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Are Foxes wobbling, or waltzing to the title? Interview
Thursday, 29th Feb 2024 18:17 by Clive Whittingham

For the second time this season leaders Leicester have lost to Boro and Leeds in a week, casting what looked like an absolute procession to the title into some doubt - Ian Gallagher remains pretty confident with his lot.

How's the season been overall?

Incredible really. We're where everyone expected us to be with the resources we have, but I feel like Enzo Maresca doesn't get enough credit for the job he's done. He's taken a club that was on its arse and transformed it. He's completely changed the playing style, reinvigorated the players who stayed following relegation and delivered performances and dominance which are rarely seen at this level. All this with next to no managerial experience. And if one more person says it's because of parachute payments I can't be held responsible for my actions.

When the most negative things you can say about your team is you should be winning 4-0 and 5-0 more often and you've conceded only nine points from winning positions, you know how high the standard has been. Whether teams have parked the bus or had a go, we've usually had the quality and nous to put them away.

This genuinely isn't meant to sound arrogant but the nerves, dread and gut punches that should be part of life as a football fan have largely gone. So many games we're just so comfortable, and even when we do give the opponent a chance they rarely have the quality to do anything with it. It took me a long time to recalibrate my brain to watching this league and how many chances the opposition will miss compared with the PL.

Leicester in the league so far…
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
QPR 1-2 Leicester Dozzell 40 – Mavididi 30, Winks 80
Leicester 0-1 Leeds Rutter 58
Boro 1-0 Leicester Greenwood 83
Leicester 2-0 Watford Vardy 76, pen 90
Sheff Wed 1-1 Leicester Hendrick 90 – Issahaku 23
West Brom 1-2 Leicester Maja 89 – Dewsbury-Hall 72, Winks 90
Leicester 4-0 Plymouth Mavididi pen 14, 52, Daka 49, Ndidi 55
Leicester 3-2 Millwall Vestergaard 48, Daka 52, Pereira 78 – Bradshaw 10, Nisbet 90
Birmingham 2-3 Leicester James 14, 74 – Mavididi 10, 50, Dewsbury-Hall 21
Leicester 3-0 Rotherham Daka 60, pen 65, Casadei 72
Ipswich 1-1 Leicester Morsy 90 – Mavididi 24
Cardiff 0-2 Leicester Dewsbury-Hall 18, Justin 55
Leicester 4-1 Huddersfield Cannon 40, 61, Pereira 47, Mavididi 77 – Helik 63
Coventry 3-1 Leicester O’Hare 79, 90, Ewijk 88 – Dewsbury-Hall pen 44
Leicester 1-1 Ipswich Davis og 31- Sarmiento 89
Leicester 3-1 Swansea Dewsbury-Hall 3, Mavididi pen 69, Akgun 72 – Allen 90
Stoke 0-5 Leicester Daka 26, pen 66, McAteer 30, Vardy 73, pen 90
Watford 1-2 Leicester Dennis 63 – Daka pen 11, Pereira 55
Leicester 2-0 Sheff Wed Issahaku 4, Vardy 36
Leicester 1-2 Boro Vardy 85 – Azaz 24, Silvera 37
Leeds 3-1 Leicester Roberts 80, Faes og 83, Bamford 90 – Faes 15

Any worries about the recent 'wobble'? Any particular causes?

Yes and no. Leeds was absolutely infuriating, we had them in our pocket and completely blew it. That was the title on a plate and we passed it up. Every good Leicester team of recent times has a wobble in them (with the honourable exception of 15-16 of course) so we're well used to it as fans.

But, on the flip side, we controlled that game with such ease against the league's form team, so if we can replicate that performance against the lesser sides we should be absolutely fine. We followed that game by taking a reserve team to Bournemouth and beating them in the cup, so no hangover there. Lovely to hear the 'it's hard to tell who the Premier League side is' cliche being rolled out by the commentators.

The cause seems to be simple - we're top of the charts for goals scored, but also big chances missed (58). We're not ruthless enough in games and should be scoring more, which sounds a crazy thing to say when you see our goal difference. After the two big chances for Daka and Mavididi went begging against Leeds, you just knew what was going to happen next.

Plus points and drawbacks of the new manager?

Plus points - we win all the time, score loads of goals and hardly concede any. That'll do for me. If you're willing to be patient, we can look breathtakingly good. Sometimes it's only when you look back after games that you realise goals have come from 30 or 40-pass moves. We're also phenomenal on the break at times. And all this is in the Championship FFS!

To look at a drawback, a hat tip to the Big Strong Leicester Boys podcast, who landed a plum interview with Enzo's mate Guillem Balague earlier this month. He summed it up perfectly on the pod - you watch football with your heart or your head, and this is football for the head.

