Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad

Another great result from what could have been a tricky game against Crystal Palace. Thankfully I was working so I got to watch a fair bit of the match and I think Palace were always going to provide a stern test but I didn’t think they created too much in the way of chances and offensively we were on the ball (literally).

It was important for us to get a win after our previous home defeat to Arsenal so to come away with not only the win but also that elusive clean sheet we’ve been holding out for was a superb result.

Whatever the Tinkerman is tinkering with is certainly working both tactically and with the team’s morale. Of course, it’s cost him the price of a few pizzas now but it’s more than worth the ‘dough’!

Once again we showed great character and a real passion for the game, which we have all season, and I think that’s setting us apart from many teams at the moment.

I was slightly disappointed with the mid-week result and our exit from the Capital One Cup. I’ve always been particularly fond of cup matches and after getting this far I would have liked to have seen us collect a bit of silverware (not that the subsequent quarter-final draw would have done us any favours!).

Having said that, Hull played really well and they deserved a good result. Ranieri took the opportunity to rest some of the first team squad and let some others show what they’re capable of, but in hindsight I wonder if the full first team could have secured us the win? However, I think Ranieri is acting wisely to keep his focus on the Premier League this season: maybe even Europe in due course or am I getting carried away now?

This weekend we’re going to The Hawthorns. Some pundits might even see us as the favourites since West Brom have had a mixed season so far and it gives us a great opportunity to put some more points on the board. Tony Pulis is never an easy opponent though, so we need to keep our wits about us and be ready to unleash that Foxes fighting spirit.

I always say that a point away from home is a good result and a win at home, so I’d be happy with that; although another win would be outstanding, especially if it involved our second clean sheet!

If we can keep the momentum going up to Christmas then we would be in a great position and I think it is a real possibility that come 2016 we could be looking at the best Premier League finish we’ve ever had – 8th was the highest when I was playing – so I’m keen to see if we can push ourselves up those few extra places and put ourselves in contention for Europe.

Here’s hoping that West Brom don’t put a thorn in our side and everything continues to plan.

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LCFC’s Focus is Crystal Clear

Another great return from the international break with Vardy showing just why he is grabbing Hodgson’s attention.

Southampton are always a tough team to come up against and I admit I had a horrible feeling as we went into the break 0-2 down as I wasn’t certain we’d pull off another (our seventh) comeback. But once again Ranieri made some astute changes for the second half, bringing on Mahrez and Nathan Dyer, and Vardy cemented his position as the top Premier League goalscorer bringing us back into the game and securing us another precious point.

I’m really pleased for Vardy and his successes this season. He deserves the England selection on merit, his pace is electric and his passion is undeniable – the guy has been playing with a broken arm for the last month! And let’s be honest, it’s great for LCFC too. We’ve got some great international stars in the squad now and it just shows the professionalism and talent we have at the club. Of course there are always injury worries when players are out on international duty but we’ve got £30m worth of talent on the bench and Ranieri has made sure we’re in a strong position.

I was slightly surprised when I saw that Mahrez was starting on the bench – Ranieri is perhaps pacing him to ensure a full impact later in the season? But there’s no doubt that when he gets on the pitch he makes a real difference and with his touch and Vardy’s pace we’re hard to stop once we get up a head of steam.

In fact that’s the only problem I can see at the moment, and I take nothing away from what the team have achieved so far this season, but too often we’re leaving things until the second half and relying on our ability to make a comeback in the latter stages of the game. It’s a dangerous way to play and we can’t get away with that forever, but I imagine the whole squad are concentrating on that first half performance as we search for that elusive first clean sheet. Every game is tough in the Premier League but if we can get that balance right, I really believe we could be unstoppable.

This weekend we’ll welcome Crystal Palace to the King Power Stadium and this one will be a tough game for sure. Palace are performing well this season and they’ve caused a few shocks too, particularly away from home. We will need to work hard but it’s an excellent opportunity to grab three points and I think it will be a great game to watch as both teams are fighting hard for their spots in the upper reaches the table. Mathematically at least, a win against Palace could take us back into the top three again although fifth place is such an achievement at this time of year that I’m pretty happy already!

