Tag Archives: Leicester

WSL Matchday 6 Report – Arsenal still flying, Reading dominant whilst United hit a block

We are already into match day six of the 2021/22 Women’s Super League season and so far, other than the injury-stricken start to the season that Manchester City are having, we are yet to see many upsets to the other components of the ‘Big Three’.

Whilst City have dropped numerous points to opposition that they previously would have comfortably beaten, Arsenal have been completely dominant – yet to drop a single point in the WSL so far, and only conceding two goals in the first game of the season against reigning champions Chelsea.

Meanwhile Tottenham, who in the previous season found themselves in a relegation battle, have enjoyed a great start with four wins out of the first five games.

Week six brought us some matchups that saw teams that we could expect to finish in and around that fourth spot – with Manchester United taking on Spurs while Everton and Brighton faced off. Here’s what happened.



Aston Villa 0-1 Chelsea

Ever the embodiment of a Carla Ward side, Aston Villa presented a difficult entity for Chelsea to breakdown.

As expected Chelsea absolutely dominated the ball, having 76 percent possession and boasting 16 shots in the game, despite Emma Hayes heavily rotating her starting lineup.

Within this, a rare start for the talented Canadian starlet Jessie Fleming – who went on to score the eventual winner; scoring a neat and composed finish following a great pick out from Ji.

The defensive set-up from Villa definitely did its job in frustrating Chelsea, but the quality that they possess – even when they rotate – is clear to see.

Everton 0-1 Brighton

Following the managerial change that happened at Everton after the sacking of Willie Kirk, I was interested to see how they’d look against a well drilled side in Brighton who like Tottenham, have enjoyed a good start to this new season.

New Everton manager Jean-Luc Vasseur attempted to provide some stability to his new squad by keeping the same starting XI as the midweek cup match, and someone who benefited from this was Kenza Dali, who again looked like a bright spot in the Everton team.

Despite this, it was Brighton that were able to score the winner in the second half, after Danielle Carter played in Aileen Whelan – a win that puts them fourth in the table as it stands.

Tottenham 1-1 Manchester United

As a United fan assessing the opposition before the game, I was aware that Tottenham were going to be narrow and compact – a problem that Manchester United boss Marc Skinner also alluded to both pre and post-match.

There seems to be a real lack of width in Skinner’s United side – an area that was previously used as a point of emphasis under Casey Stoney. Under Stoney we saw left-winger Leah Galton being utilised a lot more than she currently is, stretching opponents with not only width but also her pace and trickery at the by-line with her ability to accurately cross.

However, against Spurs, we once again saw a real lack of width which often made it easy for them to stop United in their attacks.

A key missing point for the United side was also the absence of midfielder Jackie Groenen who is vital in how they set the pace of the game.

Too many times were the United midfield especially caught on the ball in that first half and they were lucky to go into the half 1-0 up. That goal does however need its own special mention as Alessia Russo (who I’ve previously spoken so highly of), brought some individual brilliance with a wonder strike on the brink of HT.

She was on bully mode for the entire game – constantly pinning defenders on the halfway line and beyond. This allowed her not only to relieve pressure on the team, but also to bring the wingers and fullbacks into play. Her fantastic performance, as well as crucial saves once again from United keeper Mary Earps almost brought the team the three points. 

However, Spurs stayed in the game till the very end, and their determination paid dividend as defender Millie Percival saw her 94th minute free-kick sail all the way in without a touch. The bounce appeared to confuse everybody in the box and much to the delight of the Spurs players, rewarded the side with a well-earned point.

Leicester 1-4 Man City

Leicester scored what was only their third goal of this league campaign against a City side that are slowly starting to get important players trickling back into the side following injury lay-offs.

However, the Foxes goal in the first 90 seconds of the game didn’t stop City from sealing all three points – with Leicester continuing to give away too many chances in games.

