The battle of last seasons 2nd versus 5th is our focus this week as Leicester travelled to the Etihad. Both off the back of good results last week but City in particular was the more impressive with their first half display against Wolves.
Fearing the worst
From the warm-up it was clear how this game would shape up with Leicester practicing a 5 man backline. Perhaps fear of the way City explode from the blocks was behind the reasoning. Sit tight. Make life difficult and then try to nick a goal in the counter. All great in theory until you concede a worldy from Riyad Marhez! 4 minutes in and a half cleared corner to the edge of the box seen the brilliant Algerian take it on the half volley. All the more impressive was the fact that it was his weak foot.
It seemed to shock Leicester as it took nearly 15 more mins to register a shot on the home teams goal. City were playing Raheem Sterling in a false 9 as both Jesus and Aguero are still out. Not that it matters when you have such a gifted midfield. Interestingly was Citys formation with Pep sticking with both Fernandinho and Rodri occupying holding roles. Of course there was not alot of defending to do with Leicester’s lack of ambition.
De Bruyne brilliance
Alot of plaudits have been given to the Belgian but I struggle to remember a game where he hasn’t had an impact. On 30 mins he broke from the right and crossed into the box which City came close. Then a pin perfect delivery was curled into the box and found the head of Rodri. Cruelly denied by offside. De Bruyne has found himself the perfect role though under Pep. When you talk about the rythym of a team it’s almost like a heartbeat. When City play well it is because he is at the epicentre of the combination.
Of course 35mins of total domination is not always everything in football and it was Harvey Barnes who said enough was enough. Willing to carry the ball over distance he drove at the City backline until he offloaded in behind Walker to Vardy. Stand up and shield your man to safety. No. Walker left an arm flailing and brought down his man. Penalty given. Vardy always is as reliable as a rolex. Suddenly the City swagger had come to a halt. A diagonal ball to the right side was suddenly bearing fruit. The chink in their armour? Barnes and Justin tested within minutes with a clever overlap in behind the high City line. Halftime insued with a frustrated Pep Guardiola left scratching his head.
Impatient Pep – aggressive Leicester
Within 5 mins of the restart City decided on a change and debutant Liam Delap (son of long throw expert Rory Delap) went up top with Sterling and Fernandinho sacrificed. It hadn’t got the desired effect as Leicester once again broke the line with a piercing run from Castagne to the by line. He played it sharply across the box and Vardy finished with an improvised flick step over. Superb.
Vardy was not done however and pace was beginning to get to City. Yet another diagonal ball in behind and this time Garcia was the culprit. Vardy slipped in on his blind side and was caught on his exit route. Another penalty and another Vardy hatrick.
On 67 mins a double blow for Leicester as Praet went down injured and Vardy with 15 touches and 3 goals was holding his groin. Both sides were creaking at the hinges with City also emptying their bench of the underage talent showing their lack of strength in depth.
Leicester were slowly churning onwards and to their credit their defencive shape was suffocating the City midfield. Maddison made an immediate impact with a clever interchange on 75 mins as he made a yard of space on the left flank. Garcia was slow to close down then Maddison stole the goal of the game award with a sublime finish over the hapless Ederson. 4 – 1 was not a scoreline that flattered Leicester.
The last 15 mins was not pettering out without incident. City scrambled back a goal from a corner from Nathan Ake. But before he could allow himself to enjoy his moment the very next attack by Leicester found Maddison in behind Mendy and yet another clip of the heels. With Vardy departed from the field it was Tielemens turn to convert the 3rd penalty.
What have we learned?
The shortage of good centre halves in the Premier League is staggering. Chelsea/Manchester United and City desperately need a quality centre back. If not centre back pairing.
City no doubt look impressive going forward but therein lies the problem. Kyle Walker and Mendy are ferocious on the attack but get badly exposed when asked to defend. Garcia had a bad game but is expected to be exiting the club. Laporte is a huge miss but doesn’t seem to be able to stay fit. Teams will be watching this display by City and thinking they can expose their deficiencies.
All plaudits to Leicester today. Brendan Rodgers will be delighted with his tactics and the quality of the goals on display. This will surely be the blueprint of visiting teams at the Etihad this season.