It is still early days but after four games of the Premier League season, Leicester City are the side who look best equipped to challenge the big six. Brendan Rodgers’ charges are third in the standings heading into this weekend’s trip to Old Trafford, with two wins (against Sheffield United and Bournemouth) and two draws (against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea) representing a solid start to the new campaign.
A glance at the Premier League table shouldn’t hold too many surprises, Liverpool top with a 100% record, Manchester City close behind, whilst Norwich and Watford are struggling. But look closer and you’ll see a team that you wouldn’t expect to be so high up, and that is Leicester City.
True Leicester stunned everybody when they won the league title in 2016, but since then they have reverted back to, well, just being Leicester, a decent team who try to finish in mid table with relegation never quite far away.
However that thought process seems to have changed since the arrival of ex Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers was at Celtic where he had been incredibly successful in Scotland, although with the transistion of Rangers it could be argued that Celtic did not really have any proper competition- still you can only beat what is put out in front of you and Rodgers did do a superb job with the legendary Glasgow team.
What was surprising about Rodgers joining up with Leicester was the timing, he came in February last season and Celtic’s loss has been Leicester’s gain. The Foxes look rejuvenated and started to bring about solid results and ended up finishing the season on a high.
That high has continued and the team are in great confidence going into this season. They currently sit in 3rd place and have not lost a game, only Liverpool and Manchester City are the other unbeaten teams so far.
The statistics are very interesting since Rodgers took over also. He has a 47.5% win rate with the Foxes which doesn’t look that great, but it is a win rate only and so when the club draw that isn’t included. The wider picture is that from 15 games since Rodgers has been in charge the club have only lost 3 times. They have gained 26 points in that time and if we took that as an average throughout the season then Leicester would finish on 65 points, their highest in Premier League history not counting their league win.
There is a good attitude around the club and they won’t be easy to beat this season and won’t be pushovers for the bigger teams. Look at how they came away from Stamford Bridge against Chelsea and got a 1-1 draw. That was impressive given that the team were 1-0 down and it was Chelsea manager Frank Lampard’s first game at home in charge of his beloved team.
That type of spirit shows that this team have a lot of quality this season, and whilst thinking that they can go on to win another title feels too wishful, Rodgers is creating small miracles with the club, and they are aiming to finish high in the league this season with a deep cup run to boot. Back against them at your peril.
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The Premier League is now four gameweeks into the season.
We’ve entered the first international break of 2019/20 so there are 10 days before the next game. Being honest, we all hate these breaks in the domestic season. However, it does give us the opportunity to quickly take stock of how teams are shaping up at this early stage of the campaign.
The only club in England’s top flight to still have a 100% record after just four games. Jurgen Klopp’s side proved last season that they are the real deal, pushing Manchester City all the way for the title while also lifting the club’s sixth European Cup. Continue reading
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
Leicester City’s Harry Maguire is being chased by both Manchester clubs with City, the current champions looking the favourites from the two to get his signature. But the asking price seems incredibly inflated. The Foxes want £80m for their defender- the genuine question is, how did they get to this figure?
Maguire has won no major trophies in his career and he is 26- he has never played for a top 4 side, not even top 6. Though he did join Leicester the season after they were declared champions. Has the price been inflated then because he is a current England international player with 20 caps- it does seem so.
The reality of the situation is that in the current price market Maguire is worth no more than £35m, and teams valuations of players has gone through the roof. Sadly for Premier League clubs selling on English players it has always been like this, when a few extra million seems to attach onto any fee.
City and United have the money but City have taken over United now and they will most likely get his signature. No one is denying that Maguire could become a better all round player at City and put in good displays, but City will not be making any money on the player in the future- indeed his value if sold for £80m will start to decrease the moment he puts pen to paper.
The reality of it is is that Leicester have no right to ask so much for the player, the price compared to what Maguire has achieved has no justification, plain and simple.
England’s manager Gareth Southgate hasn’t helped the situation, he once ill advised that Maguire was one of the best defenders in the world. Again totally unjustified. Maguire is a good defender and would never have made it in England’s set up otherwise and starred of course in a World Cup which saw England reach the semi-final stages. But one of the best makes little sense for a player who has played in his career for the likes of Hull and Leicester and we need to be realistic of that fact.
For now United have lodged a £70m bid which is ridiculous in and of itself, and Leicester had the bravado to turn that down and then ask for £10m extra. The fear for United is that their rivals will seriously start sniffing around and come in for the player. But no team is getting a good deal or bargain here.
Kasper Schmeichel may have one of the most famous ex goalkeepers as a father but he has shown in his fantastic performances that he is his own man, and in some ways stepped out of the shadow of having a famous father within the game.
This season for Schmeichel was his 8th for Leicester and he has become the figurehead of the team, winning an incredible Premier League title in 2016 which will never be forgotten.
Schmeichel finished the season as the 6th best ranked goalkeeper and ended the campaign within the fantasy league football rankings with 27 points. Schmeichel would have cost you 7m and he ended up keeping 10 clean sheets this season. The Foxes conceded 48 goals under his guard and he played in every game of the season, all 38. He was shown the yellow card 3 times which is one of the worst records for a goalkeeper in the Premier League from this past season.
So let’s analyse Schmeichel’s season and see where it went right and where it went wrong.
