For a time, it looked like Rotherham’s spirited rear guard action might produce a result for them. Showing admirable patience, however, and a cutting edge absent in the first half, Leicester eventually ran out winners with a brace from Patson Daka and a third from a close range header by substitute Cesare Casadei.
Three Talking Points:
Who should leave in January?
It is likely that Leicester will receive multiple bids for their top players in the January transfer window. Wilfred Ndidi, Kelechi Iheanacho, Patson Daka and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall are likely to be targeted by Premier League or top European clubs. Of course, Leicester fans will want to keep all four but, realistically, at least one of them will be allowed to leave. This is likely to be either Ndidi or Iheanacho given that their contracts run out at the end of the season and there is no sign yet that they will re-sign. An interesting question is whether, if we had to choose one, would Leicester fans be happier losing Iheanacho or Daka? A couple of weeks ago, the answer would have been obvious but, since then, Daka has played four successive matches scoring four goals. Today, his overall performance, particularly his willingness to tackle back when the team was not in possession, was impressive.
The case of the disappearing fans
Leicester City Council recently approved a plan to extend the capacity of the King Power stadium to 40,000. In this context, it was a little worrying that fewer than 30,000 fans attended the previous two home games. Much has been made too of the fact that many fans have started to leave well before the end of matches. Coupled with the lack of atmosphere at the ground in recent weeks does this not suggest a lack of commitment from the fan base?
We shouldn’t be too concerned here. For one thing, the attendance against Rotherham breached the 30,000 barrier. It should be remembered that attendances do tend to be hit in the run-up to Christmas, the quality of the opposition in the last three home games has been generally poor, and the results in two of the three matches was decided long before the final whistle was blown. Added to this is the impact of road works near the ground which provides an alluring incentive to beat the crowds. Nevertheless, the plan to expand the capacity at the King Power does add another important reason why a return to the Premier League for the Foxes cannot come too soon.
Leicester’s return to the Championship after nine seasons in the Premier League has, so far, been plain sailing. The 58 points collected is the most any side in the twenty-year history of the competition has managed at this half-way stage of the season. Many pundits have already assumed that the Foxes are going up, possibly beating Reading’s 106 point’s total achieved in the 2005-6 season in the process. There is a strong case to be made for this prediction. As the Football 365 site has pointed out, in the last 10 Championship seasons, nine of the clubs who were top at Christmas achieved automatic promotion, six of them in first place. Only Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds failed to do so finishing third in the 2018-19 season.
In my view though, and bear in mind that football fans tend to be notoriously pessimistic about their own club’s fortunes, it is far from certain that automatic promotion will be achieved by Leicester, let alone a record points haul. Much will depend on three things.
First, injuries are always likely to impact upon a team’s prospects. Here, the news that Jamie Vardy will be out perhaps for another few weeks is troubling. The club may have been trying to disguise the seriousness of his injury.
Second, the opening of the January transfer window at the end of next week could be a pivotal period for Leicester. A number of players have been linked with moves away. In the case of the bit-part players, such as the reserve goalkeepers or centre-back Harry Souttar, the club would welcome some business, if only to free up some space in the squad for new recruits. Equally, though, the Foxes must be worried that bids are made for first team regulars such as Ndidi, Iheanacho, Daka and Dewsbury-Hall. I suspect that one of these three will leave in January leaving a significant gap that will have to be filled.
Third, the loss of key players to the African Cup of Nations, to be held in the Ivory Coast between January 13thand February 13th, will test the quality of the Leicester squad. Ndidi, Iheanacho, Daka and, possibly, Abdul Fatawu, will all miss a number of Championship matches during this period. If Vardy remains injured, the only recognised striker in the squad will be Tom Cannon. If Leicester come through this period unscathed, then we can be much more optimistic about the club’s promotion prospects