Premier League’s Game of the Week: Manchester City 2-5 Leicester City

If any of Manchester City and Leicester were going to win 5-2 then 99% of the chance it would be Manchester City, at the weekend we saw the rule to that exception.

In a stunning result Leicester who have started the season in style put 5 goals past Pep Guardiola’s City side, champions in two out of the last 3 seasons as they sailed to a stunning 5-2 victory at the Etihad.

And no one could have seen it coming. In City’s first game of the season they made light work of Wolves beating them 3-1. Whilst Leicester had started well they were knocked out of the Carabao Cup in midweek against Arsenal, though Brendan Rodgers was able to leave a few regulars out.

As for the game it looked over almost as soon as it had started as Riyad Mahrez the former Leicester player, who else? gave City the lead. This was now going to go to script surely and City were supposed to wipe the floor with the unbeaten Leicester, but that didn’t happen.

Leicester made their presence felt and James Maddison was all over the pitch, there was a sense that this game wasn’t all going to be about City. Then before half time Leicester were awarded a penalty and Jamie Vardy scored his 3rd goal of the season. The half ended 1-1, and still even with 45 minutes gone nobody could have predicted the outcome.

It was early in the second half that the change happened. Vardy scored again a brilliant flick that put the Foxes in the lead, and then just five minutes later it was another penalty, again for Leicester and in the space of 21 minutes Vardy- the top goalscorer last season had completed his hat trick.

At 3-1 the game wasn’t over and yet it felt it like the home side despite their quality had been winded. The game rolled on and City tried but the minutes ticked away and then the brilliant James Maddison smashed a long range shot right into the back of the net, it was 4-1, the game was over for City, but the game wasn’t over.

New signing for Guardiola’s team Nathan Ake got a goal back to make it 4-2 near the end, could there have possibly been a crazy comeback? In the Premier League you can really never say never but that wasn’t happening today.

A third penalty confirmed that when Youri Tielemans converted, the score was now 5-2. It was an incredible result and even though there were 3 penalties there was nothing controversial about the decisions, no one complained everyone accepted even Guardiola had to, his team had been well and truly beaten and he was right to be annoyed with his defenders after the game, basic errors at this level left viewers stunned.

With the win Leicester the 2016 champions are top of the league once more, they have scored an incredible 12 goals. For City this feels like deja vue in that they started slow last season and dropped too many points as their rivals Liverpool started strongly, the gap is already six points between City and the champions.

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Should Manchester United pursue Jack Grealish or James Maddison in the summer?

With the January transfer window ending, some Premier League clubs will feel better than others in terms of the business they have concluded ready for the second-half of the season.

Manchester United have had a difficult past few months, but the acquisition of highly-rated midfielder Bruno Fernandes should appease fans somewhat. While they do not want to put too much pressure on the Portugal international, he is a player that can fill a variety of roles in midfield that has been sorely lacking.

Whether Fernandes is used as a tenacious box-to-box midfielder, or as a number 10 sitting in behind the centre forward, he has shown quality and determination wherever he is placed.

The question of heart and passion has been a sticking point for United’s fans in recent years when it came to new players, but Fernandes has that mentality in abundance, and appears to be a player ready to run through brick walls to wear the club jersey.

And while the fans are enthused by the prospect of Fernandes, they also know how much more business is needed to be done if the Red Devils are to amount to anything next season. One of those positions is an out-and-out attacking playmaker.

Two players that have come to the forefront of United’s shopping list are: Jack Grealish of Aston Villa, and James Maddison of Leicester City.

Both have been used out wide, as a 10, as an eight and sometimes even deeper in a midfield pivot. Similarly to Fernandes, they come with great pedigree of finding the back of the net as well as the final through ball for the centre forward.

It is arguable that this season, Grealish has been the player to watch. Every time he receives the ball, the opposition defence is quaking in their boots, not knowing in which way he is going to go next. The Villains captain has a certain X-Factor about him that is unparalleled to most players in the Premier League – as well as now the responsibility of leading his team.

Maddison, on the other hand, has consistently been improving with every game. Having risen up through the ranks at Coventry City, the fully-fledged England international has taken his game to a level where fees of nearly £100 million are being talked about.

Both players are likely to be extraordinary expensive, coupled up with the fact that they are British, but are also coming into the primes of their careers and have Premier League exposure. Not only the experience of playing in the division, but excelling.

Grealish provides perhaps more of the X-Factor on a weekly basis, whereas Maddison has a sense of reliability on the pitch with his performances never dipping to a sub-standard rate.

It will be a hard task on both accounts as to negotiating with Aston Villa and Leicester City, and the club, and fans, would be happy with either, knowing they have the tight qualities to influence the final third.

Above all, Manchester United need an out-and-out number 10 and will making in their priority come the summer.

