Leicester opened their Premier League campaign with a shock defeat against Hull, but what did we learn from the Foxes’ opening game?
Leicester City suffered a shock defeat to Hull City on Saturday as the Champions struggled to find any real momentum after their triumph last season.
With teams setting up to play a certain way against Leicester now, what did we learn about the Foxes’ in their opening game?
Vardy is human
Leicester’s Jamie Vardy reacts
It proved a difficult day for Leicester’s top scorer of last season. Vardy found Hull City a tough nut to crack as he failed to make a real impact in the game.
After the euphoria of last season and being called up to England’s European Championship side, things started to turn sour for the striker with England knocked out of the competition in an embarrassing defeat against Iceland. Perhaps this is playing on the mind of the forward?
Vardy, usually so clinical, spurned two of Leicester’s best chances yesterday. His new strike partner Musa was superb in the game and did everything right, twice almost assisting Vardy who blazed over once and then saw his shot blocked on the line. Had he gotten those chances last season then Vardy would almost certainly have been celebrating twice in the game.
Vardy needs to find a way to get support up-front this season with teams purposely dropping deep to suffocate him of an space. Therefore, he will need to work on his short game and ability to link up play after he became one of the most marked men in England because of his exploits last campaign.
Ponderous Foxes punished
Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez looks dejected after the game
Last season, Leicester were all about their ability to move the ball quickly. A defensive situation for the Foxes was quite often the most dangerous time for the opposition.
They would confidently deal with the situation before a lightning fast counter-attack would see the likes of Vardy or Mahrez get a chance to score.
However, yesterday they looked laboured in attack. Hull were set up to frustrate and contain Leicester, but even whent the Foxes did have space, they were far too ponderous on the ball, taking too long to think about their next move allowing Hull’s players to get back in numbers. It shows how slow Leicester were on the ball that when Mahrez was able to attack, it was not with space to run into. Mahrez was forced to try and beat two banks of Hull players before being crowded out by sheer numbers.
Therefore, in Leicester’s next game they must look to move the ball quicker. The likes of Musa and Vardy are exceptionally quick, while Mahrez and Drinkwater have fantastic passing ability. They have the tools to hurt teams still, they just have to be far quicker in their construction of moves.
Musa could be another coup
Jeffrey Schlupp celebrates with Ahmed Musa
Leicester have not been shy in delving into the transfer market in recent times. The likes of Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante were hailed as two of the best signings of the past few years with their performances helping Leicester to an unprecedented title last season. That is why there is a lot of talk about their new signing, Ahmed Musa.
Musa signed from Russian side CSKA Moscow for around £16 million, a club record fee. The Nigerian brings blistering pace and intelligence to the side and comes with the promise of goals having found the net 42 times in 125 appearances for CSKA.
In their opener against Hull, Musa looked very good going forward with his pace a constant problem for the opposition. What will impress Leicester fans most is that he looked good in his link up play with Vardy. The forward played Vardy in twice and should have had two assists on debut.
It will be very interesting to see how he continues to develop in the Premier League and whether his partnership with Vardy will grow. If Leicester are to finish in the upper echelons of the league they desperately need their record signing to hit the ground running.
Midfield pairing is a work in progress
Andy King celebrates
It is no secret that N’Golo Kante’s move to Chelsea is a huge loss for Leicester. The Frenchman was vital in the Foxes’ winning campaign as he ran, tackled and passed his way to being one of the players of the season, and he earned his big money move to the London side.
In his place is Andy King. King is a talented midfielder and is deserving of his chance in the first team. However, his partnership with Danny Drinkwater struggled against Hull. King in particular found it difficult to deal with the five men that Hull put in the middle. He was unable to track the runners as there were so many of them coming from midfield which allowed Hull to run riot in the middle.
In comparison, Drinkwater had a fairly good game. He too struggled because of the sheer number of Hull City midfielders, however, he looked very assured in possession and his experience was key when Hull scored their second. He used his intelligence on the ball to slow things down, causing Hull to lose momentum, allowing Leicester to get a foot-hold in the game again.
It is a position Drinkwater knows well, however, King will take time to adjust to the requirements of playing in Kante’s position. It seems then that Leicester will struggle over their next few games as teams look to suffocate their space and put pressure on their midfield. Vardy and Mahrez received a lot of the credit for last season, however, Kante’s exit could prove to be just as telling as if the afore mentioned had left.
This will be Ranieri’s toughest season
Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri
Many tipped Leicester to go down last season and they defied belief to win the league. One of the most incredible stories in the history of football has preceded what will be Claudio Ranieri’s toughest season.
The Italian must first look to shore up his midfield after the exit of Kante. Ranieri has already used King in his place, however, he may need to look to the transfer market for reinforcements. Second, he needs to blood Luis Hernandez into the side.
The centre-back played instead of Robert Huth on Saturday and looked shaky alongside captain Wes Morgan. Hull did provide a physical test for the centre-back while he struggled with the amount of midfield dominance Hull had. Hernandez must be given time in this side in order to build a partnership with Huth and Morgan instead of just being thrown in at the deep-end.
Most importantly though, the manager must find an effective way to play against the smaller sides. Against the likes of Manchester City and Arsenal, Leicester know they will not see much of the ball and they can continue to play in their counter-attacking style.
Against the smaller teams though, Leicester will need to get used to having to play through a side. Hull showed yesterday that sitting deeper stops the likes of Vardy from running in behind with only a pin-point ball and perfectly timed running being good enough to get the ball between goalkeeper and defender.
Therefore, Leicester’s players must become more proficient at cutting their opponents open with passing if they are to be successful this campaign.