It's quite an adjustment for many fans to watch this surgical, precise style. But it's always done with purpose, which is a welcome departure from the end of the Rodgers era where you felt we were just passing it around among ourselves before giving it away under pressure. Despite this, at every game you'll always hear someone yelling GERRIT FORWARD as if this is 2016 all over again and they've not watched a single second of our matches this season. Those fans have no idea how good they've got it.

What was done in January? What was left undone?

Absolutely nothing. Zip. Nada. We managed to convince Alex Smithies to retire to get his wages off the books, nothing else. His biggest achievement was winning the fan vote for Player of the Year last season despite never making an appearance for the club.

We signed nobody. We tried to sign Stefano Sensi, an injury-prone but talented midfielder from Inter Milan. It was supposed to be a miserly £2m fee and Fabrizio Romano tweeted about it every bloody day, but it fell through at the 11th hour. Among all the positivity around results, there's still the nagging feeling that director of football Jon Rudkin hasn't got a clue what he's doing and has learned nothing from recent failures. Only time will tell.

Grumbles aside, in the here and now, what we have on the books should be more than enough to achieve this season's goal. So it shouldn't be an issue if everyone stays fit.

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

Winter Ins >>> N/A

Winter Outs >>> Luke Thomas, 22, LB, Boro, Loan >>> Daniel Iversen, 26, GK, Stoke, Loan >>> Alex Smithies, 33, GK, Retired

Player of the year candidates?

Plenty here. Harry Winks has been a metronome in the middle, he controls everything and is much too good for the level. Plus he loves it - he really cares and mouths off on the pitch all the time. He's the leader we were so sorely missing last season.

Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall is another to file under 'too good for the Championship' - he's the one consistently providing a genuine touch of quality in games and his stats back that up. And Ricardo Pereira has been described as a 'cheat code' in this division - he does so much in and out of possession, playing the inverted full-back role Maresca likes. If he plays well and retains the ball well, everyone else usually does.

However, my vote goes to Jannik Vestergaard, based purely on how unlikely this would have been at the start of the season. Cast out by Rodgers, training with the stiffs but here he is enjoying the most unbelievable return from the cold, setting the tempo in every match and spraying passes around the pitch for fun. Of course everyone will ask if his lack of pace will count against him if we go up, but for now, he's been nothing short of incredible.

Honourable mention too for the medical team for largely keeping everyone on the pitch for a gruelling Championship season. A remarkable achievement given our appalling injury record under Brand Brendan.

Weak links in this team if any? Where do we stand half a chance?

There aren't any weak links as such, but it is a team which will give you chances. We ALWAYS pass out from the back, whatever the situation, so the teams that have had the most joy against us are the ones that have harried us around our own box and been good enough to win the ball back. Those that have tried and failed just get beaten because it creates so much space when we play through the press.

The aforementioned Vestergaard is obviously pretty slow and Wout Faes can be a liability at the back, going on marauding runs and falling over when he gets bored of a league he clearly finds very easy. We're also still rubbish at defending corners, another hangover from the Rodgers era, and we love conceding goals from fortunate deflections. So take a few potshots from 30 yards would be my advice.

Expect to see it through, or any slight worries after recent results?

Yeah, we should do, although all Leicester fans are hard-wired to expect us to fail despite our many recent successes. Realistically, six wins from 12 should be enough, although the standard at the top is so high it could require more and March's fixtures look tough (away at Hull, Bristol City and Sunderland).

We are the best team in the league, and if we do balls it up from here, it'll be because we chucked the aforementioned Leeds game and conceded last-minute equalisers in both Ipswich games. That would have left us 12 clear of Leeds and ten clear of Ipswich, instead it's six clear of both and nerves are jangling.

The game against your lot has taken on much more significance than it might have, so I've a feeling it might be quite cagey. If QPR frustrate Leicester and the supporters start to get restless, that might be your best way in.

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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Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.

Myke added 21:07 - Feb 29
The biggest takeaway I got from this is that Smithies is available and only 33. Get him in for next season

BlackCrowe added 10:33 - Mar 1
I know they sold players at mega prices close season, but spending c.£40m on players for theie championship campaign really confirms how broken the PL and Sky really is. Not blaming Leicester at all btw.

DavieQPR added 15:41 - Mar 1
Suggest he looks up the term 'hubris'. After all they are a failed Prem side. Don't mention 'parachute payments' {or the fact they have one player on £80k a week}. Why not because it is the main reason.

TacticalR added 22:37 - Mar 1
Thanks to Ian.

We can excuse a bit of hubris at Leicester. After all, they do win every week (although last week proved that they are not invincible). Leicester have what so many teams lack: goals. Despite the huge advantage of parachute payments, for every Leicester there is a Watford and a Norwich.

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