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Rivals report – Pre-match thoughts from Leicester City

Sheffield United v. Leicester City – Bramall Lane – 24th August 2019

With the Foxes visiting Sheffield United this weekend and Chris Wilder’s men looking to build on their first win of the season last time out, we got the views of Leicester City supporter Alex, from foxestalk.co.uk.

Complimentary about the Blades, Alex predicts a narrow win for the visitors and gives us his take on how they currently play under Brendan Rodgers.

How would you rate your summer, pre-season and opening games?

Brendan Rodgers and his staff decided as it was their first pre-season at Leicester and the way in which they like to get their teams playing, to stay as local as possible this summer, playing mainly lower league teams from nearby and maximising as much time as possible in training. There appears to be an evolution of the way we saw us play last season and everything is pointing towards us doing away with natural wingers and going for the dreaded diamond formation.

We are yet to play that in the opening 2 league games but we also haven’t had a natural winger in our starting XI, preferring to have Maddison and Perez either side of Vardy. It hasn’t particularly worked and breaking up the duel central midfield partnership of Maddison and Tielemans behind Vardy has been a noticeable absence, as well as the lack of width from Barnes and Albrighton or Gray.

Rodgers did trial the diamond vs Stoke in a friendly and it was chaos at first, we won the game but not emphatically. A final friendly vs Atalanta at home saw us play some stunning football back in our more accustomed 4-1-4-1 or 4-3-3 formation with 2 wingers but the two opening league games against strong opposition has been a little more defensive.

Overall I’d say our pre-season has been positive, the team seems very well prepared and fitness levels seem spot on. Transfer wise was a fairly good window for us, getting Youri Tielemans on a permanent deal was astonishing and most Leicester fans would have been happy with that if it meant no other new signings came in, that’s how good he is. Not bringing in an improvement on our wide areas is disappointing, that is our weakest area and as said above I’m not convinced Rodgers is overly concerned as he seems to be stocking up on attacking central midfielders instead to overload teams in the middle of the park with fast and intricate football.

What are your expectations this season?

Expectations for the season personally is an improvement on last season where we finished 9th. To challenge top 6 would be the ideal outcome and the media have led fans to believe that this is the season for the chasing pack to break the stronghold. However, I’m still not sure the 15-20 points gap there was last season will be overcome. Rodgers teams are all about goals and end product so a fair target for this season would be improved points total, significantly improved goals scored and to take the domestic cups more seriously which Claude Puel let us down with. The manager and players keep talking about Europe so the ambition is there and the fans are buying in to it, but realistically it won’t be easy.

Brendan Rodgers, were you happy with his appointment? How would you rate his impact?

Very happy, our fan base got quite a lot of criticism in the early part of last season as we were unhappy with the complete disconnect with Claude Puel and the football he had us playing. We were accused of having delusions of grandeur, even though it wasn’t that we expected to be higher than where we were but more that something serious seemed missing. The whole place felt flat.

Rodgers has given us a huge lift and he has that car salesman persona of getting people to hang off his every word. I’m sure that will wear a bit thin if things don’t go well but the man has a pretty impressive track record and his ability to improve young players is top drawer. We are in the process of building one of the best training grounds in Europe so it’s the ideal time for him and us to work together.

His style of football is very different to Puel’s and instantly he got the likes of Vardy, Schmeichel and Morgan on board as well as our abundance of young players and our nemesis of being unable to break down stubborn teams who sat back was overcome. It will be interesting to see how he carry’s this on in to this season as the key seemed to be getting Maddison and Tielemans closer together near to Vardy and releasing him early to cause havoc. Vardy went from being isolated and a peripheral figure in games under Puel to being heavily involved in so much and he was rewarded with 9 goals in his last 10 games. This is why we are mildly concerned in the change in system and personnel that we’ve seen so far this season.

Ex-Blade Harry Maguire, do you think he made the right decision? Will he be a big miss? Do you think he’ll continue to push on this season with Manchester United?

Firstly I’d like to say Harry Maguire is a salt of the earth, a very loveable player who was hugely popular with fans, players etc for club and country. He has that about him and I hope that remains, however his move to Man Utd is a huge gamble for club and player. Man Utd are a bit of a farce right now and I’m struggling to think of a single player in recent years who has gone there and improved. Had Man City managed to broker a deal, I think he’d have gone there instead and gone on to be very successful. At Man Utd I’m not sure what will happen, but I hope he does well.

The fee we have received is obscene, simply staggering and I don’t think he’ll be as big a loss as what it might appear. As an out and out defender, by losing him and replacing him with another player such as Caglar Soyuncu, who we signed the summer before to safeguard his departure, I don’t think we will end up conceding many more goals than we would with Maguire still here. What we will miss is his ability to start attacks, the man is a warrior who has no right to be as naturally gifted on the ball as he is and that’s his unique talent. We will miss that, as well as his capabilities in either box at set pieces. Jonny Evans is as experienced as they come though and we’d have felt his departure more at this moment in time than Maguire’s.

What are your thoughts on Sheffield United’s chances this season?

I have huge respect for the job Chris Wilder has done, he just seems a proper football man and the football he had you playing in the last couple of seasons was very enjoyable to watch. There can’t be many teams who have centre halves overlapping wing backs at times and it’s very clever and effective.

It would be easy as a lazy fan to look at your squad on paper and fear for your survival in this league but it’s still possible to hold your own in the Prem with the momentum of a winning habit, a very effective style of play with all your players working extremely well together. You have a relentless team spirit from what I have seen, the celebration videos after you got promoted were world class Haha.

Billy Sharp has been dismissed many times in his career through the leagues and he always scores goals, I think he will win you some invaluable points early on and you’ll never really be in huge danger of going down. Callum Robinson should adapt well to the step up, plus you seem to have ensured you have a good array of forwards to call upon. Your formation seems to blend a strong defensive set up with fast attacks up to support two strikers which could have some reward in a division that see’s so many teams set up very similar to one another with only 1 focal point in attack.

Who should we look out for at the weekend and what is our best chance of securing a positive result?

Let’s not pretend, you lot despise Jamie Vardy because of his links with your neighbours. I am sure he is in for a frosty reception which he will revel in. The man is a record breaker and king rustler, he is our greatest ever player.

He’s started the season somewhat quietly though so if he isn’t the key to us standing any chance of getting a result then I’d be looking to Ricardo Pereira our right back. He’s a relentless beast in defence and attack. He isn’t the obvious danger man but he got something like 2 goals and 9 assists last season and seldom has a poor game. I was hoping we’d call on Harvey Barnes who I’m sure you are fond of after his two wonder goals vs Sheffield Wednesday in the last 2 seasons out on loan, but so far he’s been on the bench. We are all waiting for his career to go bang at Leicester, he is very highly rated. The other obvious dangers are Maddison and Tielemans, the latter is a joy to watch.

What are your predictions for the game?

We really could do with a win, we’ve started the season with 2 draws. We also have Man Utd, Spurs and Liverpool to come in our next 5 games so we will be looking for a positive result on Saturday. I think it will be a good game and you’ll prove very difficult to beat but I think we’ll just sneak it 1-0 and that little scrote you hate will score it.

All the best for the rest of the season, it’s good to see you back in the Prem. You have the best song in football and I look forward to a gallon of Magnet on Saturday to either celebrate or drown my sorrows.

Thanks to Alex for the thoughts on the upcoming clash, follow our coverage of Sheffield United v. Leicester City via our twitter account – https://twitter.com/s24su and discuss the game with fellow Blades on our busy forum – https://www.s24su.com/forum

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Written by Martin Fox

Foxy is a long suffering Blade and founder of S24SU.com.

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