1) One win in six and no sign of form changing imminently
Remember that season it took months for us to get a draw? Those were happier days. Outside of some recent highlights, namely at Wembley, there’s something about heading to the capital that will likely never give Leicester fans too much hope. For so long we’ve rarely picked up that many points on our travels there. So heading to Crystal Palace with just one in five wasn’t exactly inspiring.
A 2-2 draw makes it one win in six now. More worryingly, it’s another game where we held a lead only to squander it. And you could argue we were incredibly lucky to get a two goal lead in the first place. More a case of some good Kasper Schmeichel saves and some unlucky finishing on the Eagles’ part. A point may not make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things, but defending so poorly and still snatching a point shows...something, even if I’ve no idea what it is.
In previous seasons, the International breaks have always felt inconveniently timed, but this one couldn’t have come sooner. Something needs to change and it’s back to the drawing board again. Rodgers won’t have the full squad at his disposal as a number will be boarding planes and donning their country’s colours but it does give him some breathing space and time to regroup. Because so far, everything we’re trying isn’t quite hitting the mark.
There’s a feeling in some games that if we can shore up defensively and find that final ball, we could thrash an opponent. The problem is, we just can’t seem to get either the forward play or the defensive set-up right.
2) Hope you enjoyed the 4-4-2 set-up because it’s hard to see Rodgers opting for it again soon
Let’s address that injury elephant in the room again. The one that is forever looming. It’s no longer even an excuse we can point to, it’s just a way of life now to constantly lose another key member of the team. In losing Wilfred Ndidi though, it’s one of the worst ones that could have happened outside of yet another centre-back (you know, from our choice of two fully fit ones). We don’t have a carbon copy Ndidi replacement. It’s what a lot of us thought Boubakary Soumare would be, but it’s clear the Frenchman is more in the mould of Youri Tielemans than our Nigerian.
BR on Wilfred Ndidi's hamstring injury: "It could be four to five weeks (he's out) so we'll see how that goes."— BBC Sport Leicester (@BBCRLSport) October 3, 2021
Spoiler alert: We know how it goes and...yep
Cue another chance for Hamza Choudhury. Perhaps the biggest surprise on the team sheet until you look at the qualities you miss without Ndidi there. Choudhury may have been close to departing in the summer but Newcastle’s reluctance to actually pay any wages for a player they want is our gain because otherwise we’d look thin on the ground in a second department. To Choudhury’s credit, his sixty minute display wasn’t anywhere near the worst on the pitch. We looked more defensively open once he was taken off too.
After the back three that was tested away to Legia didn’t stand up to the test, it wasn’t a surprise to see Rodgers mix it up and go for a more traditional back four to face Palace, but us playing a straight-up 4-4-2 formation wasn’t quite so expected. Defensively, it looked no more convincing which does lead you to look at the personnel rather than the shape. Jannik Vestergaard hasn’t looked entirely convincing in any match so far and we’re still waiting for a partnership to form between him and Caglar Soyuncu. Despite some early promising signs from Ryan Bertrand he isn’t looking strong at left-back either. A lot of focus has come on our goalkeeper and his distribution, but it does make you wonder how much of that is from his nerves about what’s ahead of him.
Ryan Bertrand woke up feeling dangerous today— Joaco Alvarez (@Joaco_lestah) October 3, 2021
I’m not sure he and I have the same definition of dangerous.
The Foxes’ biggest issue this season seems to be in trying to find a formation that allows us the balance to play our best front men while maintaining some defensive integrity. A brief 4-4-2 cameo doesn’t suggest that it’s the answer to this question either. Answers on a postcard for our best formation at this stage.
3) Rodgers cannot justify depriving us of the Iheanacho-Vardy partnership any longer
It took until October to get the duo starting together this season and although the game didn’t go the way any of us wanted, it was further proof that we are more potent with two up front. Quite how you solve the quadruple threat of pace that Jamie Vardy, Kelechi Iheanacho, Harvey Barnes and Ademola Lookman possess will be a challenge for most Premier League defences. You think we’d know that given ours must be struggling against them in training matches.
