Monday, 28 February 2011

Van Aanholt out for four weeks

Leicester City left back Patrick van Aanholt has been ruled-out for up to four weeks with a torn thigh muscle.

Injured: Van Aanholt is on loan at the Walkers from Chelsea
The Dutch defender, heavily criticised following the Foxes' poor showing against Coventry City at the weekend, is likely to be replaced by either Bruno Berner or Kyle Naughton in the left full-back position for Saturday's crunch game against high-flying Queens Park Rangers.

It is not believed that this injury will affect the Chelsea loanee's contract with Leicester, which is due to expire at the end of the season.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Reduced conclusions from the highlights of Coventry City

Leicester1-1Coventry City
(HT 1-1)
Naughton 45King 14

Att: 25,356

NB. Apologies for the lateness and impreciseness of this post, but today I was in the Lakes and without Internet access so I was away from the game. My Winners and Losers (below) are based purely on hearsay and reports with some input from a brief video of match highlights. Think of them more as a summary of the views of fans overall and less of my own, personal perspectives.

Kyle Naughton
Pace, passion, ability, skill, threat... no superlative is too good for this lad and if Sven Goran Eriksson can snap him up at the end of his season-long stay it will be a fantastic deal done. His goal capped a fine performance, with a piece of brilliant solo skill leading to a stunning finish of the highest order.

Yuki Abe
Apart from his frustrating inability to grab his first Leicester goal, the Japanese showed what the Foxes have been missing at the heart of their midfield this afternoon. A solid, tidy performance.

Patrick van Aanholt
What's gone wrong with this bright young prospect? In his last two games he has failed to shine as brightly as he initially did for the Foxes, with today's performance certainly below par. His pace at the moment seems to be the only factor that agrees with the early comparisons of him against Chelsea team mate Ashley Cole. He possesses none of the latter's ability in the final third, indeed the Dutchman's crossing today was abysmal according to most reports. Definitely, van Aanholt needs to show some improvement if he is to keep his place in the Leicester starting eleven.

This bumbling fool has surely lost his jersey after a catastrophic error any under-twelve's goalkeeper would not make. To fumble a ball aimed directly at his feet into his own net is poor goalkeeping at this level, let alone for a man who played a European Championships final for his national side. It's almost a shame to see him fall so far, even if his overall performance was his best to date. It can be the smallest of mistakes that cost sides promotion - and millions of pounds - at this stage of the season.

Foxes Fans
Having said that about the Portuguese keeper, the Foxes supporters could have done more to give Ricardo confidence. There is nothing right about chanting Chris Weale's name whilst he is on the bench in order to undermine the player who possibly has the most difficult job in your team. Whilst a player wears the jersey, during the game he deserves our full support - after the game is when you should freely air your frustrations about specific players.

Andy King
Brilliant when he has a good game, but today he seemed to slip back into his pre-Christmas obscurity. In matches where King is anonymous, the team seems to suffer - testament to his importance and a pointer to the future should the likes of Everton indeed swoop for the Welshman in the future. 

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Tunchev returns as reserves thrash Quakes

A Leicester City reserve side beat the travelling San Jose Earthquakes 3-1 in a behind closed-doors friendly at the Foxes Belvoir Drive training ground.

The Quakes, on a tour of England prior to the start of their new Major League Soccer season in the United States, have already beaten sides from Birmingham City and Colchester United this winter but were no match for a strong Leicester outfit that featured the likes of Bruno Berner and Miguel Vitor alongside the returning Aleksandar Tunchev.

Return: Tunchev played an hour for the Foxes reserves

Tunchev, playing his first fixture in nearly a year and a half after a knee problem saw him prevented from playing for the first team, put in a solid hour before he was replaced by Robbie Paratore. And whilst he emerged from his sixty-five minutes unscathed, Foxes first team coach Didi Hamann remains cautious:

"He did ever so well. He played about 65 minutes and played a very good game. He probably won't train for a day or two now, but that's all part of the process. It's important he plays games now, but we've got to take it day by day with him."

The Foxes opened the scoring through Elliott Chamberlain before Nathan Hicks put the hosts in control. The MLS side fought back after a defensive mix-up allowed Chris Wondolowski to get the better of Vitor but the Foxes regained their two-goal advantage as Daniel Uchechi fired home from the penalty spot. The Quakes rallied late-on as Leicester keeper Robert Ambrusics saved a penalty but at no point did the Americans threaten the Foxes reserve side taking a comfortable victory. 

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Conclusions from Stadiwm Dinas Caerdydd

Cardiff City2-0Leicester
(HT 1-0)
Chopra 21
Ramsey 52

  • Chances not taken caused this upset. Cardiff's second goal came after their second attempt on goal. Leicester, at the same point of the match, had seven shots to their credit. This is a familiar story when we look back to September - not taking chances has cost the Foxes already this season.
  • Is this the straw that broke the camel's back? It was always probable that the promotion dreams of Foxes fans across the world would be ended should a defeat come our way, especially as our current form is hardly indicative of our season overall. Paulo Sousa left the club in a dire situation but the renaissance under Sven Goran Eriksson has been incredible, to the point where this week, after five straight wins, Leicester City supporters were speaking in hushed tones about the possibility of automatic promotion. That possibility needed current form to continue, always a difficult feat, and it seems that now another game has been lost - and the Foxes again drop into a negative goal difference - it is now probably beyond our reach.
  • It would be horrible to finish 7th. Of course this one defeat does not condemn us to another year in the Championship. Rather, it should refocus our aims on achieving play-off glory and this is certainly not an aim beyond our reach. It would only take Leeds losing another game for us to level with them on points and the target of around 76 points for the season means a loss is but a drop in the ocean at this point. The play-off party isn't off yet, boys, and any less from this stage in the season would be heartbreaking. To use a hideous Micky Adams-ism, Keep The Faith!

