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Leicester Women: Five Takeaways from 2-0 Loss to Manchester City

Heroics to head-scratchers

Leicester City v Manchester City - Barclays Women’s Super League Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

Leitzig is a brick wall

January signing, Janina Leitzig has only played in two league matches for the Foxes. Her first match was the first league win for Leicester against Brighton. While the Foxes lost to the Citizens 2-0 this past Saturday, it was noted by all who watched the match how pivotal Leitzig was to keep the score respectable. Manchester City had 17 shots on target, with Leitzig saving 15 of those. Right, that’s not a typo, it really is one-five. Manchester City’s xG for the match was 3.4, so they perhaps weren’t always the highest probability of shots but she kept them from getting rebound chances as well.

Second to Leitzig’s impressive 15 saves the next highest amount of saves in a match against Man City this season is five, so three times less than what she accomplished on Saturday. In fairness this was a shot fest for Man City, with their next highest count of shots on target only 8 this season in a single match.

Leitzig’s 15 saves are the highest in a single match in the WSL this season thus far across all teams, with the next highest at 12 saves by Everton’s keeper, Emily Ramsey, in their match against Arsenal. Even for the 2021/2022 season the highest single match count of saves is 12 from Brighton’s keeper against Manchester United. For some perspective, club legend Kasper Schmeichel never broke double digit saves in a single match in the entirety of his time at Leicester when they were in the Premier League, even looking across all competitions.

Siemsen still to feature

The first signing of the January window still has not made an appearance. Siemsen has not even made the bench. Kirk stated early on she wasn’t match fit due to the off season in Australia. It has been over three weeks since her signing and one would assume she would be fit enough for at least an appearance as a late substitute. This is a World Cup year with Siemsen trying to make the tournament squad, so her lack of fitness seems odd. The Australian national team has the Cup of Nations tournament beginning the 16th of February, and there aren’t many opportunities for players to make their case to national team coaches. Let’s hope there isn’t an undisclosed injury preventing her from playing. Her experience and goal scoring are sorely needed.

Defend their way out of relegation?

Leitzig’s heroics raise questions about the defense and the transfer window. The attack and finishing chances have been the Achilles heel of the Foxes this season, and the prior season. Kirk only added one attacker in January. His lone signing for the front line, Remy Siemsen has yet to even make the bench for any matches. All would agree that a fresh face in goal was needed to help shore up their chances of staying in the WSL this season, so it was no surprise to see a new keeper on loan in January. More surprising, the other tranfers are two defenders (one center back and one full back), and a defensive midfielder. New signings Eaton-Collins and Nevin started the Manchester City match.

Both Eaton-Collins and Nevin came on a substitutes in the FA cup loss to Reading and with this their first league match they are likely still adjusting to the league. Defensively there doesn’t seem to be much of a drop with their presence on the pitch. Blocks, Interceptions, and Clearances were all higher this match than the average per match at 16 blocks vs. 13.3 average, 15 interceptions vs. 13.2 average, and 29 clearances vs. 18.4 average. The match on Saturday is the lowest percentage of dribblers tackled all season at 22.2% with the average per match at 61.1%. Perhaps their one vs. one aren’t at WSL levels yet.

While Nevin and Eaton-Collins are by all accounts positive additions to the defense, the fight to escape relegation is going to require goals and nothing indicates either of the two are exceptionally impactful to the attack. Leicester only got off four shots this past weekend, with two on target and final xG at 0.3. These are all less than the average per match this season. The average per match for shots is 8.9, shots on target 2.7, and average xG per match of 0.5. Kirk’s plan to keep the team from relegation is unclear at the moment.

Reduced role for Purfield

Surprising to many Leicester faithful, Purfield did not start the match against Man City. While Purfield is a defender, she is one of their largest shot creators. Purfield is in the 73rd percentile for xAG and 85th percentile for shot creating actions for fullbacks. For the 2022/2023 season Purfield has 2.74 shot creating actions per 90 minutes and 25 shot creating actions (SCA) total for the season. These are the highest in the team. Those are numbers being put up by attacking midfielders and forwards on other squads. This is comparable to Tottenham midfielder Ashleigh Neville, who has 27 SCA and 3.01 SCA/90, Aston Villa forward Alisha Lehmann at 25 SCA and 2.65 SCA/90, and Arsenal forward Stine Blackstenius with 24 SCA and 2.62 SCA/90.

She’s delivered 46 crosses for the Foxes this season, with the next highest in the team at 16 by Bott. Perhaps Nevin may be able to replicate these numbers, but this begs the question of why spend a transfer on an equal replacement rather than an additional attacking player?

Josie Green back from injury

On a positive note midfielder Josie Green made her first league appearance since late October when she went off with an injury against Manchester United. Her absence in the midfield has been noticeable. As a defensive midfielder her stats don’t quite portray how much contributes to the squad. She does provide a shield for the back line, intercepting passes and smothering attacks before they can build. Her biggest contribution though, is her link up play and this is isn’t replicated by any other within the squad. The Foxes have deployed quite a few faces in the defensive midfielder role this season with Tierney, McManus, Mace, Eaton-Collins, Robinson, and Pike all filling the void. None have been able to match her ability to positively move the ball from the back line and connect to the attack. Her return will help fill that gap.

Leicester City Women Training Session
The skipper is happy to have her back as well
Photo by Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images

With the loss to Reading in a penalty shootout the Foxes are now out of the FA Cup and are also out of the Conti League Cup. The next league match is Sunday February 12 away against 8th place Liverpool. May the odds be in our favor.