1) Too timid for the first seventy minutes... again against Liverpool
This might sound a little odd given the score line, but it’s relevant for the first 60 minutes. It’s not fun to watch us play Liverpool. The first hour of this encounter played out like so many others in the last few seasons. Us essentially rolling over and inviting Liverpool on. It’s frustrating and tough to explain how we look so timid against them. It was the same story at Anfield earlier this season, we looked nervous and invited the pressure while struggling to impose any of our own game. Why? Against other big teams, see Manchester City, we look like caged lions. But against Liverpool? Kittens who fear the bin bag treatment.
Some of the early nerves may be due to the defensive line-up we were forced to produce. It’s fantastic to have Daniel Amartey back, but this was an ask for him to fill in at right-back on his road to recovery (let’s not forget he missed nearly two years) with Ricardo taking over at left-back. I’ve lost count of the number of different combinations we’ve lined up but this is yet another. Against a formidable Liverpool front three, it was always going to need time to settle down. But the Foxes looked generally nervous in the opening thirty minutes. We weren’t managing to string together many passes and were too slow, too easily dispossessed.
Nice to see Ricardo Pereira back on top form so quickly for Leicester. Played on wrong flank today and looked just at home as on the right. Such a talent.— tariq panja (@tariqpanja) February 13, 2021
Having weathered the early storm, with some help as usual from Kasper Schmeichel, we did manage to carve out some chances. Two key chances for Jamie Vardy that just didn’t go. You’d forgive us for thinking it might not be our afternoon at that stage. It’s tough to pinpoint what it is about Liverpool that has us so often looking out of sorts. Yes, it’s harder to take a game to a team who have three world class forwards that can punish you on the break, but we’ve never been a side who look comfortable to sit back and soak up a whole game of pressure. As our first goal showed, give us one chance and it can be the catalyst.
Here’s hoping now that the players have seen just what Liverpool are capable of in terms of self-capitulation in just seven minutes, we might have regained some confidence when facing them now. This felt this a vital win as so often a loss against Liverpool seems to derail us.
2) 7 minutes in heaven (unless you’re a Liverpool fan)
Showing my age and younger music taste by having Fall Out Boy stuck in my head with this title.
So much happened in these seven minutes that they’re worthy of their own lesson. Whatever you think of VAR, Liverpool were fortunate with the foul on Harvey Barnes that it was only a free-kick. So many calls like this though seem to favour the defensive team, which doesn’t feel entirely right. As it turns out though, a free-kick was all we needed. A low, bobbling James Maddison free-kick found its way in and even though Amartey fancied trying to make sure, VAR ruled in our favour. Eventually. Hope the VAR guys enjoyed their five minutes of entertainment!
This wasn’t quite a goal from nothing for the Foxes but it should have been a worrying claxon to Liverpool because usually when we get one, we tend to go on and get more. There was a stroke of fortune in our second with the miscommunication between Alisson and Kabak let the ball drop to a waiting Vardy, but more fool Liverpool (Jordan Henderson was closest) for leaving him so wide open when you know he’s always looking for a mistake. Much as the focus will go on Alisson again, can we credit Youri Tielemans because his ambitious lofty ball (aiming for either Barnes) forced Alisson to come out and cause chaos. He won’t get an assist for it but yet again the Belgian was involved in the build up. It also gave us the celebration of the season so far.
Feel like you’ve seen a team self implode like this before? Yes, I’m thinking of that dreaded Bournemouth game from the restart and how quickly we shot ourselves in the foot. Liverpool did their best impression and we showed why we have such a good record for goals in the last fifteen minutes. Our forward players are ruthless. If Man of the Match awards were given on the basis of a quarter, and BT seem to believe they are, Harvey Barnes was a shoe-in.
3) A comeback from the Foxes and fifteen minutes of pressure from Harvey Barnes
Hey, did you know Harvey Barnes is fun to watch? It may have taken the first hour to really get the winger doing what he does best, running at the opposition, but he had a huge role in the final third of the game. Unfortunate maybe for Alexander-Arnold who had done a good job of keeping him out the game up to this point. Barnes goal was the icing on the cake in a seven minute turnaround and is my favourite of the three. In truth, he’d deserved a goal for a brilliant move just before that, but this was almost as good. It was a brilliant pass from Wilfred Ndidi and a confident strike past the already suffering Alisson.
Harvey Barnes this season -— The12thMan (@The12thMannnn) February 14, 2021
⚽️ 12 goals
️ 3 assists
Is that enough to get him into Southgate’s squad this summer? pic.twitter.com/wU7NheLyCO
With Gareth Southgate watching on from the stands yet again, Barnes can’t have done himself any harm. You’d have to think he’s done enough to earn a space in the squad. His position has some formidable rivals, but it does feel like he offers something a little different. The Foxes have nobody else that does what he does and while it was a tough start to the game, he lost out to TAA quite a few times, we found a way to get him into the game in the second half. Strangely, what he did so little of in the first half was the running at Liverpool and the dribbling. As soon as he started doing more of that, we looked more dangerous.