They managed to carve out some chances in the game, but overall City were too good for them and managed to overpower them in the end. Lauren Hemp was a constant threat and the pick of the bunch from the City goals has to be awarded to Keira Walsh who unleashed an unstoppable shot from outside of the area giving the keeper no chance.

Birmingham City 0-3 Reading

Birmingham City were unable to respond to Reading’s dominant display at their ground – with another young Canadian starlet Deanne Rose shining brightest.

Kelly Chambers’ Reading side looks to be shaking off their initial early season rust and have now put together two consecutively strong performances in the league, with the forwards especially in this game combining well.

The loss however puts an even bigger strain on Birmingham City in their bid to stay in the league, as they still only have one point on the table. They’ll be looking to start building in next week’s derby against Villa.

Molly Bartrip of Reading tackles Sarah Mayling of Birmingham during the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Reading Women and Birmingham...

Arsenal 4-0 West Ham

Where to start with Arsenal? They simply just do not look like conceding right now, and this coupled with the fact that they seem to be scoring at will makes them an extremely scary prospect for the league and for their competitors’ title chances.

Once again, the ever-dependable Kim Little was front and centre to everything good that Arsenal did in the game. The nimble and intelligent Little opened the scoring with some clinical finishing late into the first half and not content with just scoring one, she went on to score her 50th league goal soon into the second half also.

Not wanting to miss out on the fun, probably one of the most in-form people in football right now Beth Mead joined in, adding a third after great work from Nikita Parris in the middle of the pitch.

The great thing about this Arsenal side is that they look like they can score from any area of the pitch, as well as the fact that they work with such intensity even when out of possession in order to win the ball back. West Ham made some good openings, but Arsenal never really looked like conceding.


Next Week is Women’s Football Week, so look out for some ones to watch on Friday!

Premier League 2021/22 – Top Six predictions

The Premier League is arguably at the strongest and most competitive that it’s been at since the 2015/16 season when all of Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte, Mauricio Pochettino and Arsene Wenger were managers and Leicester City were crowned champions.

This time around though it’s not the managers that make the competition competitive however, it’s the actual players available to all the different squads.

This summer we saw the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, Romelu Lukaku, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho to the league, while Jack Grealish was also on the move as one of the better players in the division.

Despite Arsenal spending over £150m on new players their squad is arguably weaker than it was at the end of last season and they will find it a struggle to get back into the top six this season when compared to the likes of Leicester and West Ham.

But after three Premier League games, the transfer window is complete, so these are our pre-season picks for the top six positions in the Premier League this season.


6TH
TOTTENHAM
Likely lineup: Lloris; Emerson, Romero, Dier, Reguilon; Skipp, Hojbjerg, Alli; Bergwijn, Kane, Son

Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur reacts during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Watford at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on August...

It seems to always be the same teams in and around these conversations but Tottenham actually had a pretty good transfer window this time around.

They kept hold of Harry Kane after months of speculation, signed Cristiano Romero for their problem centre-back position, signed Emerson Royal at right-back and have also managed to integrate Oliver Skipp and Dele Alli into their midfield.

They lack serious depth and injuries at any point in the season could be an issue for them, but keeping Kane is huge. He guarantees them goals throughout the season and means they always have a chance to win games, but his overall enthusiasm to be at the club could be an issue.

My gut tells me that defensively they’ll be strong but they won’t score enough goals and that will see them get too many draws to finish in the top four, plus Kane won’t be as productive as he has been in recent years.

5TH
LEICESTER
Likely lineup: Schmeichel; Pereira, Soyuncu, Evans, Castagne; Ndidi, Tielemans; Barnes, Maddison, Perez; Vardy

Jamie Vardy of Leicester City celebrates scoring the first Leicester goal during the Premier League match between Norwich City and Leicester City at...

Many thought it would be third time lucky for Brendan Rodgers’ side this season to finally break back into the top four after their summer window, but I think they’ll fall just short once again.

The Foxes added Patson Daka, Boubakary Soumare, Ademola Lookman (loan), Jannik Vestergaard and Ryan Bertrand to their squad and for the first time managed to keep their previous squad together into the new season, with no major sales. However the serious injury to Wesley Fofana in pre-season will have harmed their defensive strength and Jamie Vardy is one year older now.

