The Foxes square off against Everton in the league for the second time in three weeks on Sunday.
We sat down for a virtual chat with our sister blog’s Royal Blue Mersey’s Trent Nelson to find out how our weekend opponents are viewing this match, their season, a certain former Fox, and the reality of being in a relegation scrap in the final month of the season.
Fosse Posse: I’ll start with the worst so we can get it out of the way: The race to avoid the drop is poised on a knife’s edge right now. Everton have always found a way to stay up in the past. How are the supporters feeling about your chances, and what do your club need to do to stay up?
Trent Nelson: I think that the fans are cautiously optimistic after the victory against Chelsea, but there is surely no certainty regarding what will happen yet either. One point out of the previous matches against Liverpool and Chelsea was going to be positive and two would’ve been really great but three is something that this team can take into the next two matches to be sure. The form that Burnley have shown since Sean Dyche’s sacking has been troubling, but Leeds’ poor form has been as promising for the Toffees' chances to stay up for the next season so we shall see.
FP: What has manager Frank Lampard done to steady the ship since he took over at the end of January? What does he bring to your club, and do you expect him to return next season?
TN: I think that he has brought a more positive feeling with him. While Rafa Benitez has a long CV, one gets the feeling that he is past his prime as a boss. His Liverpool connection was always a sticking point with supporters as well, but his system and beliefs were far too rigid for this team. This Everton side is not too different than the one that Carlo Ancelotti nearly piloted to Europe last season, but when things started to go downhill, Benitez was unable to command the players with either strategy or charisma, which Frank Lampard certainly possesses. The new boss, who I expect to return next season regardless of how this season plays out, has a lot of passion and experience. Both of those qualities stand out when one appraises him, and the fluidity and will to fight have both, I believe, improved since Lampard arrived.
Staying up in the Premier League remains the first and only priority, though.
FP: Demarai Gray was ever a source of hope and frustration to Leicester City fans. How do you think he’s fared with Everton, and what do the supporters think of him?
TN: Honestly, to be fair to his injuries and the state of the team for great swaths of the season, I think Toffees witnessed what Foxes saw pretty consistently. Demarai Gray is a great talent and seems to start campaigns hot, but then something happens. As the stat sheet indicates, something ALWAYS happens.
I think the player could do with a bit of stability too to be fair, and he should get a chance to earn his spot under Frank Lampard next season. He must produce more in the later months of the year, however.
When he is on, he is a terror to cover and contain and yet when he is not on, he is nearly invisible out on the pitch.
FP: Looking at the quality of the players with the club, I’m shocked that Everton are in a relegation scrap. What has gone wrong this year, and what does the club need to do to get back where the Toffees belong?
TN: Ah well, it’s not an easy question to answer I don’t think. This team was challenging for a top-six spot for much of last season, and it is a relatively unchanged lot with a few improvements even. Unfortunately, injuries have, as they did at the end of last season, taken their toll on this team. Dominic Calvert-Lewin has missed many matches, and Richarlison is not as effective a number nine as DCL. Abdoulaye Doucoure has, once again, missed chunks of the season too, while Gray has been inconsistent and Andros Townsend, who also started off well, sustained an injury that has left Everton without him until next season at some point.
The successor for Carlo Ancelotti was clearly mishandled, and I think that if the team could go back and redo that decision, they would likely choose Brighton’s Graham Potter instead. While some transfer targets were positive, Salomon Rondon has been another flop like Josh King was last season, and scoring has been hard to come by at points this year.
If Everton can keep DCL and Richy another season that would be useful, but Allan is likely gone, and he might be followed by a few others as well. If the Toffees can stay in the Prem this next season, next year will be a lot easier even without some key pieces from this year; many issues, including those which I mentioned and money, have all played a part in the position the team finds itself in, yet hope does remain.
FP: Who do you see as the key man for you on Sunday, and, for that matter, for the remainder of the season, and why?
TN: Anthony Gordon has really grown this season, and even more so since Frank Lampard took over. If DCL can remain fit and get back to his best for the remaining two weeks of the season, then a front three of Richy, DCL and Gordon along with Gray as a sub could go a long way towards securing survival. While seeing that trio on the pitch together has not happened too often this year, it would be something for Leicester to think about, especially since the previous fixture at Goodison Park saw the Foxes easily handle Richy as a sole striker up top flanked by Gray and Gordon.
FP: And finally, can you give us a prediction for this weekend’s match ?
TN: I think that Everton will be able to take some momentum from that last victory against Chelsea. Alongside the letdown from the UECL semifinal loss that Leicester sustained on the week, I think that that will mean good things for the Blues. I will say that the match ends 2-1 Everton, with Richy and Anthony Gordon scoring for the Toffees and Harvey Barnes scoring for you all.
Many thanks to Trent Nelson and the crew over at Royal Blue Mersey. Let us know in the comments how you think the match will go and what you expect from our opponents tomorrow!