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Five Things We Learned From Burnley v Leicester City

Kasper Schmeichel saves the day (again)

Burnley v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

1) More effective than a Viking shield wall, Kasper Schmeichel shut Burnley out

A draw was a deserved result for Kasper Schmeichel. Make no mistake about it, he may not have scored the equalising goal but he kept the game alive and ensured we were still in with a chance of pushing for a winner. Goalkeepers are so often judged on their saves, their mistakes, but few count the points tally those saves earn. Not for the first time this season, Schmeichel ensured this was a point gained when it could have been three points lost. Something he’s done season in, season out for us.

We’re really going to miss that confident feeling of just knowing Kasper will make the save. The non-Leicester supporting member of my household looked at me nervously on one particular chance, when I barely flinched and was able to nonchalantly shrug and just say ‘Kasper’. We should probably just post our apologies into the future now for whoever takes over from the Dane because, whoever you are, we have incredibly high expectations for what a goalkeeper should do.

Two of the saves of the game came almost back to back. One, to stop what everybody thought was a guaranteed Chris Wood goal was absolutely world class. The commentators were right when they said slowing it down didn’t do it justice, guess we’ll just have to keep seeing it and then cutting to Wood’s ‘can’t believe it’ mid-starting his celebration look instead.

The best thing about our current team. Almost all of them have been loving our keeper on social media, clearly appreciative of what he does for us. They’re a good bunch, this squad.

2) Leicester City present their eighteenth different defensive line up of the season

Shh, don’t tell too many people as we wouldn’t want to upset a Merseyside team, but the Foxes defensive lineup at Burnley made it at least the eighteenth different combination this season. A mix of injuries, suspensions and tactical choices have been behind those numbers. Schmeichel’s been the mainstay, but the line ahead of him has changed a lot. It was important then that we try to stay strong in the opening quarter while we adjusted to it and the changed midfield ahead of them. Easier said than done.

The number of combinations isn’t an excuse. Clearly, the personnel has no impact on our set piece defensive abilities for example. But it does go some way to helping explain why we perhaps look nervous at the start of games semi-regularly. We’ve been lucky that almost everybody we have dropped into a position has adapted to it fairly quickly but looking sharp as a unit doesn’t necessarily happen so instantly. Cue the mix-up for Burnley’s opener.

Not content with keeping it the same for the full game, one of our limited options from the bench was to introduce Wesley Fofana, back from injury, allowing us to push Ndidi back to a more natural position and us a flat back four. This made it combination number nineteen. This is close to having what you’d have guessed our preferred starting defence would be, even if it was Ricardo on the wing. Fofana and Soyuncu still has the look of our long-term centre back partnership.

It was a mixed game for the defensive players involved. It looked unorganised as you might expect at the beginning, and Burnley appeared to have overwatered their pitch as Soyuncu slid out several times, as did home players shortly after. It was better in the second half but we still invited a lot of pressure and relied on our goalkeeper a little too often. With Fofana back and Evans hopefully not absent for long, we should be looking more comfortable at the back again soon.

3) In a squad short of attacking options, Cengiz Ünder not coming off the bench speaks volumes

Even the more optimistic fans would probably conclude that this is an experiment that hasn’t worked out. It’s highly unlikely the Roma winger will become a fox permanently. Of course there is an argument that a player like Ünder probably would not have been so effective against a physical, tall side like Burnley but it’s pretty clear that he’s just not in the top four choices for that position.

Was it a surprise that when missing James Maddison and Harvey Barnes, Ünder’s starting role was to sit on the bench? Yes in the sense that it felt pre-match that he had absolutely had to start with the options we had. However when you consider that the current situation gives Rodgers a chance to experiment a little and come up with a possible long term back up for some areas, it’s not so surprising. It’s unlikely he will factor into any plans after this season.

