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5 things we learned from Leicester v Leeds

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That pesky home form is still a problem

Leicester City v Leeds United - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

1) Tinkering doesn’t pay off for Brendan Rodgers as set pieces continue to cause pain

When it comes to changing formation and using substitutes to great effect, Brendan Rodgers has succeeded more this season than he’s failed. Unfortunately you’d have to file the loss to Leeds down as a time where none of it really worked.

Having tactically outwitted Bielsa’s Leeds in our first meeting, this was never going to be as simple. We didn’t try and repeat those tactics, pretty tough without Jamie Vardy and Dennis Praet (for whom we don’t really have like for like replacements) but the line-up on paper looked capable. Rodgers had to make the switch at halftime but sadly we found ourselves unable to put much together in the final third for all our control. Throwing Cengiz Under in seemed like the right move but forced a switch of formation again and did us no favours.

Set pieces continue to haunt Leicester. Defensively this is nothing new, we still insist on setting up to defend corners the same way despite conceding a lot from them. Only an offside decision spared us here. If watching those doesn’t give you hives, you also have the pleasure of watching us put ourselves into trouble when attacking set pieces!

To be fair, the likes of James Maddison haven’t hidden behind our record of goals from set pieces needing to improve. But it would be great to see those concerns rectified on the pitch. Despite one or two chances from a corner, the general delivery today, especially on free-kicks was simply poor. I love Maddison but it’s hard to see him take poor free-kick after poor free-kick. A final one resulting in the break for Leeds third goal. Something has to start improving here at both ends of the pitch.

Wasn’t there a ‘Have Leicester scored from a corner? No’ account, maybe they could merge.

Our first loss of the year, it’s easy to chalk it down to just a bad day and luckily there’s a midweek game for the Foxes to try and quickly address it.

2) Foxes lose the midfield battle

How do we politely examine Nampalys Mendy’s performance against Leeds. Its a one good, one bad analysis. The good? Mendy has never played as far forward as he did here. He passed forwards more than backwards and even managed a shot at goal. Two in two matches for him now!

The bad? He didn’t provide enough physicality to Leicester City against Leeds. The third goal is the prime example. Muscled off the ball and unable to cut out a pass that set Patrick Bamford surging forward. I hate to be this person but that just doesn’t happen with Wilfred Ndidi there. If anybody does want to accuse us of being a one man team, it’s harder to deny that Ndidi isn’t that one man.

Owch.

Leeds had the midfield battle won pretty much from minute one. A largely unchanged line-up and formation was the obvious option but the away side didn’t take long to react to it. It’s frustrating that we perhaps lulled ourselves into some early hope by starting so brightly. Leeds only play one way though and it’s all focused on the attack and the quick counter. Credit to them because it worked repeatedly on us.

Could we have utilised Hamza Choudhury to offer something a little different? I think so. Playing him alongside Youri Tielemans would very much be a yin and yang contrast but he is more aggressive than Mendy. Being reduced to just two substitutions after the Timothy Castagne injury didn’t help. It was clear a formation switch to a back three and wing-backs would offer midfield stability and typically as soon as we flexed back to a four, we shipped another goal.

3) No Vardy, no party, and still no Iheanacho despite this

Timed absence or not, Jamie Vardy is the kind of player that you’ll always miss, whether he’s banging in the goals or not, so it’s not wrong to say he could have made a difference against Leeds. Though I still stand by the Ndidi absence hurting us more. This time has given Ayoze Perez a rare run of gametime through the middle, his preferred position, though always as a lone striker. Against Leeds, he struggled. Again, not for a lack of effort but it wasn’t working for him and he made a couple of questionable decisions or failed to communicate with his team mates. The Foxes had another striker on the bench, yet it never looked like he was even in the frame to come on.

Given we look short of forwards, where does this leave Kelechi Iheanacho? Even against Brentford in the FA Cup, where you could have expected the Nigerian to get a start, saving Perez for the league, he didn’t. Possibly that was the trial for the formation and using Perez ahead of a Premier League match, but he’s barely featured of late. Whether it’s an attacking midfielder, to cover Praet, or a forward, it seems like the Foxes are considering options, which could push Iheanacho even further down the pecking order.