They’ve started the season well but I feel the teams above them last year have further strengthened too and it means that unfortunately for them, they’ll just miss out once more.

4TH
LIVERPOOL
Likely lineup: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Thiago; Salah, Jota, Mane

Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield on August 28, 2021 in Liverpool, England.

I’m going to get this in there early, but the top four I have selected could genuinely interchange in any way and I wouldn’t be that surprised. But something in my gut tells me that Liverpool will finish fourth this season.

Jurgen Klopp’s side managed to scrape a third place finish last season despite having minimal defenders for most of the campaign, and this season they welcome back all of Virgil Van Dijk, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and new signing Ibrahima Konate in the heart of their defence.

Unfortunately for Reds fans though, they failed to strengthen the squad anywhere else. Harvey Elliott returned from loan and has done well so far in the Premier League but I don’t think he is quite at the level where he can help launch a title challenge and their lack of depth means they’ll likely fall off as the season goes on.

At their best though they’re without a doubt one of the best teams in the world, and with one of the best managers in the world on the bench it’s really hard to completely write them off.

3RD
MANCHESTER CITY
Likely lineup: Ederson; Walker, Dias, Stones, Cancelo; Rodri, De Bruyne, Grealish; Mahrez, Torres, Foden

Jack Grealish of Manchester City during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal at Etihad Stadium on August 28, 2021 in...

The reigning champions were just three wins away from winning the lot last season and then went and added the first £100m player in Premier League history to their squad, yet I think they’ll fall off this year.

Jack Grealish’s arrival to the squad obviously boosts them, but the failure to sign a top striker to replace Sergio Aguero is a problem. Yes, they won the league last season without a striker but to expect to do that again seems short-sighted and Guardiola’s chase of Harry Kane all summer tells me he knows that too.

Ferran Torres has started the season well in that role but I’m not totally convinced he can be that consistent goalscorer they need, so I think they may struggle in games against the better defences this season. Defensively they’re arguably stronger this season with Aymeric Laporte playing himself back into form, but the team just doesn’t strike fear into me like it once did.

As good as they are, with the depth and manager they have, they just don’t have that aura about them for me this season and for that reason I think they’ll fall to their lowest finish under Guardiola.

2ND
MANCHESTER UNITED
Likely lineup: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Pogba; Sancho, Fernandes, Rashford; Ronaldo

Image

I’m willing to admit this could be a bit of bias, but Manchester United look so strong this season.

As a unit they have one of the best defences in the league and their attacking options can compete with Paris Saint-Germain for depth and talent. They have match winners all over the pitch and credit must go to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for building a squad that is now expected to compete on all fronts.

There is a glaring midfield weakness though and ultimately, that could be what lets them down. Against the top sides, the lack of a top defensive midfielder could be an issue and Solskjaer is likely to make up for that by using both members of McFred together and sacrificing an attacker.

While they’re probably best placed to win things this year moreso than any other since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, it may be a cup competition that falls their way rather than the league because the gap between the top managers and Solskjaer is just that big. They’ll run it close, but ultimately it’ll just be one step too far.

1ST
CHELSEA
Likely lineup: Mendy; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; James, Jorginho, Kante, Chilwell; Havertz, Lukaku, Mount

Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea celebrates his goal. During the Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on August 22, 2021 in...

The champions of Europe looked formidable under Thomas Tuchel in the second half of last season but they had one glaring weakness – finishing in front of goal.

So what did Uncle Roman do? He signed Romelu Lukaku for £97.5m fresh off arguably the best season of his career to date to lead the line. The Belgian scored in first game against Arsenal and played well against Liverpool as Chelsea earned a draw with ten men at Anfield and already looks the perfect man to shoulder their title challenge.

Defensively they still look imperious but they look even more well drilled and with added depth to their midfield with Saul Niguez joining on loan from Atletico Madrid it’s hard to see where they will come apart this season.