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Another Winning Streak Underway?

Last weekend was just what we wanted and what a great response from the team to our first defeat of the season. I thought the Norwich game would be a big test of character and last Saturday’s show was exactly the show of character we needed. I remember when we suffered losses under Martin O’Neill, he would be determined that we bounced straight back and it worked so well that we never lost that ‘fight’ or the confidence we needed to put up a good one.

I wasn’t able to get down to Carrow Road to see the action live, which was a shame, but Norwich have been doing well and it can be a difficult ground to visit. So to come away with the full three points was fantastic.

I admit I thought Ranieri might change the formation following Arsenal (I think I mentioned as much last week); that he might be a bit more negative with a back three but he loves his attacking! I was a bit surprised he went for it again but he obviously likes that system of play and who can blame him, for he’s getting some great results.

I do like how he’s juggling the players a little bit with each game; I imagine many people were a bit disappointed not to see Mahrez making another dramatic appearance but I don’t think it’s anything to worry about. In fact, I think the opposite. To me it looks like Ranieri was probably allowing him a rest; he’s protecting his players and mitigating the risks of injury by rotating the squad and, let’s be honest, he’s now got a solid team all round so to be able to do that.

I was going to write a little pre-match piece as usual so on Thursday I turned up to the training ground to see the practice only to find it abandoned and completely forgetting we had a break for internationals this weekend! So, I won’t.

But, needless to say really it’s good to see Vardy making the England squad for the Estonia and Lithuania games and knowing we’ve got Leicester well-represented at Wembley this weekend. Again I just keep my fingers firmly crossed that he avoids any injuries, because we want him back ready to face the Saints at the New Dell on the 17th.

So this weekend you can swap the blue for red and white, but this weekend only!
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A Bird in the Hand Isn’t Always Better

We may not have got the result we hoped for but last week was a great game against Arsenal. I think it was definitely a terrific spectacle for the fans: lots of goals and pace and, in honesty, it could have been a very different result as we had a penalty appeal turned down which could have led to a 2-0 lead.

But every team gets beaten; in fact, every team in the Premier League already had been before we were, so it’s nothing to be disheartened by. I think it’s an opportunity to learn some lessons and I think Ranieri will be looking at his options in defence.

Against the Gunners we took some sucker punches and we were too open to the counter-attack. We are conceding every game and I wouldn’t be surprised if Ranieri tried playing the three centre-halves again soon to tighten things up.

What has allowed us to get so many great results is that we have passion, energy and are playing some great football. Every game is end to end with lots of pace. We’ve got three of the quickest players in the league and the top two goalscorers in Vardy (6) and Mahrez (5) and there is definitely no reason why we can’t use this as an opportunity to build another winning streak. Vardy has again been announced as one of the England squad for next week’s Euro 2016 qualifiers and, with the form he’s showing for LCFC, he can’t fail to be in Roy Hodgson’s thoughts. Great for Vardy, an absolute dream come true, and also for LCFC as it provides the opportunity to bring even more international experience into the team.

This weekend we face another club that I’ve fond memories of, having ended my career with a stint at Norwich City. They are a great family club and have been performing well this season so it won’t be easy.

We can definitely win this one and we need a quick decisive response to last week’s loss but they are a dangerous team to play (even if the Canaries sound more tame than most!). I can’t foresee an abundance of goals like last week unless, of course, we play the same game plan again. I think we will refocus and it’ll be a much closer game and much tighter defence on our part.

I’m looking forward to this one and to a return to Carrow Road for the fans. The atmosphere will be great, both teams have a lot of ardent followers, and we’re all in it for them. We’ve dropped a little in the table as a result of other results together with the loss against Arsenal but one good week could see us back up there. Let’s make it this week.