Saturday, 30 October 2010

Conclusions from Preston North End

Preston North End
(HT 1-0)
Gallagher 36

  • Clean sheets mean prizes. This win was not built on a stunning display of attacking strength or midfield dominance, but on a solid defensive line that remained assured and steady throughout. Sven Goran Eriksson's loan signings, together with the clever use of Miguel Vitor whose stature is growing by the game, are really proving their worth.
  • Chances still need to be taken. Gallagher, Waghorn, Howard, Fryatt... the list of players missing chances is a long one and their finishing needs to be sorted, fast. With the exception of today's clean sheet, we're too often being punished without punishing at the other end.
  • Not bad for an injury-ridden team. Considering the number of players out through injury for this fixture, the team sheet announced at half past two today was certainly not a cringe-worthy one, nor was it one to be scoffed at. Fate apparently worked in our favour this afternoon, forcing Eriksson to into picking a team that in the end worked very well indeed.

Yuki Abe and Paul Gallagher
Two players widely critiqued this week following the defeat to West Brom, Abe and Gally combined at the end of the first half to give Leicester the lead. Abe's vision and inch-perfect pass set up the Scot to fire home in a demonstration of each player's sheer class, underlining Sven Goran Eriksson's commitment to keeping them in the starting XI. Despite neither of the pair playing in their preferred positions they did a solid job all around the pitch today and made their claims for regular first team football well justified.

Kyle Naughton
Sven, sign him up! For such a young lad he really has got some class and provides security at the back with some good nous going forwards. So long has he's in the team, as a Foxes fan you have to remain optimistic.

Miguel Vitor
Another solid showing from the Benfica loanee, who seems to have hit his stride under Sven's guidance. Today, Alan Young quite rightly singled him out as his Man of the Match. Perhaps he deserves his chance - after failing to impress under Sousa - after all.

Steve Howard
Big Steve got himself dragged-down by Wayne Brown, riling up that hateful man and rousing the crowd. Howard is in the squad to do that job, winding-up opposition players, controlling the attack and providing a presence. Whatever criticism you aim at him about his goalscoring ability or otherwise, he does that job very well indeed.

Chris Weale
Is there something new being done by Mike Stowell? If so, he needs to change it back for the normally assured Chris Weale was anything but today - distractedly flapping at the ball at least twice, it was only thanks to the slow reactions and lack of height of Iain Hume that Preston weren't gifted an equaliser. Perhaps a move for Germany under-21s keeper Michael Rensing is needed, and perhaps that move is indeed more than just hearsay.

Dany N'Guessan
N'Guessan is something of an enigma. He possesses strength, power, height and determination; all good facets for a top striker. But N'Guessan never quite seems to impress, his poise and agility coming into question whilst his ball control seems lacking. Quite why this is the case now - he had the most impressive debut at the beginning of last season - remains to be seen. He needs to step up if he is to fulfil his promise as The Next Big Man Up Front.

Paul Gallagher
His injury is bad news for him and the team, just as it looked like he might have been hitting some form.

Matt Oakley
The usual skipper was on the bench today and only came on for the injured Paul Gallagher in the dying minutes. His utterly needless foul led to two opportunities for a Preston equaliser late-on.  

The football fans of England's newest city
They pay in excess of twenty quid to watch that team? Seriously? I know as a Leicester fan this may seem hypocritical, but at least we go forward and attack the ball. Preston North End are a poor, poor team and it is easy to see why they're struggling at this level.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Tunchev trains as Ikeme extends deal

Long-term absentee Aleksandar Tunchev has resumed training as loanee Curtis Davies remains out with a hamstring injury.

Foxes boss Sven-Goran Eriksson has come under fire since the humiliating defeat to West Bromwich Albion in Tuesday night's Carling Cup tie, but he remains optimistic of bouncing back - and with solid defender Tunchev on the mend, he may have a point.