A top manager, arguably the best squad in the league, a solid defence, a world class midfield, a goalscoring machine up front and a system that they’ve seemingly mastered – Chelsea are my picks to win the title this season.

Leicester shocked Chelsea but nobody else with FA Cup win

A new name has been added to the FA Cup winners list for the first time since 2013 as Leicester City toppled Chelsea at Wembley to win the trophy for the first time in their history.

The Foxes hounded the Blues throughout the 90 minutes, bettering them all over the pitch in individual battles before a stunning goal from Youri Tielemans in the second half sealed a memorable day in north-west London.

But while Chelsea were the favourites before the game, the result wasn’t really that shocking and all the credit for that should go to Brendan Rodgers and his players.

Over the course of Rodgers’ time in charge at the King Power Stadium we have seen a meteoric rise in the standard level of what to expect from Leicester.

They won the league in the 2015/16 season completely out of the blue but quickly found themselves back in their normal swing of things the following season, finishing in 12th place. They underwent a few transitions in that time, before bringing Rodgers in a little over two years ago.

Since then it’s just been progression, progression, progression. The former Liverpool and Celtic man has implemented a style of play that sees them take an attacking approach, looking to dominate the game and take it to their opponents.

They move the ball well, create plenty of chances and defensively are sound. But more than that, they’re constantly refreshing the talent in the side with young players that fit the mould of the club.

One of the biggest stand-outs of that recruitment policy is young defender Wesley Fofana, who has been absolutely phenomenal since joining from Saint-Etienne in a £36.5million deal. Many thought the fee was on the high side for a 19-year-old who had played just 30 senior games before he made the move.

But the French defender has been brilliant, showing great ability on the ball as well as leadership qualities and a great reading of the game too go with his heading and tackling abilities. It was a real gem of a find for Leicester’s scouts, to add to the likes of N’Golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy in the past.

Rodgers has found a great blend of experience and youth, partnering Fofana with Jonny Evans in defence while Kasper Schmeichel continues to bark orders from in goal. Youri Tielemans, Wilfred Ndidi and James Maddison are all young but with plenty of experience in midfield, while Vardy is a wily old fox up front doing more than just scoring goals these days

Barring an almighty collapse this week they will add to their FA Cup glory by securing a top four place this season and will play in the Champions League next season.

They’ve already been able to lock up another young talent ahead of the new season, with Lille midfielder Boubakary Soumare ready to come to the Premier League in a £20million deal. With the manager also pledging his future to the club despite reported interested from Tottenham, all signs are positive right now.

Leicester will continue to build a momentous team with the backing of a wonderful owner who cares deeply about the club, fans and community and every bit of success the achieve is well deserved.

A proper club who does things the proper way, don’t be surprised by just how good Leicester are. I’m not.

Man City crowned Premier League champions as Leicester beat weak Man United side

Manchester City have been crowned Premier League champions for a third time in four season and a fifth time in ten years after local rivals Manchester United were beaten at home by Leicester.

After beating Roma and Aston Villa in the last six days United were forced to face off against fourth place Leicester on Tuesday evening, with another game against Liverpool scheduled for just 48 hours later.

That meant that manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was forced to rotate his side and boy did he, making TEN changes to the team that beat Villa just 48 hours prior.

The team included a full debut for 19-year-old forward Anthony Elanga, as well as a Premier League debut for Amad, while David De Gea, Brandon Williams, Eric Bailly, Axel Tuanzebe, Alex Telles, Nemanja Matic, Donny Van de Beek and Juan Mata also came into the side as Mason Greenwood was the only player to retain his place.

Leicester started well and took the lead with a stunning goal, as Ayoze Perez crossed to the back post and Luke Thomas volleyed into the top corner from a tight angle for his first goal for the club. United fired back quickly though as Amad found Greenwood, who took a touch away from the defender before slotting into the far corner.

