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Where did it all go so right? - Interview
Friday, 27th Oct 2023 12:18 by Clive Whittingham

Leicester are absolutely out of control in their first Championship season in eight years, winning all but one of their 13 league games, already opening up a 14 point gap to third, and sending records tumbling on a weekly basis. Our Foxes regular Ian Gallagher is enjoying himself...

How does a club that won the Premier League in 2016, and has apparently great owners and players, come to be relegated?

I've still got no idea, and I'm still not over it, despite our current successes.

There were so many things at play but for me, the rot started when we were embarrassed by Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup in early '22. Brendan Rodgers dug the players out after that, saying some had reached their maximum and we needed a refresh (which was true). But when the summer came, the refresh never happened and Rodgers needed those same players to do a job for him.

The following season was a car crash. We were ridiculously porous, looked utterly shot of confidence every time we went behind in a game, and persisted with a style and personnel which was obviously failing. Rodgers was the architect of some wonderful times for us, but he's an utterly stubborn ox, and it cost us dearly.

Recruitment was awful, our injury problems were absurd, but ultimately it comes down to Rodgers' failings, and the collective failings of an expensive squad of internationals playing way below the levels they could reach, with an arrogance that we were too good to go down.

There are so many examples I could list, but Youri Tielemans was on the beach for the whole season, and Rodgers persisted with Daniel Amartey at centre half - a man who couldn't pass water - while letting Caglar Soyuncu rot for no apparent reason.

We were promised a review of why last season went so badly, which has never materialised - presumably because 12 wins from 13 games is a good time to bury bad news...

Please bear in mind we’re in the midst of a funeral procession here, but how has your season on so far?

Sorry to rub it in, but it's been fantastic. We were on a hiding to nothing in some ways - dominate the league and that's just what was expected, or fail and become a laughing stock.

It's been said in plenty of places, but it shouldn't be underestimated what a magnificent job Enzo Maresca has done to build a new squad, imprint a completely different philosophy, get a tune out of the remaining players from last season, all without really missing a beat.

We're winning some games at a canter, and even the closer games you always have the feeling we have the extra quality on tap to get things over the line. At times it feels like we're just passing the opposition to death and then passing the ball into their goal. It's really unfair to single out any one player, but Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall is next-level in this division, and we didn't spend a penny on him.

Plenty of salty fans (Preston, mainly, for some reason I can't fathom) are questioning whether we should be enjoying this - I mean, come on! Fucking hell. Of course we're enjoying it. Who would ever take this kind of thing for granted?

It's hardly a secret that we have an absurdly strong squad for this level, but history will tell you that hardly any clubs drop down and do what we've been doing. The scary thing is I still feel like we're only in third gear at times and things still haven't fully clicked.

Leicester in the league so far (lol)
Leicester 2-1 Coventry Dewsbury-Hall 77, 87 – McFadzean 87
Huddersfield 0-1 Leicester Mavididi 73
Leicester 2-1 Cardiff Madivadua 38, Casadei 90 – Ramsey 45
Rotherham 1-2 Leicester Onyedimna 53 – McAteer 12, 84
Leicester 0-1 Hull Delap 15
Southampton 1-4 Leicester Edozie 25 – Vardy 1, McAteer 18, Ndidi 45, Mavididi 67
Norwich 0-2 Leicester Iheanacho pen 45, McAteer 87
Leicester 1-0 Bristol City Vardy pen 67
Blackburn 1-4 Leicester Szmodics 9 – Faes 4, Vardy 28, Iheanacho pen 82, Dewsbury-Hall 88
Leicester 3-0 Preston Dewsbury-Hall 60, 90, Iheanacho 76
Leicester 2-0 Stoke Iheanacho 24, Vardy 79
Swansea 1-3 Leicester Grimes 20 – Vestergaard 44, Issahaku 63, Iheanacho 87
Leicester 1-0 Sunderland Justin 12

Tell us about the manager - what’s he done, what’s he changed, and I guess more importantly will it translate back into the division above?

He's done a lot in a very short space of time.

He's got a very clear idea, and the main tick in the box is he's clearly got the players to buy into it. Several who looked certain to leave have been swayed into staying because of the manager. Plus, he's promoting youth from within, including the excellent Kasey McAteer.

His philosophy is one which it's easy to buy into, because it's passing with purpose - something we didn't have last season. Fans are fickle bastards, but you can see how forgiving they now are when we give the ball away. Last season, there would have been a mutiny, but it helps when the players all look like they'll run through brick walls.

The whole gameplan is based on moving the opposition around, grinding them down and taking advantage of the extra quality we have when it matters. And when we win the ball from the opposition, the ability to break at speed has been exhilarating at times.

Will it translate into the Premier League? I hope so. The bottom half of the PL looks even more rancid than last season, so there's no reason why we can't compete comfortably if we go up. However, the real test will come against the better teams, who will press us much harder and do more with the ball when they win it. It'll be interesting to see how we cope and if we change in those situations.

