Leicester 1-2 Middlesbrough: Three Foxes Talking Points

The Foxes slumped to their fifth league defeat of the season, losing 1-2 to Middlesborough at the King Power Stadium. Here, we look at the key talking points.


Should Leicester keep Vestergaard?
Should Leicester keep Vestergaard? / Michael Regan/GettyImages

Yet another match, the 32nd league match of the season and the 37th in all, saw the Foxes take on Middlesborough at the King Power Stadium. It was another smash and grab raid by the side from the North East who gained the double over the league leaders scoring in two first half counter attacks with their only attempts on target in the whole game. Despite dominating the second half, Leicester were only able to get one back – a typical Jamie Vardy strike late in the game.

How do we explain the defeat?

Fortunately, this is not a question that has needed to be asked much this season. As is usually the case, there were a combination of factors.

- First, Boro were extremely well organised, playing with 11 men behind the ball when Leicester attacked but breaking quickly when presented with the opportunity. That’s as far as the positive comments go. 

-    The match officials didn’t cover themselves in glory. The first goal looked suspiciously offside (where is VAR when you need it?) and Chris Kavanagh (not a referee who traditionally has given the Foxes much – remember the 90th minute penalty he gave to Liverpool a few seasons ago?) turned down two second half penalty shouts.

-    City were extremely wasteful in front of goal, as they were at the Riverside earlier in the season. Vestergaard missed two extremely presentable chances, Vardy hit a close range shot over the bar and Patson Daka got a close-range header in the first half completely wrong. He should have buried it. 

-    Above all, Leicester’s performance was marked by an uncharacteristically large number of errors. The passing, in particularly, simply wasn’t up to the team’s usual standard.

With all their closest rivals winning, the gap at the top is beginning to narrow. Even more than before, Leicester need a result against Leeds on Friday evening.

A Surplus of strikers

For the first time since August, Enzo Marasca has four strikers at his disposal. With only one place available, the Leicester boss had a tough call to make. On the one hand, as the Leicester Mercury correspondent Jordan Blackwell confirms, Kelechi Iheanacho is the one most able to perform the linking role essential to the way the Foxes now play under the Italian. On the other, however, the form of Leicester’s number 14 this season has been inconsistent and Jamie Vardy and Patson Daka have been a much bigger goal threat  

The, not surprising, decision to leave Iheanacho out of the squad for the game against Boro is significant. You have to feel sorry for the Nigerian striker. For a long time in his Leicester career he was in Vardy’s shadow but just as it appeared he would play a bigger part in the team, injuries and participation in the African Cup of Nations, has allowed Daka and Cannon to make their mark. Ironically, too, Iheanacho wasn’t even able to get into Nigeria’s starting XI.

This current snub makes it extremely unlikely that Iheanacho will stay when his contract expires at the end of the season. He was, reportedly, prepared to go last Summer. This time, it is unlikely that Leicester, even if they wanted to, will persuade the striker to sign a new contract. This may come back to disadvantage the club given the striker’s experience of scoring goals in the top-flight. Vardy, even if he stays beyond the end of the season, is unlikely to feature a great deal, Daka struggled last time he was in the Premier League and Cannon has no experience of it at all. 

 Vestergaard talks

As we reported on Friday, the Foxes are reportedly in contract talks with Jannik Vestergaard over a new contract. The Danish centre-back’s renaissance under Maresca has been one of the talking points of the season. Banished to train with youth players by Brendan Rodgers last season it seemed that the big man’s stay at the club was at an end. His importance to the team now is illustrated by the fact that, of the six first team players out of contract at the end of the season, he is the only one whom the club seems to definitely want to keep. 

Rodgers wasn’t the only one who had serious doubts about Vestergaard’s ability to compete in the Premier League. Leicester fans were distinctly unimpressed by the defender’s lack of pace and his tendency to make mistakes. This was evident in the defeat to Boro on Saturday. Whilst he fits much more convincingly into the style of play demanded by the current Foxes boss, it still remains to be seen whether he can up his game to compete at the top level. Only time will tell.