United played some decent football from then on, but the inexperience and lack of chemistry between the side showed in the second half with Leicester controlling the game. They got the winner with 25 minutes to go when Marc Albrighton’s corner found the head of Caglar Soyuncu who slammed home.

The result means City are 10 points clear at the top of the table with just three games to go, meaning they’re now uncatchable at the pinnacle once again.

It’s been coming for a while, with their incredible 15 game winning streak at the start of the calendar year really pulling them away at the top of the league from their rivals. But their domestic dominance is nothing new and Solskjaer admitted after the game that they’re worthy champions and that they’re where United want to be.

The biggest thing the game with Leicester showed United is the difference is squad depth between them and their rivals.

City have been able to make wholesale changes several times this season and maintain results because of the amount of quality options they have available to them, while United were forced to hand out debuts because of just two injuries in their forward area.

As for Leicester, they all but confirmed their place in the top four for this season as they opened up an eight point gap over fifth placed West Ham with the Hammers having just three games left to play. That also means that Liverpool are highly unlikely to see Champions League football next season, less than 12 months after running away with their first league title in 30 years.

It’s the end of a Premier League season that will enter it’s final match days with absolutely nothing to play for in the division, so expect plenty of vibes.

Harvey Barnes injury could kill his Euro 2020 dreams

The international dreams of Harvey Barnes for this season could be over after he suffered a knee injury that could rule him out for around six weeks.

The Leicester City winger has been in excellent form this season, leading the charge in the attack with the best season of his career so far. His season has been halted though after a big knee injury picked up against Arsenal, with surgery needed.

As the ball rolled through to him, he controlled it only for his knee to buckle and he collapsed to the turf. Manager Brendan Rodgers confirmed after the game that the injury is serious after he chipped a bone in his knee and needs to get it repaired.

Speaking after the game, Rodgers said:

“I just spoke to the doctor. That’ll be a huge blow for us.

“It’s not good news. He needs an operation. He’ll be out for a minimum of six weeks. Part of the bone in his knee has come off, so he’ll need it repaired.

“He’s had niggles with it. We tried to recover him on Thursday but it’s a bad one for him.

“It’s been irritable and today it’s made it worse. The consolation is it’s not as long as it looked like. I’ll know more on Monday.”

There was talk that Barnes would be able to break into the England squad at the end of this month off the back of his great form, which has seen him score nine Premier League goals this season for the Foxes – more than anyone else in the squad bar Jamie Vardy.

With wide options in the England squad so stacked, it is already incredibly difficult to get into the squad but Barnes was seemingly on the verge. His dribbling, passing and finishing have all dramatically improved this season and with that added end product Gareth Southgate may have been looking at him as a wildcard option for the European Championships.

With the final international break before the end of the season coming up this month, it would’ve been a great chance for Barnes to get in front of the manager and show his best. But with injury ruling him out, it will take something extra special for his first call up to come in June when the tournament is due to begin.

His injury will be seen as a positive for other players looking to get into the squad with the likes of Mason Greenwood, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Bukayo Saka and James Maddison all on the fringes of the squad and capable of having a big say with a good run of form towards the end of the season.

For Barnes, he will look to recover and get back to his fine form as quickly as possible but should probably have his eye on the England squads after the tournament rather than Euro 2020.

Europa League last 32 predictions – Tottenham and Leicester

The Europa League returns for the knockout rounds and will host four English sides as opposed to the three that were in the group stages. While Manchester United drop down from the Champions League, Arsenal, Leicester and Tottenham Hotspur will reconvene in Europe’s secondary competition.

Arsenal will face Benfica in their knockout tie, while Manchester United will face La Liga outfit Real Sociedad in theirs but the other Premier League sides will have considerably easier tasks at hand

The Foxes will take on Slavia Prague, the champions of the Czech Republic, while Spurs will travel to take on Wolfsberger AC who hail from Austria.

Brendan Rodgers’ side are currently in fantastic form in the Premier League, sitting in third place currently on goal difference. They’ve been able to beat Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea this season domestically and went through the group stages as group winners on goal difference having won four of their six games.