Meanwhile, goalkeeper Karl Ikeme has extended his two-month loan deal until the end of November, and he could feature against Preston North End on Saturday following Conrad Logan's blunder that saw West Brom take the lead at 2-1 on Tuesday.

Finally, rumours that Eriksson are chasing Baggies' forward Ishmael Miller are with merit, with Eriksson suggesting he will be speaking to the West Midlands club's manager Eddie Newton this week.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

League Cup Conclusions from West Brom

West Brom.
(HT 0-1)
Shorey OG 54

Cox 22, 90
Tchoyi 62
Reid 80 

  • Boing, boing. Baggies, baggies. West Brom looked alright. Even when we pressed and pushed forwards they were assured, balanced and solid. It is no fluke that they are currently holding their own in the top flight, and fair play to them. They made their chances pay and, with a bit of class from Simon Cox, made the result look good for them.
  • We need some 'oomph'. It took a goalkeeping howler to see us ultimately lose this match - only after Logan's error did the floodgates open - and that can happen at any level. Alas, today we didn't do quite enough, but that for long spells during this game we were on top, pushing forward and pressing hard, is a credit to us. West Brom are not the sort of side that turn up to matches thinking 'oh, it's only so-and-so, we should win this', rather they will be as geared up for an away trip to Leicester as they would be to Anfield or Old Trafford. They didn't create many chances and made us pay when they did - that we made lots of chances and failed to capitalise is our own fault - and that is the difference between the Premier League and the Championship. We need fire-power up front - fast.
  • We still need that run of form. And it's hard to see where that next win is coming from.

Lloyd Dyer
When Dyer he plays well, he is quite simply awesome. As he breathlessly strides forwards at bullet-speed, darting in and out of defenders, it is always exciting to watch: you never know, he might just score again. That he got injured is a great pity, as this was a game in which he was set to make his mark after another darting, mazy, pacy run from the wing.

Paul Gallagher
To use that old footballing cliche, at the end of the day Gallagher kept us in the game. He had a solid game overall, perhaps revelling in the opportunity to play against a Premier League side. Certainly, without him the scoreline would have been a lot more embarrassing (I'd have given the goal to him). Gallagher needs to step-up and be the big player we know he is. Perhaps the tide is turning now.

Miguel Vitor
After his position was questioned in the past few days he stepped-up tonight and perhaps was the difference between 4-1 and a few more. Certainly, he made himself known going forward and he was also an assured presence at the back. A good performance overall from the Portuguese.

Franck Moussa
Back on form.

Leicester City Football Club / The Carling Cup
Tonight was never meant to turn-out like this. We're a struggling team in the second tier and they are over-performing at the top level. We should have been the team putting a few past them and continuing our cup run, a dreamy win at Old Trafford to follow and ultimately a trip to Wembley perhaps. West Brom spoiled that pipe-dream with solid, consistent finishing. That you can create all the chances in the world and not score for the majority of the time is what often sees teams relegated. Well, that and leaking goals.

Conrad Logan
"A schoolboy error from the longest serving player at the football club." So said Ian Stringer after a clanger of an error from the Irishman as he silenced two-thirds of the Walkers Stadium with one simple spillage of a ball. It was a mistake - such a glaring mistake - in a season where he has so far been pushing Chris Weale all the way for his place. Nobody can really believe that howlers like that will happen to your side, but they do. Unfortunately, this one has cost us our dreams of a trip to Wem-ber-ley.

Matty Fryatt
Has his confidence gone? A golden chance presents itself and, unlike the Matty Fryatt of old, there was no trigger pulled - not even a lashed shot wide. Fryatt had the best chance to put us back in the game after West Brom scored their third, but he failed to capitalise and instead played the ball through to Howard. A very disappointing turn of events. If Fryatt can't step up to the mark now - if his time in royal blue, in essence, is over, then it is time to bring in some fresh goalscoring talent.