You can mark this down as speculation, because perhaps circumstance against Leeds, particularly the early substitution/injury to Castange effectively left Rodgers having to switch up his plan, but it didn’t look like Iheanacho was ever an option to bring on. Given the quick turnaround of games, Vardy will still be missing for the trip to face Fulham, perhaps Perez will drop to the bench and Iheanacho will get his chance. The reluctance to use him in this period though is beginning to feel more like the Irishman just doesn’t trust him to fill the void. His Leicester career has been stop-start, not exactly the ideal scenario for a confidence player, but you do wonder where he goes from here.

4) Leeds were lucky we don’t have a few more of Harvey Barnes and Ricardo Pereira

It doesn’t necessarily feel like there were many positives to take from this game, but I believe in balance and the optimist in me likes to pick out the good points. These mainly came in the form of Harvey ‘Danger’ Barnes (as he will now forever be known thanks to Fosse Posse’s own Jack), and the return of Ricardo Pereira. Leeds are lucky we haven’t figured out how to clone them yet and that the rest of our squad couldn’t keep up with the pair today.

Barnes’ development continues to be an absolute pleasure. Take his goal today, last season he might have wanted an extra touch, left the shot too late. Perhaps his mazy run halfway across the pitch would have been cut out. Against Leeds, they were powerless to stop him. His decisions were perfect, he utilised his speed and dribbling and he took the shot at exactly the right time after clever play with Maddison. As mostly solo goals go, you won’t get many better. He’s exciting, he’s unpredictable and he just keeps getting better.

He was our attacking outlet on the left, though he looked equally dangerous when drifting more centrally. We had a match for that on the right through Ricardo Pereira. He may be a right back by trade but boy we really missed his runs forward and crosses while he was out. He benefited from the second half switch to a back five that pushed him up and gave him more freedom.

The Fosse Posse doesn’t condone child sacrifice but it looks like Alex may have already done this based on Ricky’s display today.

It’s not a coincidence that we looked much more likely to score with this change either. If only our overall decision making could have matched Ricky P’s we might have had some joy. He was unfortunate that after a daring run into the opposition box left him wide open, Justin opted to shoot rather than square it. It’s just a shame that in order to get Ricardo on, it was at the expense of a slight knock to Timothy Castagne. We really don’t need to add anybody else to the injury list.

5) Just because it was a loss doesn’t mean we should overlook that Kasper Schmeichel save

You have to feel sorry for goalkeepers who make an absolutely phenomenal save in a game their team goes on to lose because nobody brings it up again and it counts for nothing. As 2021 marks the tenth year of Kasper Schmeichel at Leicester, his world class save didn’t end up protecting a point, or three, from the game but it certainly stopped it getting out of hand earlier. As it transpired, the Dane would have virtually no help or chance of stopping goals two or three for Leeds.

The save in question came from a Leeds corner, Schmeichel managing to stop a header from sneaking in just under the crossbar by effectively trapping it there before pushing it out. It looked good in real time, it looks near impossible that he managed to pull off that kind of dexterity and reaction when you slow it down. You may have to seek it out given the 3-1 score line, but it’s worth it. A reminder to anybody doubting his number one status that he’s still more than got it.

To Kasper’s credit, he didn’t do anything wrong today so he’s a logical choice for our Man of the Match. As has been an unfortunate theme from our home games that he’s been kept very busy and called upon to save our blushes a few too many times.

It’s home form that will continue to frustrate Rodgers and his side. More losses already at home this season than the entirety of last year and performances that have fallen short of the mark as opposed to just our opponents outworking us.

Bonus Learn: Lil Wes is a generally enthusiastic player but he looked particularly up for this game, unfortunate to have a volley blocked that looked goal bound. There was a particular moment though where he came flying through and charged forward, finding himself out on the right wing. He’s not lacking in positive aggression. Surely a goal has to come soon for him?