Jose Mourinho’s side on the other hand have had a very odd season, from the highs of topping the table after 12 games to currently sitting in ninth place having accumulated just 12 points in the following 12 games. In the Europa League though, they were able to cruise into the next round as group winners scoring 15 goals in their six group games.

Leicester City v Liverpool - Premier League : News Photo

Both sides will be heavy favourites in their knockout ties but will need to be wary of their opponent’s threats.

Slavia Prague were able to score 11 goals in their six group stage games but conceded ten. It means their games were open ended, with three or more goals scored in each game barring their home game against Bayer Leverkusen which they lost 1-0.

Rodgers will be aware of this and will know that means that they aren’t afraid to change their game plan at home when they come up against a stronger side. Leicester’s recent form has seen them lost just once in their last 14 games in all competitions, winning three of their last four and conceding only once.

Spurs on the other hand will come against Wolfsberger AC, who scored only seven goals in their six games but they also only conceded six. Defensively they proved relatively solid and hard to beat, but they could barely hit a barn door with a banjo in their attacking third.

FBL-EUR-C3-TOTTENHAM-LUDOGORETS : News Photo

Mourinho’s side will be very confident of a win, despite losing five of their last six games in all competitions and conceding 13 goals in those games. The north Londoners will likely use their large squad to their advantage and rest several key players, but the fact they can call upon stars like Harry Kane and Heung Min-Son in an emergency means they should have far too much quality for their opponents.

Both English teams will go through comfortably over two legs and expect key players to be rested as they prioritise the Premier League run for now.

PREDICTIONS:

Slavia Prague 0-2 Leicester
Leicester 3-1 Slavia Prague
(Leicester to progress 5-1 on aggregate)

Wolfsberger AC 0-3 Tottenham
Tottenham 3-0 Wolfsberger AC
(Tottenham to progress 6-0 on aggregate)

James Maddison Back To His Best & Ready For England Contention

It’s been a long road back to fitness for Leicester midfielder James Maddison in recent months.

The former Norwich man was a key figure in the Foxes side that pushed for a top four place for the majority of last season, until a hip injury saw him miss the majority of the post-lockdown season and a lot of the start of this campaign.

His injury coincided with a huge loss of form last season, with Leicester eventually falling out of the top four and missing out on Champions League football on the final day.

This season he has been eased back into action, starting several games from the bench at the start of the new season, with Brendan Rodgers ensuring he wouldn’t rush the 23-year-old back too soon.

In recent weeks though, Maddison has been reinstalled as a key figure in the Leicester attack and looks back to his best.

He has started each of Leicester’s last three games, all coming in the space of a week, and has been excellent as the Foxes got six points from those games, losing only to Everton.

The sharpness is back and was at it’s most obvious as he scored an absolute belter against Tottenham, only for VAR to call it back for an offside that was as tight as we’ve seen before.

A long ball in behind saw Maddison run beyond Eric Dier and Toby Alderweireld and bring the ball down perfectly with his left foot and into space in one motion. Then with his next touch, Maddison cooly slotted the ball past Hugo Lloris into the far corner with his right foot.

While it didn’t count, it showcased exactly why ‘Madders’ is so revered by fans in England as a top tier talent.

His intelligence, his ability to play between or beyond the lines, his quality in his end product and the way he loves to receive the ball on the half-turn constantly are what make him so good.

There’s a similarity to David Silva in his reception of the ball, that consistently allows him to keep away from any pressure from the opposition and into space. He is always looking forward to set Jamie Vardy free and that creativity is something England have severely lacked in recent months.

While Mason Mount and Jack Grealish have had their own battles in the national team for a spot in the lineup, and proved they can in fact play together, the addition of Maddison into the equation is only good news for England.

Creativity and efficiency, Maddison is ready to challenge for his spot in the national team and if Leicester don’t quite make it into the Champions League again then don’t be shocked to see the big six start circling.