Leicester City season review: Focusing on the reigns of Puel and Rodgers
Leicester City secured a 9th place finish in the Premier League in the 2018-19 season, as the Foxes fell inches short of securing a Europa League qualification spot.
It was a decent season for the club after all and though a top-ten finish isn’t likely to spark wild celebrations amongst the fans at the King Power Stadium, Leicester did reasonably well to match their exploits from the 2017-18 campaign.
It is true that the paymasters at the King Power Stadium would have expected the squad to challenge for a European spot after a summer of heavy spending last time around, however, they should be reasonably pleased with the progress that the club has made over the course of the previous campaign.
The Foxes splashed the cash to bring in the likes of James Maddison from Norwich City and Ricardo Pereira from Porto last summer, as Leicester City made the headlines with their statement signings.
Both the aforementioned players were amongst the standout performers this past season, with Pereira being named as the club’s Player of the Year, while Maddison bagged the award for the Young Player of the Year.
Leicester have every reason to be pleased with the kind of impact that their new signings have had over the past year or so, although they would probably have expected a lot more from Rachid Ghezzal, who came in as a like-to-like replacement for Riyad Mahrez.
Another big-money signing, Caglar Soyuncu failed to mount a challenge for a first-team role but Filip Benkovic’s impressive loan spell at Celtic is likely to make the owners and the scouts happy.
Now, moving away from the transfer scheme of things and taking the overall team performance into consideration, one cannot help but feel that Leicester could probably have done a lot better with the quality of players that they had in their ranks.
They kicked off their campaign with a 2-1 defeat to Manchester United, where they virtually dominated the proceedings and certainly didn’t deserve to end up without a point, although back-to-back victories over Wolves and Southampton helped them get their campaign back on track.
Despite that, however, Leicester never really managed to keep up that kind of form over a sustained period to mount a strong enough challenge for a European spot, with the likes of Watford, Bournemouth and Wolves showing a lot more consistency in the earlier stages of this past campaign.
Fast-forwarding the season to November, Leicester dropped points against the likes of Brighton and Burnley, which, in all honesty, were supposed to be pretty much straightforward fixtures for the Foxes.
Those are the instances that they would probably look back now and think that they could have done a lot better given that they were head and shoulders above both the aforementioned teams in terms of quality.
Similarly, the Foxes once again stumbled against the likes of Crystal Palace and Fulham early in December before a sudden upturn of form saw them register surprise victories over heavyweights Manchester City and Chelsea.
That, however, only proved to be a temporary relief for manager Claude Puel, as the Foxes once again suffered a disappointing defeat at the hands of Cardiff City. Again, they returned to winning ways against Everton on New Year’s day, which was supposed to be a much trickier fixture.
To sum it up, Leicester’s performance graph this past season was full of highs and lows and whilst they managed to get over the line with some really impressive performances against some of the big teams, the Foxes just didn’t do enough to make the most of the relatively easier fixtures.
And it was always going to be a matter of time before the hierarchy ran out of patience.
With all due respect to his managerial acumen and past achievements, Claude Puel’s reign at the King Power Stadium didn’t really endear him to the hearts of the fans, partly because his man-management wasn’t good enough and partly because his style and philosophy failed to extract the best out of the existing players at the club.
Since their promotion to the Premier League back in 2014, Leicester have relied heavily on Jamie Vardy to deliver the goods in front of goal.
However, Puel seemingly adopted an approach which shifted the focus of attention away from Vardy and that didn’t really go down well with the fans given that the striker is a firm fan favourite.
The Frenchman’s slow passing game and patient possession-based build-up play didn’t exactly suit Vardy’s strengths and the former England international struggled to find the net on a regular basis.
Also, the lack of an impactful back-up striker in the ranks cost Puel and it became more and more apparent as the season wore on that Vardy was never going to excel in a system that looked pedestrian and way too slow, to be honest.
It is Vardy’s ability to time his run perfectly behind defences that makes him such a potent threat up front but the manager hardly ever made an attempt to play to his strengths.
And that cost Leicester a lot of points against some of the sides that eventually finished in the bottom half of the table.
Moreover, Puel seemed reluctant all the time to tinker with his tactics, and his team selection often raised a lot of eyebrows, with the likes of Adrien Silva and Vicente Iborra finding themselves below Nampalys Mendy in the pecking order for some unknown reason.
A shock exit from the FA Cup at the hands of Newport County coupled with a six-game winless streak in the Premier League from early January to late February was enough for the Leicester hierarchy to pull the trigger on Puel, thus marking the end of the Frenchman’s rather lacklustre reign.
Mike Stowell and Adam Sadler assumed the caretaker duties before Brendan Rodgers left Celtic to take up the vacant managerial role at the King Power Stadium.
The arrival of Rodgers brought about a radical change as far as the style of play was concerned, as the Foxes responded brilliantly to the new manager’s tactical flexibility.
