With Leicester City’s hectic fixture list due to kick into gear, a timely Portuguese comeback could be the difference between success and failure.
With Leicester City fans riding on the crest of a wave of Sunday’s 3-0 win at The Hawthorns, we could be forgiven for forgetting the problems that have worried us through the summer.
Although centre back remains a position of concern, the full back areas have been giving Brendan Rodgers headaches for 6 months. Timothy Castagne was a crucial signing & looks very good in the right back position but the need for the return of Ricardo Perreira is crucial to the Foxes’ season.
With games not too thick and fast at present, recovery times are manageable. But with the group stages of the Europa League kicking off on October 22, Leicester’s squad is going to be stretched to the limit with formations and versatility of players likely to play a huge part. Ricardo’s return is going to define where the East Midlanders’ season goes.
Leicester City’s specialist
Ricardo’s obvious specialist position is right-back, a position where he has excelled and is quickly being recognised as one of the best right-backs in European football. The 26 year old has the third best tackling stats in the whole division, which considering he missed a quarter of the games is nothing short of remarkable. He was also top of the last man tackles stats with a few players for company.
Characteristically though, the real ace up Leicester’s sleeve is Ricardo’s attacking threat with 4 goals from 32 games and a whole host of chances being created. His marauding runs up the right flank have created much space and tested oppositions left hand side as they try to manage the extra attacking threat. The modern full back is essentially Ricardo, defensively sound and an attacking menace.
Currently Ricardo normally works within a back four, but he would also make an excellent right wing back if Rodgers needed to deploy a 3-5-2. His positional sense would be perfectly suited to the disciplined nature of that position providing Rodgers with further options. Of course this option will only be considered when Leicester happen to be boasting more than one fit centre back.
Wingers are something Leicester have been crying out for since a certain Algerian left for the bright lights of Manchester and Ricardo’s name has been mentioned by many fans as a possible solution. But with Cengiz Under looking likely to fit into a right wing slot if or when he signs from Roma it would appear that this option is unlikely. But it certainly shouldn’t be ruled out, an interesting formation to deploy him in would be the 3-4-3. With Under potentially pushed into the right side of attack, a right midfield slot could open up for Ricardo and may even be the creative push Leicester need to turn opposition players back towards their own goal.
Leicester have sorely missed Ricardo Perreira. No getting around it. Since his injury In March the foxes have struggled to find any real form and have lacked that one-two punch that oppositions are never ready for when the Portuguese international goes on one of his mazy runs into the opposition’s penalty box.
Having made the right-back slot his own in his first two seasons in England, arguably the best in Ricardo’s position in the Premier League behind Alexander-Arnold, it would seem obvious which position he’ll be returning to when he returns from injury.
But with Timothy Castagne already showing what an astute signing he is in the right back slot, Brendan Rodgers might start to have more of the kinds of problems that he craves, with options in several positions. As it stands Ricardo is still a few more weeks away from fitness and is pencilled in for an October return.
That date would seem very likely to be after the international break starting with the Aston Villa game on the 17th October. That is when the Foxes‘ fixture schedule will get hectic with 2 games a week likely all the way till Christmas and beyond. It will be very likely that Rodgers will be chopping and changing the team from that hectic run all the way through to 2021.
Ricardo’s return will then reduce the pressure on Castagne and in turn James Justin with both able to play in both full back positions and wing back roles. It’s vital that those areas are not bogged down with the pressure of fatigue. When and how Ricardo returns, will have a real impact on Leicester City’s form and ultimately where their season heads both in Europe and at home.