David Beckham
Sven says he's not coming to our lovely city of Leicester.
Oh well, his loss.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Conclusions from the Liberty Stadium

Swansea City
(HT 0-0)
Emnes 50
Sinclair 90+4

  • It proves how good the Leeds result was. Or, more accurately, how important it was. We knew Swansea would be a tough place to go to making it critical that we got three points on the board before what was always going to be three points lost. 
  • Stick to 4-4-2. Fancy formations clearly aren't working, and the right change to go to 4-4-2 in the second half came too late, but at least it came. Fryatt was for long periods isolated on his own up-front, needing the extra support - a physical presence - that Waghorn or Howard can provide. Moving away from that tried-and-tested formation was ultimately our downfall as our counter-attacks left us exposed at the back.
  • The Great Foreign Import Experiment is failing. For all Yuki Abe's talent, Miguel Vitor's presence and whatever Joao Moreno actually brings to a team, communication is key to a team sport. Many people questioned Sousa's English and his ability to get across his ideas was questioned even by the players, but now the language barrier between the rest of the team and Abe in particular is beginning to show on the pitch.

Matty Fryatt
For Fryatt, life is tough. He puts in the effort and yet his commitment is questioned. He scores goals, top scorer two seasons running, but fans say he doesn't score enough. His physicality and fitness is cause for concern, yet he puts in a full, dedicated ninety minutes. The lad needs to be given a break - and he needs to play alongside players that understand him and in a formation that suits him.

Swansea City Football Club
They've now proved their point that Sousa was rubbish by well and truly thumping what is, essentially, still his team. It was as much a great showing from the Swans as it was a poor one from the Foxes.

Martyn Waghorn
It was a change that needed to be made at 1-0 down with very little fire power up front. But Waghorn's appearance was symptomatic of his season so far, in which he has scored only once and has actually looked quite poor. As Foxes fans we know the technical and physical capabilities of a very young prospect who has scored some cracking goals and, lest we forget, was one player who showed true passion in Cardiff at the end of last season. The image of him on the floor, crying after missing the crucial penalty in the play-off semi-final, will live long in the memory. But why is he now a shadow of what he showed last season?

Curtis Davies
For what he brings to Leicester's back line, it is worrying indeed that he could now be out for a few weeks. He's only here for a short time and for him to be injured for most of it is not going to help bolster what is still, clearly, a shaky defence.

Franck Moussa
So much hope, so much vision, so much promise. Everything Moussa was against Leeds, he wasn't against Swansea.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Conclusions from Elland Road

Leeds United
(HT 0-0)
Becchio 83

Naughton 64
Howard 81 

  • It was a great result. A win against Leeds is always good, and when it's your new manager's first away game it means all the more. Sven is yet to lose a game as Foxes manager (even if he's only played two) and he has now created a solid foundation on which the team can build - something Sousa failed to do. Sven got the team playing well and importantly playing together, proving that fact in the build-up to the second goal of Howard, a lovely passage of play worthy of high-flyers in the Premier League. Tonight was a job well done indeed - but it needs to continue. 
  • We deserved the win. Mid-first half the stats showed that the Foxes were utterly dominant. Sixty-five per-cent possession, seven attempts on goal to Leeds' none - the home side were taking a battering. Yet again, Gallagher, Waghorn, Berner and King all failed to take clear opportunities. Ian Stringer made the point: yet again, Leicester City failed to take their chances. The second half made all the difference, however, with two goals proving enough to counter United's lucky consolation.
  • 4-4-2 is the way forward. As soon as we allowed Leeds to attack and make their 4-3-3 formation work for them, we countered with a similar tactic and fell apart. Gallagher moved out wide and his presence and quality up front was lost as Waghorn was left to flounder alone. Sven favours the big tough man/little quick man up front, and he needs to make it work for Leicester.

Kyle Naughton
Followed-up his impressive debut with a goal which, as Alan Young will agree, hit the back of the net. Only his second league goal, Naughton certainly seems to be the real deal - Sven's Mark Davies, if you will. Top performance from him once again, with a deserved reward.

