There was some surprise that Enzo Maresca chose not to rotate the team extensively, the only changes from the Boxing Day draw at Portman Road being Hamza Choudhury replacing Ricardo Pereira at full back and James Justin coming in for Conor Coady. An early goal from Kiernan Dewsbury Hall settled the nerves and for most of the first half Leicester dominated without really threatening a second. In the second half, the Foxes created a number of very good chances and took the most unlikely one when Justin curled a beautiful 25 yard shot into the top corner.
Three talking points:
One Sided but….
As reported in the Leicester Mercury, Harry Winks pointed to the failure of the Foxes to kill some games off when well-placed as the major weakness of the team so far this season. Against Cardiff, the result was never really in doubt. The home side were made to look very poor and the old cliche - men against boys – was very apt. But it could have been so much better and it could have been worse.
After scoring early, Leicester didn’t go for the jugular and allowed Cardiff back into the game to some extent. Pressure from the hosts at the end of the first half could have produced an equaliser. In the second, the King Power outfit created numerous chances. Stephy Mavididi and Abdul Fatawu hit the woodwork and Wilfred Ndidi had a shot blocked. Had the Welsh side converted one of their half chances towards the end, it could have been a nervy finish. This analysis may seem like nit picking, and, I guess, to a certain extent it is, but a failure to kill off games has cost the Foxes points this season, points which, if gained, would have made the club’s lead at the top of the Championship even more unassailable.
In a piece written at the start of the season I suggested that the Foxes might, at last, have found a replacement for Riyad Mahrez. In recent games, Fatawu has begun to add credence to that claim. His forward play is exciting. He can beat an opponent, has a good shot and is surprisingly, given his height, good in the air. Tonight, his high pressing resulted in assists for both Leicester goals and he almost scored himself with an exceptional shot which rattled the post. It is no surprise that Fatuwa was man of the match in a Foxes of Leicester report on tonight’s game.
What is interesting is that Fatuwa is also a team player, regularly tracking back to help his full back out. This aspect of his game is far superior to Mahrez who, particularly in his early days with the club, was regularly berated by Nigel Pearson for not tracking back.
Fatawu will be sorely missed if, as expected, he is selected to represent Ghana in the African Cup of Nations.
Safe standing areas.
This was the first time that I have taken advantage of a safe standing area at a football ground. Cardiff were one of the first clubs to introduce licensed safe standing at the beginning of 2022.
Standing areas have come back into fashion since all-seater stadiums were mandated by the Taylor Report in 1990 published after the Hillsborough disaster a year earlier. Taylor’s recommendation for all-seater stadiums has been criticised by some fans and supporter organisations for leading to a decline in the atmosphere at football grounds as well as increasing ticket prices and there has been an on-going, and somewhat successful, campaign to reintroduce some standing areas even if only as an experiment. In fact, Taylor was aware that terracing was not, in itself, the cause of the disaster. Rather, he was persuaded of the argument for seats because of its potential to tackle hooliganism.
Given that away fans tend to stand anyway and are not told by the police or stewards to sit down, the safe standing areas, which provide a rail to lean on, are actually preferable to standing up with no support in front of you. There’s also the option of sitting down which is particularly useful at the beginning of the game and at half time.