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Five things we learned from Leicester City v West Brom

Total domination, another goal from a corner and midfield maestros

Leicester City v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

1) Foxes set cruise control early on even if Rodgers didn’t enjoy it as much as the fans

It’ll be interesting to see how we look back on this game when the season wraps up. The first half was dominant and we looked in total control, but for the three goals we scored, we were actually a bit wasteful in front of goal and very clumsy with the ball in the final third. The second half, we barely moved into second gear, let alone looking to get out of it. We didn’t need to.

It was a measured, energy conserving performance that we looked entirely in control of. Not exciting to watch particularly, but equally exactly what we needed to do. It caps off a good week after the FA Cup and it capitalises on the chasing pack below dropping points. Opposing managers don’t always come out and say things that complement one another’s narrative, and it wasn’t the case with Brendan Rodgers and Sam Allardyce this time. Though not in the way you’d expect.

Where Allardyce fell in line with the media opinion that the Foxes were just a level above and played really well, Rodgers almost slammed his side for some of the play, feeling the media were giving them too much credit. He did this in his usual, constructive, measured way that is. He called out the fact that the scoreline was rather generous to our visitors and that certain players need to improve on ball retention. Leicester fans were very content to pick up the three points and with the manner of the goals, but it’s quite refreshing to have the manager not prepared to let the players rest on their laurels. It’s not the first time Rodgers has reacted in a similar manner and if it’s one of the factors that means we keep improving, why not.

We objectively have one of the tougher final three fixtures of all of the teams fighting for top four, it’s still firmly in our hands for now though. We’ve got our healthiest squad of the season yet and there may well be a chance for a late Harvey Barnes return.

2) What’s more dangerous than Kelechi Iheanacho scoring every week? Jamie Vardy re-joining the goalscoring party for double trouble

If anything was ever written in the stars it was that Jamie Vardy would end a two month goal drought against West Brom. It’s just the rules. Death, taxes and Vardy antagonising Baggies fans. The most dangerous duo in the Premier League at the minute? There’s an argument for it. In their nine starts together, they’ve now got fifteen goals and assists between them. It’s hard to believe it’s only been that many games, this feels like a front two we’ve been playing for ages. It almost makes you question why Rodgers is the first man to try it. This is one duo that if you’re a Premier League defender, you’re either dreading or relishing the challenge. Stopping one might be do-able, good luck stopping the pair!

Vardy looked relieved to be back among the goals, a somewhat muted celebration compared to what we’re used to. He didn’t even need any fan abuse to help motivate him this time. The goals were always going to return for him, it’s just a testament to his overall game and what Rodgers has done that they’re not his most important attribute for us for the first time. We’ve become pretty accustomed to seeing him using more width and the wings to charge forward, his pace very much back to what we expect, and then getting the ball in for the waiting Iheanacho. Reinventing, or rather reworking himself slightly as we approached a period where some Leicester fans were asking ‘what next’ is genius and while he probably can’t play two-three times a week forever, he certainly seems capable for a while longer.

It was no surprise to get Iheanacho on the score sheet either, the only surprise perhaps that it took so long given he had an excellent opportunity inside the opening minutes, dispossessing a defender and temporarily only left facing the Albion goalkeeper. Rodgers has a point when he talks about Iheanacho being great but still needing to do some work, his first touch remains a mystery that can instantly flip between Mahrez-esque and Jermaine Beckford-esque the next (his infuriated me so, so much). He’s looking more and more of an intelligent footballer with each passing game though, that you feel he will make the improvements his manager wants.

3) More Belgians = More fun, fact!

This post would have been up earlier but we’ve all spent an hour just watching Youri Tielemans’ ball through to Timothy Castagne for the opening goal, right? Youri’s ability to thread a perfect ball like this isn’t news, and we’re lucky enough to witness it semi regularly but it’s a thing of beauty. His compatriot being on the receiving end and unselfishly squaring it to Iheanacho was the *chef kiss* at the end. And it all underpins my key belief system that more Belgians = more fun.

Castagne is exactly the kind of player for Leicester that Rodgers loves. The invaluable, pretty much drop them in any position and you get a consistent output kind of player. Perfectly capable at left back yet it seems to directly impact his confidence to get forwards, whereas he’s so dangerous when on the right. From an attacking point of view, it’s his strongest position. He’s so exciting to watch bombing down the wing, popping up everywhere and squaring balls in. He was responsible for creating the most chances in the first half and it’s not a surprise. Allardyce’s side had no answers for him that weren’t blocking him and then going down when he was behind them. Vardy may have some competition for ‘who always plays well against West Brom’ given Castagne’s debut back in August too.

