeback in pre-season. It’s unfortunate timing for him given he looks a little surplus to requirements behind these three.
4) Dennis Praet delivers as part of the Belgian connection
Ok, so Praet himself and the club have beaten me to using this but it’s still too good to pass up. If somehow you didn’t see Praet’s incredible assist in last season’s cup tie at Brentford, then you might have learned today that the Belgian knows how to pick out a pass. It wasn’t just the cross back in either, Praet signalled and made his own impressive run to provide the assist for his countryman, Castagne.
Kelechi Iheanacho gives Leicester the lead against Brentford ⚽️— Goal (@goal) January 25, 2020
That pass from Dennis Praet #FACup pic.twitter.com/RMGvveOxYJ
Praet doesn’t always get the recognition he deserves, and too often last season didn’t get the minutes he deserved either. Today was a perfect example of what he can deliver given the opportunity. I might be biased but I’ve been crying out to see him play more minutes alongside Ayoze Perez. It didn’t amount to a concrete chance, but there were a couple of perfect instances of one-two play between the pair. More of this please!
Hopefully today means the rumours that we’d consider selling Praet are nonsense. He’s a player with real vision and a killer pass and we need that in our squad. On occasion last season, we were also guilty of bringing him on when chasing a game, but then trapping him in a more defensive role.
Praet works hard, can make a well timed tackle and has height for helping at set pieces, but his strengths lie in getting forward, in creating chances and feeding in players. Moving into his second season as a Fox, it feels like it’s time to let him shine more.
5) Jamie Vardy continues to menace defenders
How do you solve a problem like Jamie Vardy? Fingers crossed this is another season where Leicester City don’t have to. Age, the risk of injury and multiple competitions means at some point the Foxes really will have to buy or use another viable striking option (does Kelechi Iheanacho count when it feels like Rodgers doesn’t trust him?) but if this opening game is anything to go by, it’s not an immediate concern.
Vardy continues to be part of the breed of strikers that defenders hate the most. Even in a game where he struggles to see much of the ball, definitely a first half issue here, it takes just one ball over the top or through to force them into making a mistake. Which is exactly what he did to Kyle Bartley. Bartley found himself on the wrong side of both Vardy and the ball and voila, the striker had earned his side a penalty.
It doesn’t feel too long ago that Leicester didn’t have one set, dependable penalty taker. We had Vardy and Riyad Mahrez and both were liable to miss. These days, Vardy is the number one choice. He doesn’t do trickery, he just has a chosen spot and opts for power. He demonstrated that twice today. Are you even a Leicester fan if you didn’t expect him to do his mock celebration to the empty stands? That’s our striker!
And the bonus lesson...the maroon away kit is a thing of beauty
Is it the Premier League’s nicest away kit? Consider me biased but I think it might just be!