It’s so pleasing to see him with the killer finishes this season. His contributions, along with James Maddison, have ensured we aren’t so reliant on Vardy and gives us a much more rounded feel to the side. It was more of a central role for Barnes in the last twenty minutes, coming over to support Vardy more and given freedom to roam when he could beat every defender in a foot race. It helps that we had Ricardo behind him, we had them overlapping more too towards the end of this match, a pretty exciting prospect if we’ll be keeping Ricardo at left-back a little longer.
4) A game lost without Wilfred Ndidi but you can’t overlook Ricardo’s importance either
Challenge: find me a team that you couldn’t improve by putting Wilfred Ndidi into the middle? You can’t. He may only be at Leicester City, but he is one of the best players in the world right now at what he does. And if his shirt was red, or his manager was a name like Guardiola, you’d be hearing about him nonstop. If you’d like to accuse the Foxes of being a one man team, it would have to be using this man’s name. Would we have beaten Liverpool without him on the pitch? I really don’t think we would.
"The game’s best player did not score;he only had one off-target shot,laid on a couple of chances and got one assist.But anyone who judges Wilfred Ndidi based on his attacking output is a fool.The most effective defensive midfielder in the entire league was exemplary here" @F365— Mohammed Ajeigbe (@MOHAMMEDAJEIGBE) February 14, 2021
Not for the first time, Ndidi’s stats are incredible. His heat map shows that octopus like ability for him to be everywhere with a leg in everything. It’s been flagged before the importance his role has in providing a buffer, think Gandalf screaming ‘you shall not pass’, to stop the opposition before they even start pressing our defence. And with yet another changed (and new) defensive line-up, we needed that in the opening half.
It feels like at least twice a season he either sets or resets a new record for recoveries and interceptions. He was the Foxes Man of the Match hands down and it was great to see him notching an assist too. However, I’d argue there was another player who was almost as important in this game: Ricardo.
Ricardo continued a theme for Rodgers of our full backs having to be versatile. You have to track back a few years to see when the Portugal international last played at left back, but he was the preferred option to Luke Thomas and Christian Fuchs. He did a pretty solid job too. Similar to Ndidi he stepped up a few times in sneaking the ball away from the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and making important tackles.
Now excuse this writer while she researches methods to lock up both Ndidi and Ricardo ready for the summer transfer window.
5) All hail Kasper Schmeichel’s wrists of steel
In a game that had so many talking points and moments to analyse, it would be easy to overlook that on his 100th consecutive Premier League game, Kasper Schmeichel made one of the saves of the season. And let’s be honest, we’ve forced him to make a few spectacular saves already this year. At the Fosse Posse though, we always have time to celebrate our Captain and his contributions.
It’s come up again in recent matches just how strong Kasper’s hands and wrists are. To be able to parry, tip and turn powerful shots away and make it look pretty simple means he must have joints of steel. Even the commentators seemed confused at first how the Robert Firminho chance wasn’t a goal. The save was an instant reaction from Schmeichel and it wasn’t until they slowed down the replay and gave a new angle that the save could really be appreciated.
Kasper Schmeichel has once again been monumental to our success this season— (@LCFCshitposting) February 14, 2021
1️⃣0️⃣1️⃣ Ball Recoveries
7️⃣2️⃣% Save Success
6️⃣4️⃣ Shots Saved
1️⃣0️⃣ Defensive actions outside the penalty area
9️⃣ Clean Sheets ✅
0️⃣ Fouls Committed@kschmeichel1 #LCFC pic.twitter.com/D6ZBjIuGnK
Bet you can still find some fan complaining about his distribution though...
Yet another crucial save from our Captain. The game was still 0-0 at that stage. Not necessarily a great reflection on our defending, but he’s had to make similar saves now. They look fantastic at the time and cement his status as ever reliable, but they don’t always get the credit for how important they can be for momentum. Much like Jamie Vardy, age doesn’t seem to be negatively impacting Kasper yet. That stat around the matches shouldn’t be overlooked either.
Bonus Learn: Jamie Vardy and corner flags is a love affair we all need more of. Excellent then that welcome a new entry into the top ten celebrations of all time for Jamie Vardy. Proving that you don’t always have to karate kick one to celebrate, he turned one into a guitar following the effortless second goal. Not quite as good as the Crystal Palace eagle celebration or the ‘me’ celebration, but this one edges into the top five for me.