While he’s been excellent all season, Youri may find himself pipped for player of the year by the narrative surrounding Iheanacho and his red hot form. Don’t let this detract from how much of a maestro Tielemans is though. His assist, that perfectly weighted ball that just bypasses an entire midfield and defence that seemingly all Belgians are a deft hand at, was fantastic. But his movement, his direction and that little flick back to Maddison that he pulled off while in the air in the first half was the highlight.

Keeping an extra Belgian on the bench in Dennis Praet is mainly just so we can inject late fun, right? Either way it’s great to have him in the arsenal for this last, tough run-in.

4) A lively performance from James Maddison on his road to recovery

What with his injury niggles and the event we’ll just ignore now, this was a first start in virtually two months for Maddison. It’s the sharpest he’s looked since coming back too. We got the usual tricks, darting moves and shots on goal that you’d expect. A game like this suited him on paper and with the amount of space that West Brom let our players, and especially Maddison have, it’s a wonder he didn’t get himself on the score sheet.

It wasn’t for a lack of trying, his closest being a well struck shot just outside of the box. Maddison was also incredibly unselfish, trying to set up Iheanacho on several occasions and looking for balls in. There was a particularly impressive piece of one-two play between him and the Nigerian in the second half that really should have been goal number four.

If it wasn’t Tielemans carving space and making a quick pass, it was Maddison. Where one occupied space, the other moved into a new area. As mentioned above, Allardyce’s side were too happy to stand off our players for the first half especially, but this didn’t slow down the speed at which we looked to make the killer pass or the attack. Sharing corner duty with the Belgian seems to offer us more variation in our approach to set pieces and hopefully takes some of the pressure off Maddison here. While the Foxes were generally dominant, Maddison and Tielemans were involved in almost every forward move, along with the supporting cast.

Maddison wasn’t quite able to complete the ninety minutes yet, but one step closer with another seventy under his belt and we had the luxury to be able to bring him off. It’s another comeback at just the right time for Rodgers. It may be a little too late for Madders’ Euro hopes, but some more performances like this wouldn’t do him any harm either with an always watching Gareth Southgate.

5) Ok, we probably don’t know our best eleven but we do know our best defensive lineup

Perhaps the biggest plus in having a fairly fit squad again is our ability to play the backline we’ve waited for. Rodgers has long had a soft spot for a back three with attacking wing backs. But we’ve so rarely had the best three players for it available at the same time. Jonny Evans, Çağlar Söyüncü and Wesley Fofana’s record when playing together speaks for itself. Four starts, four wins, just the one goal conceded. Imagine if we’d had this available from day one, sure we’d likely still be behind Manchester City but perhaps our Europa League push could have been extended.

It’s weird to say that Söyüncü is flying under the radar a little bit. He grabbed a lot of attention and focus last season for us, he deserved all of it too, but dare I say it, he looks even better this season. He’s just having to share the limelight with the equally flash, likeable Fofana. The confirmation that Fofana is participating in Ramadan and therefore fasting, make his efforts stand out more but Soyuncu and Evans were absolutely flawless too. Evans even got his first goal since 2019, from a corner, because (whisper this) now we’re actually looking a little bit at corners!

Pleasingly, the who is playing at wing back and on what side, seems much more interchangeable. Choosing the sensible route of not trying to play Ricardo multiple times in a week, given his road to full recovery is still ongoing, opened the door for Castagne to shine there. It also meant a draft back in for Luke Thomas. Our attacking play was very dominated down the right and when West Brom did try to press us, it felt much more central, playing into the hands of our centre back wall.

A word too for Thomas specifically. If we ignore his incredibly youthful face, it’s easy to forget his age and relative inexperience. Ok, he isn’t currently the best left back at the club, who knew James Justin was going to make that position so much his own when he got put there, but he’s an excellent backup. Thomas has a bright future ahead at the Foxes, and the calm and collected manner he conducts himself with is so reassuring.

Bonus Learn: When is somebody going to give our Nigerians their own sitcom or reality show? If it’s not the two of them after games in the dressing rooms, it’s Wilfred Ndidi using one of our coaches as a human hurdle to leapfrog over. Very disappointed that there’s’ no GIF footage of this moment!