Perhaps Ünder was due to come on but Burnley’s possession domination and pressing of us made Rodgers reconsider and opt for the defensive switch of Fofana. Although given that he opted to bring on Sidnei Tavares instead is a little damning if you’re the Turkish winger. Watching AS Roma against Fiorentina too, they weren’t lacking wing options either so his future is very much up in the air. For the Foxes, you have to feel we still need a right winger for a different option. Money will probably still be tight so answers on a postcard for the next outside bet we’ll pursue.

4) For your consideration, Kelechi Iheanacho would like to put his hat in the ring for goal of the season

We have some very good contenders for goal of the season and you can definitely add Iheanacho’s into the mix. It was a fantastic ball over from Wilfred Ndidi, who did it (seemingly) mainly out of annoyance that there was no other option for him to pass to. Luckily, his Nigerian international colleague knew exactly where to go. It doesn’t matter that Iheanacho made the finish look easy, that type of control and technique is not easy, and he deserves credit for it. A superb goal!

While an entertaining match, one of the big positives was Iheanacho. It’s always pleasing to see him get goals. The absolute shift in confidence every time he gets one is so easy to see. He’s a player that has certainly tried to make the most of his opportunities lately and he was probably a little unfortunate to be substituted against Burnley. Keeping him fit and uninjured has to be a priority though when it’s not likely Vardy will be able to play every single game. It was a cause for celebration that at least we voluntarily took him off rather than it being yet another injury.

It was a decent shift from Iheanacho as the Foxes played two strikers in two consecutive games for what feels like the first time in years. In theory, that should help us with getting Vardy more chances. It didn’t quite go that way against Burnley. We looked more creative as the game progressed but our talisman found his chances limited. Reassuringly though, after looking a little off the pace fitness wise (for him), we saw bursts of speed and movement that very much implied he’s almost back at it.

Also, we all need a friend who hypes us the way that Ndidi does for Iheanacho.

5) Keeping the team fresh will be an interesting challenge, unless you are the machine that is Youri Tielemans

How does the most likeable* Belgian do it? With international expectations in between last season and this one, he’s barely had a break yet he looks so fresh, so sharp. Still! Naturally we don’t really have anybody to fill in for him, but he continues to be a mainstay on the Foxes team sheet.

Rodgers explained the majority of his changes at Turf Moor were linked to trying to keep fresh legs and deal with the places we struggle to fill the gaps. It marked the first time we’ve seen three defensive midfielders on a pitch in a while (remember those Claude Puel home games?), even if one was drafted in at centre back. Not ideal but probably the best we could do given the circumstances. You had to be prepared for some more conservative play though with both Mendy and Amartey involved.

It looked very defensive on paper, but the width and push of Castagne and Ricardo helped, both putting in a good effort. Ricardo seems to relish the chance to attack more and he’s been unlucky not to get some goals or assists yet. One particularly silky move saw him and Tielemans combining, the latter unselfishly opting to try to backheel it rather than taking the shot on. It was back to left back for Castagne who I still forget is in his debut season, he really has blended in so effortlessly.

Tielemans didn’t sneak into the top three rated performances against Burnley; as you’d expect the spots were taken by Kasper and two of our centre backs, but the Belgian was important for us again. Often trying to turn our rare possession into attack with some classy touches or turns. There’s rumblings of a new contract to be announced soon, which would be the next best thing after being able to keep him fit and healthy.

*It’s a fact. Find a more likable Belgian, we dare you.

Bonus Learn: Think I’ve tired of having lots of loud Schmeichel content while fans aren’t around? Hah! Never. If he isn’t channelling all of us watching at home with cries of ‘what the f*** is going on?’, he’s encouraging Ndidi not to shoot or berating referees and forcing commentators to apologise for swearing. In a football match. A little like apologising for there being a ball being kicked around, it just goes with the territory. This will be my last bonus learn related to Kasper’s entertaining second job as a commentator. Or how we just need more of him talking, about anything. Probably.