Although Leicester went down 2-1 to Watford in his first game in charge, the change in the mentality of the players and the way they approached the game was pretty apparent and it was not a big surprise to see that the performance levels reached a completely different level soon.
Leicester had failed to register victories over the likes of Burnley, Bournemouth and Fulham earlier in the campaign but with Rodgers at the helm of affairs, the Foxes completely destroyed all three teams towards the end of the season.
As opposed to Puel, Rodgers adopted a more dynamic approach and he seemed to have a concrete plan heading into each game, with the manager encouraging his players to play an attacking brand of football without compromising on defensive solidity.
With all due respect to Puel, a slow, boring and pedestrian brand of football was replaced by a more attack-minded philosophy which involved a fast transition from defence to attack.
Leicester, under Rodgers, moved the ball around a lot quicker in the middle of the park and didn’t tend to slow things down with too many touches on the ball as they so often did when Puel was in charge.
Such a dynamic system complemented by the creativity of Youri Tielemans and Maddison in the midfield brought the best out of the prolific Jamie Vardy.
Vardy, who had struggled to make an impact under Puel, resurrected his season with an impressive run of form towards the closing stages, as the Englishman netted 9 goals in the final 10 games of the campaign.
The 32-year-old bagged a brace and produced a man-of-the-match display in the 3-0 humiliation of Arsenal, reminding one and all that he is Leicester’s undisputed talisman in front of goal and an indispensable component of their attack.
All in all, it might only have been a decent campaign for Leicester but the promise that they showed under Rodgers in the last ten games or so, coupled with some really incredible individual performances, means that the Foxes can look forward to better things in the days to come.
“Could be a turning point”, “More please”: Several Tottenham fans joyful after huge 5-0 win vs Red Star + Match report
Tottenham fans react to the emphatic 5-0 win vs Red Star Belgrade
Tottenham romped home with an emphatic 5-0 victory over Red Star Belgrade on Matchday 3 of the UEFA Champions League, as Mauricio Pochettino’s side registered their first victory in the group stages of the tournament.
Having drawn 2-2 against Olympiacos before suffering an ignominious 7-2 defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich on Matchday 2, the Lilywhites came into the game knowing that they had to grab all three points to stay in the hunt for qualification from Group B and the hosts finally returned to winning ways after three games in all competitions.
Braces from Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, and a solitary strike from Erik Lamela ensured that the fans finally had something to cheer about following a woeful recent run of results as Spurs managed to breathe some life into their tottering European campaign.
Despite having picked up a shock 3-1 victory over Olympiacos on Matchday 2, Red Star Belgrade were clearly the underdogs heading into the away fixture against Tottenham and it didn’t take long for the Premier League giants to break the deadlock.
Kane headed it in from Lamela’s corner to give Spurs the lead just nine minutes into the game but that was just the beginning of a breathtaking display from the home side, something that has been an anomaly rather than a norm since the start of the season.
Lamela was once again the provider for the second goal as the Argentine got in behind the defence and turned his man before delivering an inch-perfect cross from the outside of his left boot for Son to make it 2-0.
Son almost immediately returned the favour back to Lamela, who had a golden chance to grab a third goal for the hosts, only for Milan Borjan to deny him with a fine save. Red Star had a rare sight of goal when Rajiv van La Parra called Paulo Gazzaniga into action with a header shortly after.
However, the visitors were soon the architects of their own downfall when their sudden loss of possession in the midfield allowed Tanguy Ndombele to embark on a driving run and the Frenchman set up Son for his second of the night and Spurs’ third just before the interval.
With Spurs leading 3-0 at half-time, the game looked like a done and dusted affair and the Lilywhites continued to toy with their opponents after the restart.
Kane and Son set up Lamela for a couple of very presentable chances early in the second half before the Argentine finally grabbed a goal from Serge Aurier’s assist just before the hour mark.
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Lamela came close to bagging his second of the night just moments later while Son also narrowly missed the target but Kane made it 5-0 at the 72nd-minute mark with a precise right-footed finish, Ndombele chipping in with his second assist of the game.
In the end, it was probably relief more than joy for Pochettino but the thumping victory was definitely a sight for sore eyes to savour and a massive confidence-booster, nonetheless.
Here’s how some of the Tottenham fans reacted to the 5-0 victory:-
“World-class performance”: Some Man City fans on cloud nine after emphatic 5-1 win over Atalanta + Match report
UEFA Champions League Match Report: Man City 5-1 Atalanta
Man City stormed 5-1 past Italian outfit Atalanta in their Group C encounter on Matchday 3 of the UEFA Champions League, as Pep Guardiola’s side registered their third consecutive victory in the group stage of the competition to take a step closer to qualification.
Ruslan Malinovskyi’s opener from the penalty spot was cancelled out by Sergio Aguero’s first-half brace before a quickfire hat-trick from Raheem Sterling after the interval ensured that the Citizens absolutely demolished their opposition on the night to claim all three points in an emphatic manner.
