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Leicester City 4 Watford 2 (28/11/2021) 29/11/2021

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
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1-  “I can’t feel my feet!”

Daughter 2 is a stalwart.  She’s yet to miss an away trip this season and hasn’t been put off by the snap in the weather.  Long before half time however, and despite a fortifying balti pie and cup of hot chocolate from one of the many well staffed windows that make such a difference and reliably render Leicester an enjoyable trip, she’s acknowledging that we’ve miscalled this one.

Getting on for two years since we were in the position of needing to think about such things we’ve lost our edge.  Lost the wisdom of experience that facilitates preparation for cold conditions (whether this includes a blizzard or otherwise).  “There’s no such thing as bad weather, there’s only the wrong clothes“… and today we’ve recklessly left our woolly hats in the car (Daughter 2 doubles down by rejecting her scarf also) let alone adopting such precautions as extra layers.  

And if this much isn’t already obvious, it’s f***ing freezing.  Amateurs the pair of us.  Schoolboy/girl errors all over the place.  At least Daughter 2 has the excuse of, you know, being a schoolgirl but to her credit remains suitably sheepish and relatively stoic throughout.

2- Which is a Good Thing, because despite (and to an extent because of) the weather and the various calamities that will influence the outcome of proceedings on the pitch to our detriment this is tremendous afternoon’s entertainment, a wonderfully stupid game of football.  Pre-match note sharing reaches the consensus that all of our trips here in the Premier League have been the same…  relatively routine, unremarkable wins for the home side in which Jamie Vardy scores a penalty and probably does something kind of annoying.  To all intents and purposes the same game five times.  Not this one.  Hell no.

Despite the inevitability of the focus of the fallout of last weekend’s result being on United’s travails rather than our own performance, I think we all sought reassurance that there was more to that win than just the visitors’ incompetence.  We got that in spades despite the outcome.   Any team will miss Sarr, out today with the knee injury sustained last weekend, but Cucho deputised well…  a different sort of threat, but still a threat.  And the pressing was still there…  hassling, harrying, none of the soporific, bluntness that had characterised our less effective performances.  Until Leicester opened the scoring we were the better side, forcing the issue at Leicester’s end of the pitch with Moussa Sissoko, imperious again, aggressively supporting our frequent progress down the left.

Until Leicester scored.  With the loss of Foster on top of the anticipated loss of Nkoulou it always felt possible that we’d get undone defensively; opinions differ about the relative merits of the two goalkeepers, but two cornerstones of that defensive display against United being unavailable (and arguably, with Sierralta, our two best centre backs) felt precarious.  

So it proved.  We’d already had a warning as Masina allowed Ademola Lookman too much space down the right; he teed up Vardy who shot from a narrow angle, comfortable for Bachmann.  There was no legislating for the opener though.  A ball over the top should have been comfortable for Troost-Ekong; Maddison had darted in behind him and since the Nigerian clearly consciously decided to duck one assumes shithousery on the part of the Leicester midfielder.  We can hardly complain, we have a similar incident in our own back-catalogue (albeit a month before Emmanuel Dennis was born.  Sigh.).  The away end shared a collective “oh for f***’s sake” as Maddison spun the ball past the helpless Bachmann and the home stands woke up.

3- Fortunately the team on the pitch were more resilient.   Our response to this setback, and to the start of the second half, and the fact that we were still pushing at the end of the game are big positives.  If, from the point at which Maddison scored, it rarely felt that we were quite on the edge of turning Leicester over it was never quite out of reach either.  Compare and contrast with any number of our preceding defeats when a goal might not have arrived if offered infinite hours, a written invitation and an armed escort.

Adam Masina got onto the end of a Tom Cleverley free kick but headed wide.  That looked a bad miss, albeit from the far end of the pitch in circumstances which made picking out detail, or anything much at all, difficult as we’ll get to.  Meanwhile you can rely on Cucho for a few things…  boundless enthusiasm, iffy decision making, and the possibility of a scurrying run and a pearler into the top corner.  We got all three this afternoon, the latter remaining mere possibility as his shot took an impossibly long time to rebound off the woodwork.

But the equaliser came, and it came from the spot.  No great surprise that Emmanuel Dennis was involved, his sharp movement in the box fooling his compatriot Wilfred Ndidi who swiped his legs from under him.  Kasper Schmeichel was on Harry Maguire duty, slowing down the taking of the kick but Joshua King’s Bournemouth exposure has perhaps left him used to such shithousery.  We see you, Eddie.  The spot kick was firmly hit beyond the keeper’s dive.

4- Had we hung onto that for a bit perhaps things would have been different.  Certainly it always felt as if there was the possibility of joy as we attacked and building up a head of steam at 1-1 having come from behind would have been interesting.

Unfortunately we never got the opportunity, since our own defensive play offered the downright certainty of misery as Maddison and Vardy, given every encouragement, clicked into gear.  Four minutes beyond the penalty Maddison clipped a pass through and Vardy finished expertly beyond Bachmann’s completely unnecessary charge.  Masina got back to the line, but wasn’t able to keep it out.  Carnage.

Before half time it was three.  A left wing corner…  perhaps less to criticise here than it felt at the time, King wasn’t alert enough to Vardy’s movement but the routine still required a lot of the striker, his flicked header dropping in at the far post.  Bachmann helpless once again.  Nonetheless… the Austrian didn’t do a great deal to back up his reported upset at losing his place.  If only the second goal can be directly attributed to him we lose a lot from Foster not being there, from the authority of the more experienced voice to the accuracy of his throws that complement our zippy forward line so well.  One hopes that the reported groin injury won’t see him out long-term.