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Jamie Vardy has ensured his legend status at Leicester City after Arsenal are beaten

At the time of writing Leicester are sitting in 2nd place in the Premier League and there are now genuine memories, hopes and wishes of what the club did in season 2015/16 and that is winning the Premier League. The clubs win over Arsenal by 2-0 just reinforced that fact that the Foxes are back.

Leading that title chase is Jamie Vardy. The striker breathes and bleeds Leicester and has been a constant within the teams most successful era of their history, simply put he installs belief, the will to win and most importantly he just keeps on scoring goals.

Vardy opened the game up against Arsenal with just 15 minutes left to play in a match that was terrifically entertaining and end to end stuff but ultimately one that looked like Brendan Rodgers side would end up dropping 2 points at home. It was headed for 0-0 until Vardy’s great goal which crushed Arsenal and then Leicester went onto score a 2nd moments later through the impressive James Maddison.

Vardy’s rise to top goalscorer in the Premier League has been stunning given that he was playing non-league football at the beginning of this decade with Halifax Town. But he is Leicester through and through. He has 11 goals already this season from 12 games and is on course to beat his best Premier League total of 24 goals when the Foxes won the league.

At the weekend he scored his 111th goal for the club in the league and there looks like no signs of the player slowing down. What is remarkable is that his career in the top flight did not kick off until he was 28 and it would felt to him that his football career had simply passed him by. He is an exception to the rule that you can still make it at the very top. One can count on your hand the amount of players that have risen from the ashes to perform well when they have gotten older, Ian Wright would be one of those players too.

Perhaps the British media have given the striker scant praise over the years, and it’s true that he isn’t the most prolific striker in England or Europe for that matter. But he does score goals, and does get himself in the right places in the area- he’s simply always there and always a threat.

Vardy is 32 but at this rate he has another 2-3 seasons with Leicester to keep on proving how important he has been at the club. Surely whatever happens now he has his foothold in the history of the club and also a staute will be awaiting him at King Power Stadium. How long can Leicester keep pushing Liverpool and Manchester City is anyone’s guess.

They remain the league’s outsiders and you get the feeling that Vardy and Leicester will love it that way.

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James Maddison would be the perfect addition for Liverpool

Last summer, Liverpool seemed determined to find a replacement for Philippe Coutinho. The sale of the Brazilian playmaker in the January transfer window had left a hole in Jurgen Klopp’s squad. And so Nabil Fekir was the man identified as the ideal successor to Coutinho.

Of course, we all know how Fekir’s move to Anfield fell through due to a failed medical, with the French international now at Real Betis rather than Merseyside. 12 months have now passed and Liverpool still don’t have a player to replace Coutinho, to play in the way the Brazilian playmaker did.

Klopp would argue, with some justification, that his team doesn’t need a Coutinho replacement. The Reds have after all made back-to-back Champions League finals without the Brazilian, pushing Manchester City all the way in last season’s Premier League title race. Never before had a team collected 97 points and not won the title.

Indeed, selling Coutinho allowed Liverpool to fully lean into the methods of Klopp. They became an even starker reflection of the German coach. And yet there’s still a feeling that they could use a central attacking midfielder to give them another dimension, a player to unpick stubborn low defensive blocks.

James Maddison is starting to look like that player. The 22-year-old has enjoyed an excellent start to the season for Leicester City, shining especially brightly in the Foxes’ 1-1 away draw with Chelsea. The new season has only just started, but Maddison already looks like the next homegrown talent to spark a Premier League bidding war.

Should he continue in this vain of form Maddison will draw much interest in January or next summer when the transfer window is open again. Manchester United, for one, could use a player like the 22-year-old. Arsenal, Chelsea and even Manchester City would all be good fits for Maddison. He could play for essentially any top team in the Premier League, he’s that good.

But Liverpool should be at the front of the queue. The Merseyside club have shown in the recent past that they are willing to break the bank for the right player (see Alisson Becker and Virgil Van Dijk) and Maddison would be the right player for them, filling a hole in their current squad. The transfer window has only just closed, but Liverpool should be thinking about a move already.

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Big season ahead for Leicester’s James Maddison

Leicester City’s James Maddison has a very, very bright future ahead of him.

Now 22, Maddison has a season of Premier League experience under his belt at the King Power Stadium and will be looking to build on that with Brendan Rodgers’ guidance in the next couple of years.

Maddison joined Leicester City last July from Norwich City for around €25 million. The creative midfielder had impressed at Carrow Road in the Championship and Leicester’s then-manager Claude Puel felt Maddison was ready for the step up to English football’s top tier. Continue reading

Southgate opts for potential and talent over form, and that can only be a positive for England

Gareth Southgate’s new contract keeping him as England manager until 2022 was announced on Thursday. In the same press conference, Southgate named his 25-man England squad for the upcoming Nations League matches against Spain and Croatia.

In keeping with all of his tenure to date, Southgate backed the youngsters. Jadon Sancho, James Maddison and Mason Mount were all selected, with Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard out injured.

Continue reading