Franck Moussa
The lad showed once again that he could be a quality signing, and the one true success of the Sousa reign. He made positive, attacking play a joy to watch and seems that he could just be the real deal. Considering he's a Belgian who came from Southend United on a free, not a bad spot at all and certainly he's already amde a bigger impact than anyone else introduced by the Portuguese.

Andy King
Another great performance, once again capped by involvement in a crucial goal, in this case the beautiful way in which he bought the ball down and played-in big Steve Howard.

Steve Howard
Well, well, well. Three games versus Leeds in the last three seasons and three goals in the last ten minutes. And a cracking finish for this one too, when it really counted to put us out of reach.

Sven (again)
Four out of two isn't by any means the worst start a Leicester manager has made, indeed it's one of the better stats next to a manager's name after two games, one home and one away. Fair play to the Swede for putting the pride back into the hearts of Foxes fans. In case you hadn't realised, we're out of the bottom three.

Paul Gallagher
If Gallagher had a bad game on Saturday against Hull, he was diabolical tonight. Playing in his favoured centre forward role, it could be assumed the Scot would have played a blinder - think of his appearance, as striker, against Scunthorpe last season. He scored a hat-trick, was a class above and looked like the Premier League-quality player he should be. Gally wandered out wide as Leeds pressed, their 4-3-3 formation proving increasingly effective, and in that wide position he just fails to shine.

Football League Referees
There were no real glaring errors tonight, no stone-wall penalties waved-away or goal-line decisions called wrongly. But there did seem to be a lack of respect for the referee and a lack of consistency and conviction in his decision-making. On every occasion this season, in fact, this blog could have featured the day's referee in the Losers' column. Speaking entirely as a fan of football - and not as a football fan - the standard is not high enough. Referees (and, for that matter, their assistants) at this level should not lack the consistency, presence and conviction that has plagued so many matches in the Championship this season. It is something that must be addressed by the FA, through the use of technology, better training or otherwise.

Also, four minutes' stoppage time? Where did they get that from?

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Conclusions from Hull City

Hull City
(HT 1-0)
King 3

Coren 52

  • Sousa going has got them on the ball. It seems we have a little more verve, a greater panache going forward since Sousa's departure. That said, however, there were long stages of the second half where Hull were dominant, last season's Premier League side showing why they were competing in that division. There is still work to do, but we're improving. The Foxes looked good, and Sven could well be the catalyst for change.
  • We're still in the relegation zone. A draw isn't enough: we need wins. Whilst this was always going to be a tough game - a good Hull side lead by a man we know is capable of grinding-out a result was always going to be a fixture to look out for - we should still have more points on the board. Without capitalising on going a goal ahead, we are never going to progress up the league.
  • We still need a striker. Eriksson has already done a terrific job in identifying our defensive weaknesses and bringing-in two quality players - quality players that understand this league - to help improve that situation. Next, he needs to either get the likes of Fryatt and Waghorn scoring at will or he needs to get a goal scorer signed-up on loan.

Kyle Naughton and Curtis Davies
For a debut in a new, aggressive league, the new boys done good. Naughton had a solid game and Davies, by far the best player on the pitch throughout, proved why he was signed by Aston Villa for no less than £8 million a few seasons ago. They both showed why the Foxes have been struggling this season - the Portuguese players bought in by Sousa may well have been glamorous, but nurturing English talent is key at this level and Sven knows it.

Sven Goran Eriksson
To have all the pressure of a name and a history on your shoulders and be as cool as Sven was on the touchline today proves the man he is. A truly knowledgeable football man (EDIT: Just listened to the BBC Leicester interview with him, the man talks so much sense!), Sven has made in Davies and Naughton two canny loan signings and fitted them into a team that we all know is highly capable at this level. It wasn't the goal-fest he and the fans wanted, indeed Hull perhaps edged the game, but it is the very fact that Hull showed their quality and didn't win that should give Leicester City fans hope for the future.

Andy King
The young lad scored again after playing a tough ninety minutes for Wales in their loss to Switzerland in mid-week. If we're not careful, the Premier League clubs are going to come knocking very soon.

