I’m not sure in the case of Leicester City’s away day at Brighton that we do love a trip to the seaside. But what did we learn?
1) The laws favour the attacking player now except when they clearly don’t
Better to just get this lesson out of the way now, right? I’m not sure that anybody without a media contract wants to spend all the time post-match complaining about refereeing decisions and the incompetence of VAR taking all the headlines. Yet here we are, not helped by the day after and Dermot Gallagher refusing to acknowledge any issues. Guess we’re all making it up then.
Now, while some aspects of VAR have improved this season; let’s be honest, it wasn’t hard to improve it, one of those changes claimed that the attacker would have the benefit. In the case of Neal Maupay, that benefit extended to either being fine with him holding a defender by the arm, forcing a handball situation or wilfully ignoring/not even checking anything beyond the ball hitting his arm. When even the pundits don’t feel it was a penalty, you know we’ve got the case. Back to petitioning to chop the limbs off our centre-backs it is.
That decision alone might have rattled Foxes fans, but it was two key disallowed goals in the second half that pushed us all over the edge. And proves that the laws don’t really benefit the attacker unless they want them to. On two occasions, Leicester had the ball in the back of the net only for the linesman to decide he’s got superhero level vision or with VAR intervening. On both occasions, looking at Harvey Barnes as the offender.
Harvey Barnes totally in Sanchez’s eye-line for both goals and was backing in to him as the ball was coming over - not sure why there is even a dispute here. Maybe stay onside next time.— Tim Evans (@TimE1987) September 20, 2021
A lot of people might need to get to their optician check-up a little quicker, not just Sanchez.
Not since 2008’s The Dark Knight came out in cinemas has a Harvey been so vilified. The only thing that would have made it a more unfortunate day for Barnes were if the handball decision had gone against him too instead of Vestergaard. In the first instance, he was deemed to be in the goalkeeper’s line of sight. A push, and one even more insulting when Harvey could have been in the stands and the goalkeeper was still never going to save it. Let’s not even discuss the second one then.
We’re used to our team being the root cause of frustrations and making life difficult for ourselves and we definitely contributed, but when you get decision after decision like this, you could be peak Bayern Munich and you’d still lose.
2) Foxes back in the nasty habit of turning it only after the 60th minute
A lot of teams have a habit that’s hard to shake. Under Nigel Pearson, it was conceding very late into games. Under Brendan Rodgers, there’s a worrying recurrence of us just taking too long to get into games. The performance at Brighton wasn’t the first time that we’ve waited until about sixty minutes in, when we’re already losing, to then begin playing cohesively and looking dangerous. It makes for exciting games for a neutral, nervous games as a Foxes fan and there has to be some psychology behind it.
While it’s impossible to ignore the abysmal decisions across the game, we didn’t help ourselves either. We were lacking bite in the first half, again, most of the possession we had was knocking it around the back again and we didn’t exactly give Jamie Vardy a lot of the ball. Not that he needs it, but still. What is it exactly that means we only start to pull ourselves together when we’re up against it. Do we just crave that underdog, everybody against us feeling? It’s particularly baffling because our formation never changed, neither did our approach. Yet everything we’d done pretty poorly in the first half we were excellent at in the second half. Even if the commentators’ curse of ‘Leicester haven’t conceded a set piece goal yet’ saw Danny Welbeck continue to haunt us. Ignore the disallowed goals and our second half display was everything you want to do as the away side. We hadn’t earned the right to say we deserved anything from the first half but Brighton are pushing it to imply they were truly worthy winners based on the second half.
"We deserved something from the game."— Football Daily (@footballdaily) September 20, 2021
Brendan Rodgers felt hard done by after Leicester City had VAR decisions go against them in the Brighton game pic.twitter.com/gICL1fCaeV
Rodgers made some changes pre-match that looked sensible to start the game and possibly one that, given the games so far, didn’t. Boubakary Soumare showed enough mid-week to justify a start and it’s always a plus to have Ricardo back when he’s looking back on form. But it was another game that James Maddison struggled in. The game of needing to play him so he can play himself back into fitness and form isn’t one that’s paying off for us so far. We looked brighter with a change of personnel yet again. His replacement was the one who helped inspire us creatively.