Guardiola opted for a change in formation from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1, with Rodri and Fernandinho playing as the makeshift pairing at the heart of the defence.
Gundogan and De Bruyne formed the pivot in the midfield while Phil Foden started in the No.10 role with Mahrez and Sterling playing out wide on either side to complement Aguero up top.
Atalanta had been written off completely by many prior to the start of the game but the Serie A side showed strong signs of promise in the early stages of the game and found a surprise breakthrough much against the run of play.
Fernandinho brought Josip Ilicic down at the edge of the box and Malinovskyi stepped up from twelve yards to convert the resultant penalty, sending Ederson the wrong way to make it 1-0 just before the half-hour mark.
City, though, had been regarded as the strong favourites in the clash and it wasn’t long before the Premier League giants stamped their authority. Sterling’s excellent lobbed pass from the edge of the box had all the guile in the world to outwit the Atalanta backline and Aguero was at the right place to level the scores in the 34th minute.
The hosts’ dominance continued to reign supreme and Sterling’s lung-busting run drew a foul from Andrea Masiello inside the box as Aguero coolly stepped up to convert the penalty and put City 2-1 ahead before the interval.
The second half was nothing but one-way traffic and after playing a key role in each of Aguero’s first-half goals, Sterling was simply unstoppable after the restart.
Foden set him up for an easy finish to make the scoreline 3-1 before a sumptuous through ball from Gundogan set the England international free down the left side, allowing him to cut inside and get the home crowd off their feet with a clinical finish.
The game looked dead and buried but Man City were apparently keen to inflict more pain on the Italians as Mahrez set up Sterling for his hat-trick in the 69th minute. The winger had a glorious opportunity to grab a sixth goal for the hosts but it was a night to remember for him, nevertheless.
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There was a rare blemish for the Citizens when Foden was given the marching orders for a second bookable offence but Pep Guardiola will definitely be a pleased man after his team completely tore the visitors to pieces on Tuesday night.
Here’s how some of the joyous Man City fans reacted to the 5-1 victory in the Champions League:-
[Image] Man United vs Arsenal: Star-studded combined XI featuring 4 Red Devils and 7 Gunners
Man United vs Arsenal: Combined XI featuring 4 Red Devils and 7 Gunners
After a round of EFL Cup fixtures, Premier League action is set to return this weekend with plenty of thrills and spills and the high-octane clash between Man United and Arsenal on Monday night is undoubtedly going to be one of the main attractions of matchweek 7.
Both the teams won their EFL Cup fixtures, with Arsenal handing Nottingham Forest a 5-0 drubbing and Man United somehow edging past a lowly Rochdale in the penalty shootout.
Arsenal are currently placed 4th in the Premier League standings after a 3-2 victory over Aston Villa last week and the fans will be expecting the Gunners to continue their winning run, while Man United will have their work cut out away from home after a 2-0 defeat at the hands of West Ham last week.
Bernd Leno (GK)
The German has proven his worth between the sticks on numerous occasions with some fine saves this season and he certainly deserves the nod over de Gea, who has been a bit inconsistent.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (RB)
The youngster has proven himself to be an excellent addition to Man United’s backline and it is a no-brainer that he has fared way better than Maitland-Niles in that position.
Harry Maguire (CB)
The England international has added a lot of steel to United’s backline following his big-money move from Leicester City earlier in the summer. One of the best centre-backs in the Premier League, he definitely deserves a place ahead of the error-prone David Luiz in the elite combined line-up.
The Greek international has hardly been at his best but Victor Lindelof too, has been equally lacklustre and there isn’t really a lot to choose between them so far this term.
Kieran Tierney (LB)
The Scotsman made his first start for the Gunners since his move from Celtic back in August and the fans will be expecting him to play a big part on Monday if he starts.
Matteo Guendouzi (CDM)
The Frenchman has arguably been Arsenal’s most influential presence in the middle of the park with his excellent all-round game, leapfrogging Fred, Matic, Xhaka and Torreira on the performance charts.
Scott McTominay (CDM)
The youngster has really come of age for United this term and his combative and energetic displays in the middle of the park have caught the eye amidst a lot of mediocrity from his teammates, including star man Paul Pogba.
Nicolas Pepe (RW)
The Ivorian is currently on high spirits after bagging his first goal for Arsenal against Aston Villa last week and though he hasn’t done anything spectacular yet, there is hardly a better player from either team in that role.
Daniel James (LW)
The former Swansea City starlet has taken the Premier League by storm this season and he will be United’s best bet to find the net on Monday.
Dani Ceballos (CAM)
The Spaniard has shown a lot of promise in that No.10 role for the Gunners and he definitely deserves the nod ahead of big names like Juan Mata and Mesut Ozil.
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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ST)
The Gabonese international has become a nemesis for the defenders in the Premier League and with an impressive tally 6 goals in 6 league outings this season, Arsenal will look up to him to propel them to a victory over rivals United on Monday.
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