Bruno Berner
The Swiss had a great game, apparently encouraged to go forward and have the odd pop at goal by the new loanees who had a similarly positive impact. Back to his professional best.

Jack Hobbs
Like Berner, Hobbs has had an off start to the season. Whether it was a personality clash with Sousa or a lack of fitness, for whatever reason he hasn't been half the excellent player he's been for the past two seasons. Hopefully this is a signal he's back on the right track.

Chris Weale
For the club's Number One to make his return from injury under a new manager and make an error is not the best first impression to give. Weale, however, should know his position is safe if he can stay fit - he is a class above Logan and Ikeme.

Howard, Waghorn and Gallagher
For three strikers to fail to score in a match in which they all start is one thing. For three strikers who have been fit and available for the majority of the season but who have scored just three goals between them is another matter entirely. The impact of our strikers at present is minimal - Fryatt is our top scorer but only thanks to goals in the League Cup - and it seems that, even with the popular signing of hard-working Waghorn, a goal scorer is still needed for the Foxes to proceed.

Sven's first game: Foxes Vs Tigers Preview

Sven Goran Eriksson takes charge of Leicester City for the first time today as his new charges take on former Foxes' manager Nigel Pearson as he brings his Hull City side to the Walkers Stadium.

The Tigers have not lost at the Walkers Stadium, meanwhile Leicester are yet to keep a clean sheet this season.

Eriksson has named Chris Weale in his first Foxes XI, with Premiership loanees Kyle Naughton and Curtis Davies coming straight into the side. It is believed the Swede will favour a diamond formation in midfield, with Paul Gallagher and Matt Oakley both starting, whilst Martyn Waghorn and Steve Howard are favourites up front.

Leicester City team to face Hull City:


Naughton     Davies     Hobbs     Berner

Gallagher                    Oakley

Waghorn     Howard

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Sven confirmed as new Foxes boss

Sven-Goran Eriksson has been confirmed at a press conference this morning as the new manager of Leicester City, the fifteenth man to take on the task since 2004.

Club chairman Milan Mandaric said of the appointment, "Mr Eriksson is going to be special to this club on the field and as an ambassador for the club."

The Swede, who was England manager for five years, losing just five games in the process, has also managed clubs to success in Portugal, Italy and his native Sweden, winning domestic and European titles with the likes of Roma, Lazio and Benfica. Most recently he had an ill-fated stint as head coach of the Mexican national team and he took temporary charge of the Ivory Coast during this summer's World Cup in South Africa.

Eriksson spoke at this morning's announcement of his two-year contract and said that he was ambitious as to the club's future after meeting with chairman Milan Mandaric and the club's Thai investors.

"I want to manage in the Premier League again; that's why I'm here," said Eriksson, "I have to start to work with [the players] before we can make signings in January, but yesterday they played well and fought with big hearts.

"I am happy to be here - the ambitions of the club are fantastic."

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Conclusions from Scunthorpe United

Scunthorpe United
(HT 1-0)
Waghorn 10
Dyer 54
Moussa 90+1

O'Connor 61

  • We need more experience at the back. Even with one of the most professional and experienced players in Bruno Berner plying his now occasional trade at left-back, Hobbs, Morrison, Vitor, et al. need someone of the Wayne Brown ilk (without the racism) to steady the ship and control the back line. Perhaps this issue is resolved if Weale is fit to play in goal, but without him our defence looks very young and therefore quite flimsy.
  • Is Sven the answer to all our nightmares? He has experience in management at the highest level. He has a black book, a list of top footballing contacts, of which most Premier League managers can only dream of. He moulds young talent well. These things are all positive things for fans and yet they are at the same time very wary of him. Is he in it for the money? Will he be able to work well at Championship level? What about his style of play - have the players suffered enough trying to adapt to Sousa without another change? Only time, and results, will tell.