The Doughnut Chorus were unfortunately out in force with gleefully moronic songs about Jamie Vardy which were, less unreasonably, shoved back in our faces in response to developments.  The away end retreated en masse to such warmth as the concourse offered to ponder how we’d managed to ruin so much good stuff with so much bad stuff and end up two goals down at the break.  

5- Back outside the half-arsed snow had found its rhythm and was giving it some.  Everyone emerging from the bowels into the body of the stadium after the break would have had the same thought:  “this is going to get called off”.  That it wasn’t must have been a close call – for the third quarter of the game the far end of the pitch was a hypothetical concept and the location of the ball in particular complete guesswork for the most part.  The powdery texture of the stuff must have helped – at one point in the second half a leaf blower was used to clear the near touchline (all agreed that the senior groundsman had this privilege with his skivvies left to uncover the penalty area markings with brooms), whilst any ball along the deck or sliding tackle left a green track in its wake like a replay effect on FIFA, or whatever the kids are playing nowadays.

image_50406913

The lunacy of the circumstances complemented our gung-ho approach to the second half;  apparently and not unreasonably reflecting that we weren’t very good at this defending lark anyway so screw it, we look off Imran Louza and Tom Cleverley in favour of Ozan Tufan and João Pedro leaving us playing a 4-3-3 that was all too happy to express itself as a 3-2-5 given half a chance.  The Brazilian in particular would come close to relighting the game’s fuse with a couple of firm low drives that weren’t quite accurate enough but not so’s you knew it until they’d decided.  As above, we were giving it a go until the final whisle.

By then we’d traded goals again, Ademola Lookman’s depressing finish after Harvey Barnes had pulled our flimsy defence out of shape once more a retort with the air of a perfunctory exchange of Christmas cards.  “To Watford.  Have a good one.  Leicester”.  Picture of stocking.

But this was preceded by more fun and games from Emmanuel Dennis.  We’ve oft reflected that if only we’d managed to get Sarr, Deeney and Deulofeu onto the pitch at the same time more often we wouldn’t have gone down at all;  Geri and Isma both presented a credible threat meaning that all but the most organised opponents (and sometimes them too) didn’t no which way to look when the three were in tandem.  Here, demonstrably, we have a credible threat of comparable value to occupy minds and attention on the flank across from Sarr.  His combination of aggression and arrogance got us back in the game here, however briefly, as he mugged Castagne and dinked the ball past Schmeichel.  In scoring he became only the sixth player to hit five goals and five assists in his first dozen Premier League games (thanks Dave).  Any early concerns regarding consistency would appear misplaced.  Of greater concern was his limping off to the injured list after failing to shake off a knock after a collision.  One wonders quite how credible a resistance we’re going to be able to put up in the two challenging games over the next week.

6- We emerged from the stadium to find Leicester heavily dumped on with snow, and for all that the blizzard had abated it took us rather long to return to our car than it had to make the opposite journey.

Nonetheless, a lot of fun this one.  Stupid weather, an often ridiculous game of football and despite our defending (and Claudio’s subsequent complaints about lack of aggression) a punchy, credible threat that means that we’ve still got plenty of reason to believe.  Being able to regard today as a missed opportunity is frustrating, but still represents progress.

Wrap up warm on Wednesday.

Yoooorns.

Bachmann 2, Femenía 3, Masina 2, Cathcart 3, Troost-Ekong 2, Louza 3, Cleverley 3, Sissoko 4, Hernández 3, *Dennis 4*, King 4
Subs: João Pedro (for Cleverley, 45) 4, Tufan (for Louza, 45) 3, Fletcher (for Dennis, 72) 2, Rose, Ngakia, Kabasele, Gosling, Morris, Elliot

Comments»

1. iamthesunking - 29/11/2021

It was a cold one, wasn’t it? The husband forgot his gloves and refused point blank to borrow mine because they had diamanté cat paw prints on them. He chose frostbite and loss of fingers over wearing these gloves for 20 minutes.

Matt Rowson - 29/11/2021

A man of principle. I approve

2. Tawnee - 29/11/2021

Pretty reasonable. We’ve got a mid-table attack and a mid-table defence. Bit of a shame one of those tables is Championship, but at least it’s not boring.

3. Jeff Lloyd - 29/11/2021

A great read, thanks. My junior son and I have independently arrived at similar conclusions: 1. If we can field Nkoulou and Sierralta most weeks we’ll survive as our attacking threat is more than capable of troubling all sides. 2. Troost is the very definition of a liability. It’s a woeful crossfield pass or yesterday’s ducking under the ball that seems likely every game.
Cathcart is sound enough to play with any of the quality CBs but with Troost it’s open season.

4. Ray Knight - 29/11/2021

I do sympathise Matt regarding the cold. Reminded me of helping to clear the snow off Vic Road pitch a few times in the GT era. As you say at least we gave it a go and it was entertaining. Their third goal just before half-time was the killer, but we kept going to the end. Just hope our injuries are not as bad as it looks at the moment. Don’t fancy next two matches as a result, but I’ll definitely be wrapping up on Wednesday.

5. PEDantic - 30/11/2021

There was something wonderfully old-fashioned about that game, both regarding the weather and the chaos on the pitch. We used to regularly be very cold at football matches but it seems rare now.

I don’t agree that Vardy’s second goal was the killer. At half time, because of all the chances, I felt we would still be well in it if we could score next with a good time left to play. Unfortunately Cucho passed up that golden chance to shoot soon after but when Dennis made it 3-2 I could see a point at least being possible.

Little has been made of the foul on Masina in the lead-up to the last goal but, as at Arsenal, it feels the officials were lenient to allow play to continue, especially since the cover for Lookman was completely absent as a result when he scored.

All in all, it was fun despite the result but such a shame that our dynamic attack was negated by our flimsy defence.


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