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Five Things We Learned From Brentford v Leicester

On this website, we demand Youri Tielemans’ excellence is recognised

Brentford v Leicester City: The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

1) Brendan Rodgers finds the on switch at half-time as another professional half sees Foxes through

It’s not that the Foxes were necessarily terrible in the first half, but we played in a manner that largely exploited and helped Brentford expose our set piece weaknesses. It’s natural that our back-line might have wanted some time to settle into the game. This combination hadn’t played before and Ricardo, Çağlar Söyüncü and Daniel Amartey are coming back from injury, which is why it made no sense to keep gifting the home side free-kicks and corners. The pressure on our defence felt like a problem primarily caused by the want (or need?) to give Wilfred Ndidi a rest.

A frustrating start then for Brendan Rodgers, we’d actually started well, both flanks looking lively and dangerous. Cengiz Ünder ensured the seventeen-year-old Brentford fullback would be in for a tough introduction to life on the left and was the focal point for Leicester’s attacks in the first half. 1-0 down at half-time felt like a score line that wouldn’t trouble Rodgers too much given this season’s scoring prowess.

Whatever Rodgers said at half-time, I’m opting to think it was as simple as flicking a switch up to our best gear. It worked, as demonstrated by the immediacy of the way the players attacked the ball and got the opening ball. The shift in momentum felt like it swung in our favour and was never in doubt when they gave us a penalty shortly after. This was a tale of two halves to an extent, but don’t overlook some of the football and the moves that we put together in the second half. Rodgers has said that this squad wants to be competitive in all competitions and with this squad, it feels like that is a possibility.

2) Goals are never in doubt for this Leicester City team (so maybe soon people will stop implying we’re a one-man team now)

It’s a very pleasing feeling when your team goes a goal down and you can feel confident that they will get at least one goal. This is not a Leicester side struggling for creativity and goals anymore. Sure, improvements could happen to stop us needing to come from behind at all, but I don’t think Brentford were naive enough to think we wouldn’t throw all our firepower at that during this game.

Two things need to stop happening to this Leicester City side. The first being the assumption that without Jamie Vardy we will crumble and fall. Perhaps true once, but now utterly disrespectful to this squad. The goals have been spread across a number of players and while Vardy is still important and our best striker, we are not a one man team. Three goals against Brentford from three separate players again tells you that this line is lazy and inaccurate.

The second should come with its own forfeit for any pundits or commentators caught saying this, and that is saying the words James Maddison followed following by ‘he needs to score more goals to get to that next level.’ Surely at this stage, as he scored yet again to mark his 100th game in a Leicester City shirt, and four in four games, we’re already there?

That argument for the other England players putting up better numbers isn’t holding up so well right now, huh?

Maddison has really stepped up this year. He was already an important player for us, see some of those games during the restart where we craved his magic creativity. This season, though, he’s taken on a more mature role. It’s not just his goals, but adding to his assists tally and taking more control in a game.

He played a big part in grabbing hold of the Brentford game and turning it around in that second half. Yes, he’s full of confidence right now, as is the whole team, but this is Maddison in his prime. It’s fun, it’s audacious at times (that free-kick and the chip he attempted), but it’s getting results. His assist for the Ünder goal was damn perfect too.

3) Captain Youri Tielemans has a perfect ring to it

Who better to take the captain’s armband here than Youri Tielemans? He may only be 23 but he’s more than worthy of the honour and Captain Tielemans has a perfect ring to it. He put in another fine performance to mark the occasion too. Calm, intelligent and always professional, he definitely has the attributes to be a good Captain. Taking charge of the penalty he’d won to add a goal to his haul for the game felt fitting.

Consistency for Leicester generally this season has been the focus and Youri is certainly one of our best performers on average. You know exactly what he’s going to bring to each match and his form so rarely dips. His eye for a pass has only been improved this season by the number of players we have making clever, forward moves. There were numerous occasions today where he was able to put well-worked crosses out to Ricardo to put the Portuguese full-back on the front foot.