Chris Powell and Mike Stowell
To take charge of a team the day before a game and then win it with a team out of form and without results is a credit to the two coaches. Giving Waghorn freedom as an out-and-out striker is something the fans have been clamouring for and it worked wonders. Players in their favoured positions, a tried-and-tested strategy... Let's hope they both remain in the backroom staff after the Viking's invasion.

Franck Moussa
He was bought on late in the second half and scored his first goal in royal blue to seal three points. Job done.

Milan Mandaric or Foxes Fans
The fact that 20,000 turned-up to watch a very mediocre Leicester side take on the least glamorous team in the league is testament to either Milan's business acumen in offering thousands of discounted tickets, or the sheer bloody-mindedness of the Foxes faithful who, to be fair to them, have turned out through thick and thin and even today came out in force.

Scunthorpe United
Long has this fixture been viewed as a nailed-on three points by Leicester fans, but today we were made to work for it. On another day Scunthorpe could perhaps have won this game, and today they played it well. Good on them.

Alan Young
He commentated on a game we won! Maybe our fortunes really have changed. On a serious note, however, his insight and reasoning is top notch and he is the perfect foil to Stringer's sometimes ditzy, overtly enthusiastic commentary - even if he himself occasionally gets somewhat over-excited.

Paulo Sousa
His lack of any sort of solid fitness regime was clearly displayed this afternoon as it seemed Leicester's players struggled to make it to ninety minutes. Of course, you have to credit their resilience and determination but their fitness issues today were shown up more than ever before this season. A trip to Thailand during next week's international break is the last thing this team needs at a time where they are struggling to complete ninety minutes, let alone get a result.

Sven-Goran Eriksson
The man was second best England manager of all time (after Sir Alf Ramsey), losing just five games in his five years in charge. He won the Italian Cup with Roma, Sampdoria and Lazio (twice); he won virtually everything at Benfica, including the league three times. The man has a 52% career win record! And yet the Foxes fans are very reluctant to give him any support, mainly on the grounds that he's old and he's Swedish. Let's give him the benefit of whatever doubt there is before we judge.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Sousa leaves: Sven next?

Sven-Goran Eriksson during his reign as Manchester City boss
Paulo Sousa was sacked as manager of Leicester City earlier today, in a move widely criticised by the League Managers' Association after Foxes' chairman Milan Mandaric assured Sousa his position was safe earlier in the week.

"'We have a long term plan," said the Serbo-American after the 4-3 defeat against Norwich on Tuesday night, "Paulo is part of that."

We've heard this before, however. Any assurance from a football club chairman that a manager will not lose his job is usually the first nail in their coffin, as was the case with Sousa. It's hardly surprising that he's been shown the door after a dismal start to the season - worse, even, than in the fateful 2007/08 season when Leicester were relegated for the first time into English football's third tier. Some fans were calling for the Portuguese's head even before the humiliating 6-1 defeat at Portsmouth.

The fact of the matter is that Sousa has left the club, leading to the question of who will replace him. Martin O'Neill, for a long time the fans' favourite, has ruled himself out of contention, according to the LMA, whilst the BBC and various newspapers are reporting that the job may have been offered to former England coach Sven Goran Eriksson - with the Daily Mirror even going as far to say that a deal has already been done.

Eriksson did not deny the rumours: "I have had a lot of contact with clubs in the last week," said the former Ivory Coast and Mexico boss, "That's normal, but I won't comment on this story."

Whether or not such a big-name appointment will work at the Walkers is subject to some debate - Sousa was supposed to attract big signings along with Thai investment, which he succeeded in doing at the cost of progress on the pitch. What has been effective for the Foxes in the recent past is the appointment of relatively untested managers - Pearson from a limited spell at Southampton, O'Neill from Wycombe Wanderers, even Brian Little from Darlington who lead Leicester to play-off success in 1994.

Leicester play Scunthorpe at the Walkers Stadium tomorrow, where coach Chris Powell and goalkeeping coach Mike Stowell will jointly take caretaker charge.