The King Power side have made it nine unbeaten as they continue to build their defences ahead of a difficult January and AFCON period. With games coming thick and fast, Enzo Maresca wants as many points ahead of their rivals as possible. Against Cardiff City, two goals, three points, has got us eight points clear of Ipswich Town, and 11pts clear of newly third Southampton.
Before delving too deep into a surprising negative which casts a shadow over our summit-defining form, I shall look at the positives the Blue Army can take from another win on the road.
Leicester City's Two Positives
Primarily speaking, the goal of Maresca was to rework the play style of the side and work towards an eventual return to the Premier League. Of course, he was not expected to get us there first time of asking with all the upheaval in the squad. Yet, here we are, 25 games played, 62pts gained, 2.48pts a match on average. A revolution.
And yet, Cardiff City only helped Leicester solidify this revolution. The Foxes find themselves eight points clear of their nearest rivals, who at one point were pushing at our doorstep. We are now 11 clear of third, and 17 clear of fourth. Not to mention to fall out of the promotion play-offs spots, which is a 23-point gap.
Leicester City 👑
Ipswich Town ⬆️
West Bromwich Albion
Effectively, that would mean following this emphatic win, Maresca's team would need to specifically lose three more that Ipswich win, four more that Southampton win, and six more that Leeds United win. To fall beyond sixth, where Hull City reside, this win means we would need to lose eight more that somehow every other team in the current top six must win.
This win makes the lead nigh unassailable if teams do not pounce during AFCON when the Foxes could lose Abdul Fatawu, Kelechi Iheanacho, Wilfred Ndidi, and Patson Daka. All of those critical to how we perform on match day. Only with those gone, and any transfers away agreed, can I see teams picking away at that lead.
Secondly, Leicester can be very happy with the strength of some of their individual players. We have already spoken an amount about the three players who stood out here, but I will briefly remind you of the true positive of this fixture: the strength of our recruitment.
The Blue Army challenged our recruitment in previous seasons, which led to the abysmal relegation of the prior campaign. Featuring in our starting XI were Harry Winks, Stephy Mavididi, Abdul Fatawu, and Hermansen. Every single one of them seems to be a successful move: our recruitment got it right this time around.
The only question which remains is whether the King Power side will bring forward the signing of their new star right-winger Fatawu and get rid of some of the drift and dead wood which still plagues the periphery of the Foxes squad.
A Hidden cause for Concern?
The previous five Championship fixtures has featured mostly the same starting XI with some alterations such as Hamza Choudhury and Conor Coady appearing at times. Those matches were played across a 16-day period being around only three days between each tie, bar a five-day gap between the Millwall and Birmingham City matches. That is a lot of game time.
That is at least 450 minutes not considering the added time from each fixture. At the end of this calendar year, against the Welsh side, we saw a team ragged and tired. Still with the quality to create chances, but the energy to see out a whole 95 minutes was not there: Fatawu, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, and even our defenders look like they need a break.
However, who do you replace 'KDH' with? How do you expect Maresca to just uproot the best centre-back partnership in the competition? When can they get a rest? Clearly not against 14th placed Cardiff. Every fixture is seen as crucial to maintaining and building that buffer between Leicester and the rest, Maresca is not resting players and they are clearing becoming less clinical and less pacy as matches progress.
Well, let us assume we try to build a rested side with none of the currently recognised starting XI. We would have Jakub Stolarczyk in goal, a backline of Harry Souttar (who is off to the Asia Cup with Australia anyway), Conor Coady, and Callum Doyle (not fully fit from injury yet), and Choudhury. A midfield of Cesare Casedei, the injured Dennis Praet who might be leaving in Jan, and probably Wanya Marcal-Madivadua as we do not have anyone else. Yunus Akgun, Kasey McAteer, and Tom Cannon or Jamie Vardy could lead the line.
That team does not in its whole work for the 'MarescaBall' system. It needs another progressive centre-back, a more clinical attacking midfielder, and a strong one too, and more experience up front. The King Power side are tired, and must start resting players unless we want fatigue to derail the drive back to the EPL, and yet to do so - without transfers - would be to sacrifice results and get more draws or losses than we could otherwise have had. A conundrum and our only negative at the moment.