3) Lookman, we’re not saying we’ll riot if he doesn’t start the next game, but we’re not not saying that either
Surely after two cameos that absolutely changed our approach and made us look capable of scoring, Ademola Lookman has earned himself a start in the next Premier League game? His impact at Brighton wasn’t as instant as on his debut, but within fifteen minutes he’d helped us look dangerous on the break and was linking up well with his new teammates. It was his link-up play with Ricardo on the right flank in a smart one-two move that enabled Youri to dart into the box and deliver a perfect, chipped ball that Vardy could slot home in his sleep. Bringing Lookman on seemed to fire up Ricardo and the two caused some havoc down the right on a couple of occasions before they managed to make it count.
While their combinations were impressive, Lookman’s combination with Barnes may not have provided a goal but was incredibly exciting. Barnes is easing back into form and was one of the ones trying to make things happen, even if he got zero reward for anything in the game. Having somebody like Lookman to work with, can only help. It’s interesting that Lookman has already managed to do what last year’s loanee struggled with, looking like he should be in this side. Knowing where his teammates will be and as pacy as our other forwards. Once we got Kelechi Iheanacho into the mix, we generally came alive.
In a fairer world, Lookman would have been off the mark for Leicester too, the scorer of our first disallowed goal, one that would have brought the game level at 2-2. A neat strike from a Ryan Bertrand corner. Given how few corners we score, being deprived of another one is the cherry on the poor decision cake.
4) Jamie Vardy joins the 150 club, time for people to put a little more respect on his name
It’s unfortunate for Vardy that a landmark goal, his 150th for Leicester City, came in a game of controversy. Even a lot of Leicester fans weren’t talking about the milestone too much and if we’re not, it’s unlikely too many others are. It’s no exaggeration to say that one of the biggest benefactors of Rodgers’ reign so far is Vardy. Only Mo Salah has come close for goals scored since the Irishman took over at the King Power. It was a return to a style of football that suits Vardy and a generally attacking mindset. 150 goals from just shy of 380 games is impressive on so many counts. Other players would get a backpage spread in celebration, it’s about time our striker got some more respect. Even more so when he’s also registered 62 assists in that time.
Jamie Vardy doesn't get the respect he deserves— _ (@LCFCshitposting) September 20, 2021
Same goal scoring record as Salah in this time frame is absolutely insane.
He is 34 https://t.co/64zjXVY839
While the Tielemans ball was outrageously good and put it on a plate, it doesn’t take anything away from Vardy. He’d not let his own head drop once despite how little we managed to get him involved in the early parts of the game. The fact that we can opt to better manage Vardy’s time this season and hopefully avoid pushing him to the point of injury can only be a plus too. Daka and Iheanacho may well be the future, but there’s no reason Vardy won’t remain our focal point at least as far as the Premier League is concerned.
5) The early signs for Soumare are good
In the snippets we’d seen of Soumare pre-Napoli, two things seemed pretty clear. One was his turn of pace, a handy addition to our midfield options, and the second that he looks to be somewhere between a Wilfred Ndidi and a Youri Tielemans. Combative and ball hungry in the way Ndidi is, but technically gifted and an eye for a pass like Youri. Against Napoli, he was an extra man to help dampen the various threats that the Italians have in their middle and front-lines and it’s not a coincidence that we lost the midfield battle more when he was substituted off.
Soumare is building confidence in his role alongside getting used to playing in a different league. Rodgers isn’t looking to push him and he’s yet to play a full match, but it’s encouraging so far. His job against Napoli had to be pretty defensive, but he stood up to the test. At Brighton, he was able to flex more but it felt like he’d been asked to help the Foxes look to get forward. Not necessarily playing into his strengths. He still feels like a bit more of a wildcard addition to the squad. A potential Ndidi replacement for when the Nigerian departs for the AfCoN in January, but dynamic in the roles he can play in too. He looks very comfortable on the ball and playing deeper, or dropping back to get things moving, not dissimilar to what we see Youri doing a lot for Belgium.
In a different season, you’d expect to see Soumare building his form in games like the Carabao cup, but I’d prefer to rest him and play him against Burnley at the weekend. For a team who can be tough to break down, he could be another useful player to combat that.