Tuesday's game against Sunderland showed that if teams are brave enough to go toe-to-toe with us, they can cause us problems - and that would be magnified tenfold in the league above.

Talk us through the highs and lows of your summer transfer window, again bearing in mind Steve Cook coming here was heralded like some kind of Lion King recreation?

Sorry to do this to you again, but we don't seem to have made any false moves. We had a clear plan, executed it well and signed lots of players who frankly shouldn't be playing at this level - as well as keeping others who also shouldn't (Wout Faes, Kelechi Iheanacho, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, James Justin, Dennis Praet)

Harry Winks is way too good for this league, he is an absolute metronome for us and is the gob on the pitch we sorely missed last year. We thought that would be Conor Coady, but he can't get a game, which says everything you need to know about our squad.

All the new signings have been good, but another one to shout about is Mads Hermansen, who is outrageously confident with his feet and has already won us several points with his shot-stopping ability. Plus he's spared us another year of Danny Ward (sorry Danny).

There's plenty good to say about Callum Doyle (a big loss out injured), Abdul Fatawu, Stephy Mavididi, Yunus Akgun and Cesare Casedei too, but I'll end up going on all day.

Arguably the transformation of the window, though, is transforming the faltering Wilfred Ndidi into some sort of marauding No. 8 destroyer, and the Lazarus-like return from the cold of Jannik Vestergaard, who has somehow become integral to absolutely everything we do. Still can't fathom how.

Ins >>> Harry Winks, 27, DM, Spurs, £10m >>> Tom Cannon, 20, CF, Everton, £8m >>> Conor Coady, 30, CB, Wolves, £7.46m >>> Stephy Mavididi, 25, LW, Montpellier, £7m >>> Mads Hermansen, 23, GK, Bronby, £6m >>> Callum Doyle, 19, CB, Man City, Loan >>> Yunes Akgun, 23, RW, Galatasaray, Loan >>> Cesare Casadei, 20, CM, Chelsea, Loan >>> Issahaku Fatawu, 19, RW, Sporting, Loan

Outs >>> James Maddison, 26, AM, Spurs, £40m >>> Harvey Barnes, 23, LW, Newcastle, £40m >>> Timothy Castagne, 27, RB, Fulham, £10m >>> George Hirst, 24, CF, Ipswich, £1m >>> Youri Tielemens, 26, CM, Villa, Free >>> Caglar Soyunku, 27, CB, Atletico, Free >>> Daniel Amartey, 28, CB, Besiktas, Free >>> Ayoze Perez, 29, LW, Betis, Free >>> Jonny Evans, 35, CB, Man Utd, Free >>> Nampalys Mendy, 31, DM, Released >>> Ryan Bertrand, 33, LB, Released >>> Viktor Kristiansen, 20, RB, Bologna, Loan >>> Boubakary Soumare, 24, DM, Sevilla, Loan >>> Luke Thomas, 22, LB, Sheff Utd, Loan

Weak links, if any?

I'm clutching at straws here, but we're vulnerable to long balls over the top and fast breaks due to Vestergaard's lack of pace and Wout Faes - who clearly finds this league much too easy - having a fondness for going a'wandering. But frankly, the standard is lower down here and we're not punished like we were last season. It still feels like we're not ruthless enough in some games, and could be winning them more comfortably. I still feel like somebody is due an absolute pasting on the day where it really clicks.

Also, can I include Championship referees here?? Keith Stroud, give me strength...

So, how did Hull beat you?

We had 21 shots to their seven and 65% possession, so it was basically like all our other games but this time we didn’t score. Also my dad went to the game and we always lose when he goes. Blame Neil. This is the guy who missed Vardy's “it's 11, it's heaven” goal against Man Utd because he was in the toilet.

Revised expectations for the season? I mean fuck me…

Not to screw it up. Leicester fans are well used to things not being dull, and it would be such a Leicester thing to do to drop the ball against a team in the bottom three... The main thing has to be to continue being absolutely relentless and never letting standards drop, to give ourselves the best possible chance of doing well if we go up.

Links >>> Leicester City Official Site >>> Leicester Mercury – Local press >>> Foxes Talk – Message Board >>> When you’re smiling – Podcast >>> The Final Whistle – Vlog >>> Fosse Posse – Fan Site

The Twitter @IanGallagher82, @loftforwords

Pictures – Action Images

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Burnleyhoop added 18:23 - Oct 27
"Vulnerable to balls over the top", there it is, their Achilles heel, we must exploit it to the max because we are good at those!!

Still got a pony on Leicester scoring 3 or more. Let the shitshow begin.
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francisbowles added 08:56 - Oct 28
Thank you Ian. Mrs FB and myself are on a flight to Lanzarote today. If you bring your Dad, you can have our seats.
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TacticalR added 12:21 - Oct 28
Thanks to Ian.

For all the good players, it sounds like Enzo Maresca (another former Pep assistant) has been the key to Leicester's turnaround.
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