Well, it had to happen at some point. After a record breaking run of Leicester City victories, a defeat was inevitable. And it came courtesy of an in-form Leeds side who just about deserved their narrow success at the King Power on Friday evening. A tap in by Georginio Rutter after 58 minutes following a corner was enough to secure the points, and although the Foxes huffed and puffed, hitting the woodwork twice, it was not enough to get anything out of the game. Here are three talking points:
Have we been deceived?
The (social) media hype about Leicester’s invincibility and the certainty of an easy stroll back to the Premier League was always an exaggeration. Maybe what this game revealed is that the current team are not as good as many people thought. Remember that there have been narrow wins against very average teams such as QPR, Huddersfield, Cardiff, Coventry and Rotherham, and the two games where the Foxes have faced real quality opponents – Liverpool in the League Cup and tonight against Leeds – they have come up short.
The Elland Road outfit were resilient at the back and quick in transition, causing the Foxes’ defence all kinds of trouble when they broke at pace, often bypassing a pedestrian midfield. The Leeds high press, particularly in the first half, led to some anxious moments, Mads Hermansen on one occasion almost giving the ball away in a dangerous area, just as he did against Blackburn.
Don’t get me wrong, the Foxes played well in the first half, Stephy Mavididi on the left and Abdul Fatawu on the left being particularly effective. In the second half, though, Leicester’s patient, measured approach rarely looked like breaking down the South Yorkshire side who shut up shop after taking the lead. City had to wait until deep into stoppage time before their first effort on target, a Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall header brilliantly saved by Illan Meslier. If we are being honest, though, a draw would have been harsh on Leeds.
It’s only one defeat, of course, and the Foxes are still 11 points clear in an automatic promotion place. Nevertheless, perhaps the expectations have been too high.
Kelechi Iheanacho or Jamie Vardy?
Kelechi Iheanacho must be wondering what he has to do to get a regular starting place in the Leicester team. His scoring record of 35 goals in 162 appearances for the Foxes may not be spectacular but it disguises the fact that he has started relatively few matches and often gets only a short cameo late in the game. Moreover, he seems better suited to the Enzo Maresca style of play, being more adept, than Vardy, at coming short for the ball, turning in tight circles and playing in runners. It was something of a surprise that Iheanacho didn’t start tonight. Vardy had one of his least effective games and was replaced after another misplaced pass.
Problems in Leicester City’s Central Midfield?
For all the talk of Leicester’s squad depth, midfield is becoming something of a problem. The athleticism and running of Wilfred Ndidi was really missed against Leeds. His replacement, Cesare Casedei, looks to be struggling to cope with the physicality and speed of the English game. When he was withdrawn midway through the second half, however, there wasn’t an obvious replacement from the bench. Instead, Maresca was forced to bring on Hamza Choudhury at right back with Ricardo Pereira taking Casadei’s midfield position. It didn’t really work.
With a lengthening injury list, and the likely loss of Ndidi, Iheanacho and Fatawu to the African Cup of Nations early next year (the former two might be subject to interest from other clubs in the transfer window too), there is a need for the Foxes to look for new recruits in January. A box-to-box central midfielder would seem to be a priority. As this site has recently reported, Leicester’s interest in the young Irish midfielder Dylan Sloan suggests that Leicester City are already considering their options.