1) Boys versus men as Foxes go for Chelsea’s jugular
Leicester and Chelsea have something in common despite a difference of status and wealth. Both are collecting an exciting array of young and upcoming talent. With an average age in both teams vastly similar (the Foxes average age for this match 26.6 and Chelsea’s 24.5), it was a little surprising that it felt much more of a gulf in maturity and experience. Yes, the Foxes have some older heads next to all of the young talent, but arguably so do Chelsea where Thiago Silva and Mendy are concerned. If you’re a Chelsea fan, it’s the manner of the defeat that should worry you more than the score line.
There’s an argument for Frank Lampard’s side that their new signings are not only adjusting to their new team but having to adapt to the league. That doesn’t feel like an adequate excuse for being outworked though. The Foxes show in every pass, every recovery and every movement that they are a squad working for one another. Chelsea’s talent on paper may outclass Leicester’s, but we looked far more of a team unit as opposed to their talented individuals.
When the time comes around to pick a team performance of the season, this should be right up there. As a single forty-five minutes, Leicester put up their yet for the campaign. Perhaps it only stood out that Jamie Vardy looked to be lacking confidence or a tiny bit of fitness because everybody else, man to man, was just so good. Attacks came from every area of the pitch and how the game remained at 2-0 is the only negative you can take. We just weren’t clinical enough. James Justin wasted a simple header to cap off another dominating performance, Harvey Barnes was unlucky and Maddison’s chance to double his tally prevented by the crossbar.
The cherry on the cake came with Ricardo’s return after almost a year out due to injury. Welcome back Ricky!
2) Don’t be fooled, this score line flatters Chelsea and we didn’t even need to rely on Jamie Vardy
Despite needing to be more clinical and squandering some simple chances, the professionalism shown by the Foxes and the quick tactical reactions whenever Chelsea did manage to string something together ensured the chances didn’t come back to haunt us.
This marked two difficult back to back games for Jamie Vardy now. Against Southampton it felt like he could have been there a while and a goal wasn’t coming, against Chelsea some of his passing and movement looked off the pace. Without wanting to try and evaluate his performance specifically (after all, he’s allowed some quieter matches) it’s incredibly pleasing that we didn’t really need him to look pretty comfortable against this Chelsea side.
Clearly Vardy is never a passenger. Watch Leicester’s second goal and James Maddison is allowed the time and space he gets because the entire Chelsea back-line is flailing to cover Vardy. Even on a night where he’s not at his best, he has the opposition panicked because they know as well as we do, he only ever needs one touch and one chance. His first half was summed up by having more chances at goal than touches!
It’s testament to the squad that has been recruited and nurtured that there’s enough about us to manage on a night where things aren’t working for our talisman. We were accused in the past of being a one-man team, clearly still seen this way by too many people, but it’s our biggest strength at present, the amount of talent we have. For a second game running, choosing a Man of the Match has proved challenging because you could make a case for almost every single outfield player.
3) How to respond to your fans begging you not to shoot? Do it anyway, big Willy style!
One particularly wayward shot Wilfred Ndidi took against Southampton had many begging him not to shoot again. We’re all happy to admit we’re wrong, right? Clearly not phased at all, our octopus limbed maestro grabbed the early goal with another shot after the ball somewhat fell to his feet and saved Barnes’ blushes.
Our Nigerian tends to score one long range goal a season, so perhaps he can tame the shooting a little now? It was taken with his left foot, generating plenty of power and spin and forcing Evans to move the fastest we’ve seen for a while to duck. Maybe we can make an allowance for him to keep shooting so long as he strikes them with his left foot!
Leicester with Wilfred Ndidi this season: 2.5 points per game— Matchday365 ⚽️ (@Matchday365) January 20, 2021
Without: 1.4 points per game
Ndidi has been outstanding since his return from injury. It’s as if he’d never been away, although the amount in which we missed him can’t be ignored, nor can the sheer number of ways we can play just by having him in the side be taken for granted. Rodgers talked about the different formations we flexed and switched between to suit each period of the game. Would that be possible without somebody as dogged and reliable as Ndidi? He certainly makes life easy for our more creative players.
4) Madders wants everybody talking about him? It’s already all eyes on him
It feels like we can stop saying Maddison needs to increase his numbers now, right? The goal against Chelsea gives him goals in three back to back league games. It’s been all eyes on him for a while now, so when he said post-match that he wants everybody talking about him, I don’t think he needs to be too concerned. Between his impressive goals, his movement in the Leicester attacking line and his post-match interviews getting the attention that his charisma and eloquence deserve, it’s pretty hard to ignore him. He is a player that eats, breathes and lives for football, it’s easy to forget that he’s still learning his craft as much as some of our younger players, but he’s certainly a key focal point right now.
James Maddison’s interview last night was refreshingly open, honest and relatable- all in which describe England’s newest ‘golden generation’.— Tom Cunningham (@TomCunningham75) January 20, 2021
Would love to see players come away from the generic answers more.#Maddison https://t.co/SvNkNIW76B
Where some may take him to be arrogant, it’s more of a perfectionist nature. He likely bonds with Kasper Schmeichel here, watching back tapes, analysing the things that worked and those that didn’t. The role Maddison played against Chelsea asked him to do more than just his usual number ten role and his creativity on set pieces played out. He’s talked a lot about the practice and work that goes into them, but it hasn’t always been reflected in actual matches. Between a short, sharp free-kick that let Youri Tielemans play it in for Barnes and the interplay with Marc Albrighton that led to our first, Maddison contributed much more than just a goal.
Maddison is just one of a number of players in our side who have contributed to getting more goals and assists this season, to easing the pressure on our lone striker. While Barnes didn’t get his name on the scoresheet against Chelsea, he did cause the London side plenty of problems. Overlapping with James Justin again gave us a fair bit of joy down the left, Timothy Castagne and Marc Albrighton getting the better of former Fox Ben Chilwell on the right.
5) Tout le monde aime Wesley Fofana
Ok, so my French is sketchy and limited to cycling terms but everybody does love Wesley Fofana. I can’t be the only one who needs a constant reminder that he’s 20 and hasn’t even played fifty professional games yet. He looked pretty great when we got our first glimpse of us, and we credit the development of Justin, but lil Wes is blowing everybody else out of the water.
Whether you choose to see this as a reaction to being substituted against Southampton, or just knowing that Caglar Soyuncu is waiting in the wings, it was a performance worthy of a Man of the Match award. He’s fortunate to have a reliable partnership with Jonny Evans but he almost single handedly kept Tammy Abraham quietly frustrated. His confidence has never been in question, but his composure to match that has been growing. Some players need time to adapt to the Premier League but Fofana doesn’t seem to be one of them.
His instincts seem mature for a player of his age. Knowing when he can push out of the defence, happy to dribble forward and try to put the Foxes on the front foot. A surging run forward forced two Chelsea players out to the wing to close down the danger and while it didn’t work out this time, it feels like he will contribute more on the attack soon. Strong in the air, physical without looking dirty, he’s incredibly well rounded.
I know it won’t happen for a while but just thinking of him and Soyuncu partnered up is very exciting. Unless you’re a Premier League forward.
Bonus Learn: It didn’t get the attention it deserved but Kasper charging out to virtually the halfway line to head the ball away was a highlight. Unless you’re easily unsettled or for some reason wouldn’t entrust your house, child and generally anything to the Dane. Sadly the only photo I can find is this: