Three’s a Charm

Well, no one expected another comeback like last weekend’s at Stoke but the boys pulled it out of the bag and came back from 0-2 down to secure us another point and amaze the Sky commentators once again, extending our reign as the only unbeaten club in all competitions this season.

Another cracking performance by Mahrez started our comeback, converting a penalty after Drinkwater was bundled over in the box.  Vardy again added to the euphoria, latching onto a Mahrez flick-on to score the all-important equaliser.  With these two always looking for the ball and putting in fantastic work-rates game after game, we’ve got ourselves what seems to be the perfect goal-scoring duo.

But Ranieri is cautious in light of his recent successes with reports suggesting he tried to encourage the squad with the promise of pizza if they managed to achieve their first clean sheet of the season, adding “We need to start games better so we are not always fighting back.”  It is true; if we look at what we’ve achieved so far, imagine how hard fighting back against us would be if we took a 2-0 lead!

We had another potential challenge mid-week with a second meeting with the Hammers in the Capital One Cup.  And what’s even better is that this time we beat them with a team showing 10 changes, with the two goals coming from Joe Dodoo and Andy King. I think, as I mentioned earlier in the season, that this is key for Ranieri. You never know what’s going to happen through the season but we know we have back-up which can deliver, and deliver against in-form teams like West Ham.  Ranieri is said to be ‘delighted’ to have some selection headaches for the Arsenal match after a series of great performances across the board.  What a great situation for a manager to be in!

It was always going to be a good rematch and we’re level-pegging in the league, with West Ham just overtaking us last weekend on goal difference so I suspect many of us were expecting an extra time or penalty finish. I must say I’m looking forward to welcoming the Hammers back just after Easter.

This weekend we meet Arsenal for the first time in 2015/16 and these always prove to be thrillers. With the King Power Stadium sold out it is going to a match filled with passion from both players and fans alike as we defend our unbeaten record.  Our last couple of matches against the Gunners have been pretty close with the home match last season finishing all square.

Of course, we’ve got a history with Arsenal.  Well, I have, after scoring the equaliser in the seventh minute of added time when we met almost 20 years ago: one of my most memorable moments at LCFC as we achieved a 3-3 draw in the first few weeks of the 1997/98 season.

Back then they were our ‘bogey’ team and the only big team in the Premier League we just couldn’t defeat.  Bergkamp was absolutely superb; he was on fire and gave one of the best individual displays I’d ever seen, scoring all 3 of Arsenal’s goals that day.  I was up against Ian Wright, who could always be a bit of a handful.  Heskey managed to get us the first goal in the 84th minute to make it 1-2 and we thought that would be it, but there were a few more minutes and, as it turned out, 3 more goals to come!

The current squad (and fans) have so much spirit and that puts us in a great position.  We’re fighting for points from every match and we’re fighting until the end.  It almost seems that we perform best when we have the pressure of a comeback to contend with, and come back we have.  But this weekend it could be dangerous to let Arsenal run away in the first half and rely on the success of our ‘comeback kings’…although it can be done, I’ve been there!

We’ll be gunning for you Mr Wenger and some of Arsenal’s recent performances have been a tad lacklustre so let’s see what they do in the face of the Foxes’ pace, passion and performance.

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Rule Britannia!

Last weekend, what a game! It was truly astonishing. I’ve been involved in some comebacks over the years, but this was amazing. Never do I think I’ve ever seen us make a comeback quite so spectacular but, as the commentators said, the Leicester team have a spirit this season of “never say die” and they certainly lived up to that last Sunday.

I think many spectators felt the dread of our first loss this season as we were 2-0 down in the second-half, but I did think if we just got one goal we could potentially pull it back. Little did we expect the outstanding last 15-20 minutes we witnessed!

In the first-half I didn’t feel we pressed Villa enough and we just couldn’t close them down but the second-half was a different story and Villa barely managed to make it over the halfway line. I thought the turnaround was inspired by some brave substitutions by Ranieri, bringing Inler off and bringing on Kante and Dyer, and what a difference they made.

I felt we had a solid back four, although we played a little deep at times, and Wes Morgan had a good game for our defence. Throughout the game there were some questionable decisions including booking Albrighton when he’d blatantly been fouled 3 times earlier and nothing was given for any of them. There were definitely a few penalty decisions that we might have benefited from but, in the end, we didn’t need them.

And what a debut from Nathan Dyer; he was sharp and fresh and his goal was a brave one. A lot of players would have backed out of that and I admit I thought he’d suffered a serious injury immediately afterwards but he shook it off and enjoyed the fans exultation. Good on him!

Talking of the fans, it was an electric atmosphere, and the noise from the Leicester supporters after that third goal must have hit a new decibel rating. It just goes to show, our die-hard fans are what make every match so much fun to be part of and the immense pride they have when we score really spurs the squad on, so they deserve huge congratulations for the success the club is experiencing at the moment as well.

I think we’re confident, fast and playing well as a team and we could potentially upset a few of the bigger clubs coming up.

We’ll be confident going to Stoke this weekend. We lost to them in our most recent meeting in January but the last time we visited the Britannia Stadium we recorded a 1-0 win. It’s another of those tricky stadiums and we could be in for a bit of a battle. I don’t think we can go there thinking it will be an easy game. Stoke’s performances this season may not yet be on a par with the Foxes, but they’ve got some good players and they’ll be definitely looking for a win at home.

As for us, I think Ranieri can’t fail to look at last week’s second-half performance when he’s picking the squad for this weekend and, providing there are no injuries, I wouldn’t be surprised if the starting eleven was very close to that which finally worked it’s magic on Villa but we’ll have to wait and see.

I saw an interesting piece in the Leicester Mercury this week which showed that Foxes’ players have registered four of the top five speeds recorded during the Premier League so far with Vardy logging a speed of 35.44km/h, Schlupp 35.26km/h and Albrighton 35.00km/h. So I think Stoke will have to catch us first before they start looking at scoring!

As for myself and Muzzy, we’re back at the academy with the new term underway. We’ve now got approximately 70 students (60 BTEC years 1 & 2 and 10 apprentices) in brand new classrooms down in Whetstone so it’s all systems go.

For those of you who don’t know, we teamed up with PTC Education last year to create the Advanced Football Academy (AFDA) which offers a unique program for 16-18 year olds to work toward a BTEC level 3 in Sports Studies, whilst giving Muzzy and I the chance to pass on some of our training and hopefully, we’ll be writing about our alumni playing for LCFC in the coming years!

If you’ve just left school, or have children who have, and want a career in sports, then it’s not yet too late to join this year’s intake, although it will close in a few weeks. So, if you’re looking to ‘kick’ start your sporting career, have a look or get in touch. Our website is www.afdaleicester.co.uk or email [email protected] and help us find some future Premier League stars.

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Caps, Trophies and a Midland Derby: Things Look Interesting for LCFC

It’s been a good week for Leicester’s players as they’ve contributed on the international scene.  Great to see Vardy make a start against San Marino and shows Hodgson is taking an interest and the opportunity to have another look at him.  The game was a bit boring, as you’d expect against a team which has two bar owners and an accountant as goalkeeper, but Vardy made some tremendous runs and perhaps didn’t quite get the service he does at Leicester.  All in all, though, it’s another cap for him and shows that he’s in Hodgson’s plans so I hope to see him making an appearance again soon.

The England v Switzerland game was the first real chance I’ve had to look at Gokhan Inler since his arrival and he looked good; could be a really useful player and I imagine Ranieri will be playing him in the imminent future after the performance he gave as Swiss Captain this week.

More good news for the club in the form of nominations for both Ranieri and Mahrez as the Premier League’s ‘Manager of the Month’ and ‘Player of the Month’ respectively.  And so they should be; Ranieri has helped us get a cracking start to the season under our belts and Mahrez has been outstanding, I really like him and think we’ll continue to see great things from him.

This weekend I must say I do fancy us against Villa, but as ever, I remain cautiously optimistic.  I think we will start as favourites but I’ve got a lot of respect for Sherwood and he’s got plenty of experience.  I think it will be a tight game and I cannot see an abundance of goals; we’ll have to work hard but we have the home advantage and Sherwood’s made a lot of changes to the squad so there is still some ‘bedding in’ to do.

For us, it’s a chance to cement our position in the league and continue our unbeaten streak and for Sherwood he’ll be keen to get points on the board to secure Villa’s Premier League place comfortably for next season and beyond, so I don’t expect it to be an easy match, but it should be a good one!

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One fox and ten lions

Firstly, a huge congratulations to our very own Jamie Vardy on his selection for England’s qualifier against San Marino this afternoon. I’m sure all the LCFC fans will be showing their support across the pubs, clubs and living rooms of Leicester!

San Marino is usually a given and we should qualify comfortably for the Euro’s next year. Our only concern as a club will be given the influx of fantastic international players on the squad that none of our stars pick up any injuries whilst playing for their respective countries, but, all being well it will be great for the team as the squad pick up international experience and bring it back to our play.

For the rest of the boys, this weekend brings them a well-deserved rest until training resumes on Monday ahead of the Villa game on the 13th. I’m looking forward to that one, always a tasty game and Villa have been playing well this season, but we have the home advantage, so it should bring us the opportunity to have another great match for the fans and players.

Another ‘win’ for the Foxes was the announcement this week that we have secured Swansea’s Midfielder Nathan Dyer on a season-long loan, already scoring against Stoke during the week behind closed doors. Ranieri now has so many options available and I think we may see Dyer debuting against Villa, although it will be interesting to see if he’s put straight into the starting eleven or if Ranieri chooses to stick to the squad which remains unbeaten this season.

Last weekend, we knew it would be a tricky match and Vardy’s late penalty saved us from a potential first defeat. We were up against it in the first half but credit to our players again and another point on the table is nothing to be sniffed at. I’m looking forward to bringing Bournemouth to the den in the New Year for a rematch, should be a great game again.

Ranieri chose to substitute Mahrez at half-time, which was a bit of a shock to some fans after his performances so far, but Leicester’s stand out performer suffered a knock from Max Gradel almost immediately after kick-off and Ranieri believed Mahrez struggled to recover.

It gave Dodoo a chance to come off the bench after a great performance in the previous week’s Capital One match against Bury, and that just demonstrated that Ranieri is willing to give youngsters a chance to gain experience and make a contribution to Leicester’s success. I must admit, I expected him to play someone like Andrej Kramaric, but he knows what he’s doing; after all, we’re still third in the league so we’re doing something right, and long may it continue!

 

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