Oozing class with every touch of the ball, trying to manage Tieleman’s game time over the coming weeks will be Brendan Rodgers challenge. He’s the one player we don’t really have a replacement for while Dennis Praet is out injured.

Our Belgian maestro can count himself unlucky yet again to not pick up the Man of the Match award. He was consistent throughout and absolutely controlled the midfield until we sent on Ndidi to help free him up a little more. Peppering with passes, often hit first touch but so accurately and his first touch control. In games like this, we’re all just at Tielemans’ mercy. Good job he’s also a super lovable guy then.

4) Spoilt for choice with our full-backs but we’re not complaining

After 26 games, James Justin was finally allowed a rest! This is what being back to full-strength with our full-backs allows us to do. Having Ricardo Pereira taking over in this position is arguably an upgrade too given the Portuguese player’s dominance for us before his injury. This was a very solid seventy minutes back from our right-back. Defensively astute when needed, one vital interception stood out, and on the front foot as much as possible.

It’s full credit to Justin and Timothy Castagne that we haven’t missed Ricardo as much this season as we did during the restart, but I don’t think any of us felt like him getting a spot in this team somewhere wasn’t guaranteed. There were so many little moments today that highlighted why, including the connection he and Tielemans have. Ricardo was unlucky not to notch an assist with a fantastic ball to Maddison. With a bit more playing time under his belt, he should be back at his best and we will definitely benefit from that.

The luxury for Rodgers is that when you don’t want to risk Ricardo any longer, you can throw Castagne on who was immediately attacking and giving Brentford fresh issues on that right side. A gorgeous one-two between him and Marc Albrighton deserved some kind of end product.

He won’t get too many of the headlines but this was a solid performance from Luke Thomas too, taking over at left-back. Quietly effective would be a summary of his defensive duties, he warmed into the game when the back-line began to settle down. He got forward a couple of times in the first half, on that overlap with Harvey Barnes, the first time they did it, it seemed to surprise our opponents. This is a combination that is certainly promising, see that absolutely filthy backheel Thomas did to play Barnes through in the second half.

As the fixtures pile up and the next phase of the Europa League is on the horizon, there’s no better time to have four fully fit and raring to go full-backs. Particularly when two of them are well versed on either side and two could easily deputise as wingers if required. You say selection headache, I say how lucky we are!

5) The Cengiz Ünder dilemma

Certain players seem to polarize a fanbase. Cengiz Ünder seems to be doing that for Leicester fans. Finally fit again after what felt like a lengthy spell out, this was a game for him to stand out in. Even when uninjured, fitness has kept him from being given more chances in the Premier League. It was a very bright start for the Turkish international who seemed to have the measure of his marker both on speed and positioning. Our best player in that first half? Perhaps.

Ünder’s goal came at the best possible time, perfectly executing whatever second half plans Rodgers had and destroying whatever game plan Brentford had hoped to put into play. He was fortunate that Maddison had done an incredible job to keep the ball, but he was calm in the finish and had got himself into the right spot for the cross. It more than made up for the later chance he had to extend Leicester’s advantage after a superb link-up between Tielemans and Ricardo.

There was a worrying moment where Ünder finished the first half hobbling. The current loan deal with no obligation to buy, but a £20 million option is more good business on Leicester’s part. It feels too early for the Foxes to have made a decision yet on whether they’ll take Roma up on the option. The big problem for the Turkish winger is that we haven’t seen enough of him. There are glimpses that he could be exactly what we needed, little turns with the ball or a defensive doggedness but they haven’t combined into many solid ninety minute outings. He does provide a different option in the right wing position than anybody we already have too. It’s going to come down to consistency and numbers.

Bonus Learn: Originally this was going to be just the fact that Wilfred Ndidi, verbally, took Danny Ward to task over that terrible second half pass, which I am definitely here for. However, it deserves a mention that the BT commentary team thought Ndidi doing this was him waving an imaginary card in the direction of Michael Oliver at first. Not just integral to our playing style, I love the accountability and responsibility Wilf carries, and expects, from his teammates. This is why we forget he’s only 24.