OptaJoe: 33 - Jamie Vardy (17) and Kelechi Iheanacho (16) have scored 33 goals between them in the 32 Premier League games when they have both started together. Partnership. pic.twitter.com/9nVm3I0e1p— footainment (@F00tainment) October 4, 2021
With both strikers notching goals, albeit through some poor defending in both instances, it’s a huge advantage for us to have both available. There’s something reassuring that despite our collective woes as a team, it doesn’t seem to be rubbing off on our strikers in any way. Iheanacho’s stats continue to keep him in stats alongside the world’s best and Vardy is...well, Vardy. Even if we missed a flamboyant celebration this time out (although how do you top the flapping eagle?).
Having the two together also seems to help Barnes too. Ignoring that his lack of defending hurt us a few times, and let’s be honest, it’s not what we want him doing, he has more options and more space when the defenders have to worry about more of our players. Hopefully his assist will continue to help rebuild his confidence too.
“He is a player that, over a period of time, will either create or score a goal. (But) he can’t play in another position. He is purely a striker. When you play with two strikers, there is then a change behind that.”—Brendan Rodgers on Kelechi Iheanacho.— Solace Chukwu (@TheOddSolace) October 4, 2021
Note to Gernot Rohr.
Rodgers’ argument if he opts not to start Iheanacho and Vardy together again when we face Manchester United will be the sacrifices and adjustments he has to make behind. Which is a little frustrating really. The goals and the assists when they do play together aren’t to be dismissed so if it is a personnel issue behind them, then we really should have done something about it in the summer because by now, starting the pair should be a no-brainer.
4) Another impressive outing from Timothy Castagne and he wasn’t even playing where we most needed him
There’s a definite fire in the Belgian’s belly this season. Not for the first game, Castagne looked the player who was the most up for it, ignoring Vardy who only has the one setting, and he was one of the stronger players out there. He wasn’t perfect defensively, but he was the best of the back four and his role on the right is so often about what he brings on the attack as much as it is his defensive capabilities.
One of the things Rodgers will need to mull over during this break is whether to move Castagne over to the left. It’s clearly not his best position of the two, but with the lack of impact Bertrand has had in recent matches, and Harvey Barnes needing a lot more support in defensive duties on the left, Castagne might be a better fit. Not to mention it allows us to draft Ricardo back in on the right. It might offer that balance we’re looking for.
Leicester need to get castagne at left back,pereira at right back. All they need is someone to communicate. Vestergard Isn't a shit defender, he was excellent in the euros. I just think he's no good with syonchu.— Leicestertillidie (@smiggyfox) October 4, 2021
5) Rodgers’ toughest test yet since joining Leicester
Fans aren’t quite divided on the subject of Brendan Rodgers’ job, it’s only a very small minority genuinely calling for him to go, but it’s not exactly a happy fanbase either. One of the primary reasons that Castagne is attracting attention following the weekend is that sense of passion, of commitment. Fans and media alike will never really know what gets said and done in the dressing room, but few will ever be forgiving or patient where it seems a lack of effort, a lack of fight is concerned.
There’s been a sense of flat performances across the season, not just from individuals but collectively. Perhaps it’s an unfair accusation, but it does feel like quite a few could be trying harder. Couple that with the luck not running in games where we have managed to play well, plus injuries and it’s a perfect storm. Providing Rodgers his toughest test yet. Two seasons in a row we’ve spent more time in the top places than most clubs but failed to stay there. Disappointing, but most were willing to forgive pretty easily. An FA Cup win softened the blow the second time around, but the cracks left room for concern. Cracks that only seem to have got wider or been papered over.
In Rodgers defence, the injuries have been ludicrous and trying to deal with those and new signings during a global pandemic won’t have helped either, but his decisions are up for discussion. Even he would have to admit to being stubborn, often his team selections and persisting with them haven’t helped us. After a whimpering exit from last year’s Europa League, it felt like we had the chance to focus on it this season but a poor start has only brought yet more frustration. It doesn’t feel like we have owners who will make knee-jerk decisions, but the Foxes could really do with helping their boss out when the Premier League starts up again after this international break.