He started the season off with -2 points after Leicester lost their opening game of the season 2-1 at Manchester United. However in the very next game he was able to earn his first points of the season after Leicester beat Wolves 2-0, the clean sheet earned him 7 points. He then went the next 4 games earning no points indeed it wasn’t a good moment for the Dane as he actually earned -9 points which really affected his ranking.
Schmeichel’s best period of the season was started at the beginning of November and lasted a month where he earned points in 3 of those four games totalling 21. The problem of course is that he only ended up with a season total of 27 and this was down to the fact that his side kept conceding goals and also he picked up a few yellow cards.
His worst single game of the season was when Leicester took on Bournemouth and lost 4-2, he earned -7 points for that game and later in the season repeated the trick earning -7 points again when Leicester fell to Crystal Palace 4-1.
He finished the season quite strong keeping clean sheets in 2 from his last 3 games. The game he didn’t manage that was against Manchester City when the match only finished 1-0 and City of course were going for the league title. But he did impressively keep a clean sheet in Leicester’s 3-0 win over Arsenal and then in the final game of the season the Foxes drew 0-0 with Chelsea.
Schmeichel appeared to feel better in his role when Brendan Rodgers took over the team from Celtic in the second half of the season, and Rodgers will be hoping that Schmeichel will have a much better season overall coming up, everything points to the fact that he will.
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Cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Now deep into his 11th year at Manchester City and with over 33 years spent on this earth, Vincent Kompany is still able to defy the odds when they are stacked against him.
With 70 minutes on the clock and Leicester City proving to be well-organised and almost a match for the defending league champions, the home team needed some magic.
They needed an inspirational captain to step up and take charge. Kompany didn’t disappoint. City’s number 4 released an unstoppable drive from all of 30 yards. It flew past Kasper Schmeichel’s outstretched arms and into the top corner. Continue reading
As a club, Leicester City has had more anguish to deal with this season than most.
Back in late October, the club’s 60-year-old Thai owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, along with four others, including the pilot, died when his helicopter crashed to the ground shortly after takeoff from the King Power Stadium.
Srivaddhanaprabha had just watched his team draw 1-1 at home to West Ham United before then attempting to make his usual helicopter trip back to his home in London.
A grey cloud covered the club over the following weeks with the playing staff all attending their previous owner’s funeral in Bangkok. Continue reading
This week was always going to be a relatively testing one for Arsenal, as they faced Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City. However, only the most pessimistic among the Gunners faithful will have predicted things would go this badly.
After losing 3-2 against Crystal Palace last Sunday, it will have been presumed by many that Arsenal would improve this week- especially as they are still in with a chance of getting their first top four finish since the 2015/16 campaign. However, the Crystal Palace performance was replicated defensively in this week’s two games, as they lost 3-1 and then 3-0 against Wolves and Leicester respectively.
The three goals conceded against Wolves all came in the first half, as Ruben Neves scored in the 28th minute, Matt Doherty netted in the 31st before Diogo Jota rounded things off during injury time. Arsenal were able to get a consolation -ironically through a defender- as Sokratis Papastathopoulos got on the score sheet in the 80th minute.
The Gunners made two defensive changes ahead of the Leicester game, as Shkodran Mustafi and Sead Kolasinac replaced Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal. However, while the Gunners didn’t concede in the first half, they did damage their chances in the early stages once again. Ainsley Maitland-Niles was sent off, in the 38th minute, for a second bookable offence when he slid in on James Maddison.
Youri Tielemans struck the first blow for Leicester in the 59th minute, before a late double from Jamie Vardy made the scoreline look more convincing. Both of Vardy’s goals could arguably have been avoided, as defensive lapses played their part in giving him the chances.
That Arsenal are still struggling at the back, at this stage of the season, will be a source of great frustration for Unai Emery. There have been some brilliant and resolute performances from a defensive point of view, such as the away leg against Napoli, but this type of performance hasn’t come on anywhere near a consistent enough basis.
What will encourage the manager and his players though, is that despite these and other problems Arsenal have endured this campaign, they are still in with a hope of securing Champions League football for next season. They will travel to Valencia on Thursday for the first of their two semi final legs, to get within one match of the Europa League title- and the automatic Champions League place which comes with it.
Obtaining it through the league also still isn’t out of the question, especially after Chelsea drew with Manchester United following Arsenal’s defeat to Leicester. The Gunners’ two remaining Premier League fixtures come against Brighton and Hove Albion and Burnley, two games which are winnable on paper. If they get victory in both of these matches and Chelsea slip up against Watford or Leicester, Arsenal will go above them and into fourth (though that is dependant on goal difference if one of Chelsea’s results is a draw).
Having Champions League football at The Emirates is still a realistically achievable goal for Arsenal, though they will have to sort their defensive woes if they are to obtain it.
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Starting on Friday night, the English Premier League has a full schedule of games over this coming weekend.
Here are our predicted lineups for those EPL fixtures so have a read in preparation for another EPL fantasy football round.
Leicester City v Newcastle United
Leicester XI: Schmeichel, Pereira, Morgan, Maguire, Chilwell, Tielemans, Ndidi, Maddison, Gray, Vardy, Barnes
Newcastle XI: Dubravka, Yedlin, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett, Ritchie, Perez, Hayden, Ki, Almiron, Rondon Continue reading