On a cold, but bright, Saturday afternoon at the King Power stadium, Leicester City secured another vital three points with a 2-0 victory over Watford. This was a challenging game for Leicester. It followed two successive defeats narrowing the club’s lead at the top of the Championship table and their opponents came into the game on a six-match unbeaten run (three wins and three draws). To top it off, it was also the first league game this season that the team had to play without their midfield pivot Harry Winks. Hamza Choudhury deputised for Winks with Ricardo Pereira reverting to his inverted full back position and Wilfred Ndidi coming back after injury.
As is usual these days, the Foxes dominated possession but the teams went off level at half time, the Foxes failing to convert a few reasonably good chances whilst a Watford player fluffed a shot when well-placed. The second half was dominated by the home side as the Hornets were forced deeper and deeper. Eventually, the pressure paid dividends when Jamie Vardy, on as a substitute for Kelechi Iheanacho, stabbed home in the 76th minute, shortly after the striker had missed a sitter when it seemed easier to score. The game was put out of the Vicarage Road outfit’s reach when Vardy was put through before being hauled down by the goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann who received a second yellow card for his trouble. The Leicester number nine dispatched the penalty with consummate ease.
Three Leicester City talking points:
Like watching paint dry
Some Foxes fans were getting increasingly frustrated, particularly in the first half, as the team refused to depart from the possession game instilled into them by Enzo Maresca despite the game remaining goalless. Too many backward passes, the keeper spends too long on the ball and the tempo isn’t high enough were three of the regular refrains from spectators.
The main advantage of the possession game is not that better chances to score are created but that more chances are created if a team holds onto the ball for longer. The statistics from Saturday’s game bear this theory out. The Foxes had almost 65% possession with 636 passes (against Watford’s 334). However, this wasn’t possession and passes for the sake of it. A total of 23 shots were mustered, eight of which were on target. The tactic really does work, or usually so.
No. I’m not going to lay into the referee as fans are wont to do. Some deserve the criticism heaped upon them. Sam Allison certainly didn’t. He had a superb game. He is the highest ranked black official working in the English professional game, and only the third black referee, following in the footsteps of Uriah Rennie and Trevor Parkes. Even more significant, he is a former player, having represented a number of Football League and non-league clubs. You can tell too in the sense that he seems to have an excellent understanding of the game, not least in his tendency to play advantage.
What else can be said about the legendary Leicester striker? Goal scorers tend to get all the headlines and the plaudits. For good reason. Vardy probably wasn’t Leicester’s best player today (both Jannik Vestergaard and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall were superb). The performance from the Foxes striker, though, provided a lesson for all young forwards. Don’t be afraid to miss. After knocking the ball over the bar from right in front of the goal with the keeper stranded in the 74th minute, Vardy was confident enough to move into virtually exactly the same position two minutes later. This time he made no mistake.
Vardy’s place in Leicester City history books is secure. His two goals increased his total to 177 in 445 appearances for the Foxes. He is third in the club’s list of top goal scorers (behind Arthur Chandler and Arthur Rowley) and only five Leicester players have made more appearances for the club. Long may it continue.