Defending: Naughton was a rare star on a dark night for City
Ben Mee/Kyle Naughton
The best picks of a rather bad bunch, the defence could not really be faulted after a good Cardiff side beat them to create only a handful of chances. The Leicester midfield is a concern, with few players available to cover the trio of Yuki Abe, Richie Wellens and Andy King (an ageing Matt Oakley the only real option until débutant Jeffrey Bruma - a defender by trade - got the nod tonight).

The Law of Averages
Our run of wins is gone now, so there is no perch from which the Foxes can be toppled. It was clear that Leicester were going to always lose one of the tough games approaching in the late winter/early spring period (Cardiff, QPR, Forest...) so now that's out of the way (and don't forget that Forest, along with Leeds and Norwich all dropped points tonight) City can focus back on gaining that play-off place.


Lloyd Dyer
The brightest spark in a rather dull first half, Dyer gave the Cardiff fans something to feel awkward about as he challenged the Bluebirds' back four with some powerful runs. More and more, however, as the game went on Dyer was stifled by the equally pacey Kevin McNaughton and it was right for him to be replaced and something new tried with little over twenty minutes to go.

(Mr) Yakubu
The Yak failed to lift his performance above ordinary once again tonight, demonstrating that without goals he is little more than a wasted man on the pitch. His ability in front of goal is without question, but when he isn't firing it feels like he has little to offer his team mates, particularly when there are so many hard workers in the rest of the squad.

Digging-in: A rare show of aggression from Yakubu as Paul Gallagher looks on

If only the Portuguese goalkeeper would occasionally keep hold of a ball, perhaps Foxes fans could begin to gain some confidence in his ability (an ability he does possess, he made a good save in the second half). As it stands, his insistence on punching the ball away from goal leaves a constant fear in blue shirted hearts that a poor clearance will lead to another conceded goal. As Alan Young neatly put it, why bother to practise catching if you aren't going catch a ball during the match?

Monday, 21 February 2011

Moussa latest to leave Walkers on loan

Loanee: Moussa has joined Doncaster on a month-long deal
Franck Moussa has become the latest man to leave the Walkers Stadium in the short term after he agreed a deal with Doncaster Rovers.

The Frenchman will remain at the Keepmoat Stadium as Donny face four of the Foxes top-six rivals in the next 28 days as he bids to gain some first-team experience. Moussa has made just twelve appearances for Leicester City this season, having joined from Southend United in the summer.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Conclusions from Bristol City

Leicester2-1Bristol City
(HT 1-0)
Yakubu 21
Waghorn 90+2
Elliott 57

  • Friday night football might just work. A novelty tonight it may have been, but for a crowd of 28,768 spectators to attend a Friday evening fixture against a middling side with no real history against the club is quite phenomenal. It certainly would not be an embarrassing attendance for a Saturday afternoon. Clearly the £20 ticket/pie/pint combination has worked to get bums on seats, but if that proves effective then it should absolutely be continued. Top may just have pulled a beautiful experiment to get the Walkers Stadium full that has worked.
  • Seasons change on moments like these. Gradel's free-kick against the MK Dons. Claridge's shin under the twin towers. Perhaps Waghorn's strike in injury time on a chilly February Friday night at the Walkers Stadium will go down equally, as it was a brilliant moment that shows us what football is all about.

Waghorn: Battles with Liam Fontaine
Martyn Waghorn
They said he'd lost his passion. That his touch was gone. That he was off to our rivals. That he was a £3 million gamble that didn't pay-off. But Martyn Waghorn scored an injury time winner of utter magnificence to give the home side a vital three points. Waggy is a super sub. Waggy is a game changer. Waggy is a Fox.

Richie Wellens
Yet again Wellens shone as the beating heart of the Leicester City midfield, digging-in and grinding hard where needed but able to cut-open the Robins with ease at times. His was the right change to make as Bristol fought-back in the second half, but certainly in the first half he had another cracking game.

Ben Mee
Another decent performance from the Manchester City loanee, in front of England U-21 boss Stuart Pearce too. He rescued flappable goalkeeper Ricardo on a number of occasions, too, saving Leicester's blushes in the process.

Some appalling goalkeeping was demonstrated this evening and Ricardo was nearly so guilty of a cataclysmic error with twenty minutes to go. It was to Bristol's credit that they used the Portuguese keeper's fumbling nature to their advantage, for this was embarrassing (and possibly one of the worst performances by any player to wear the shirt). It is hard to see him keeping the jersey ahead of number one Chris Weale against Cardiff on Tuesday night.

Trio exit on loan deals

Three loan deals have been completed this week as Sven Goran Eriksson looks to free-up positions in his squad for potential new signings of his own.

First to complete a move was Jack Hobbs, whose anticipated switch to rejoin Nigel Pearson at Hull City was completed in midweek. Hobbs has signed for the Tigers until the end of the season but he has been tipped to be on his way to the KC Stadium on a permanent deal in the summer.

Robbie Neilson has also seen the exit door of the Walkers Stadium for the time being, the Scot joining Brentford  until mid-March. The thirty-year-old has made eleven appearances for the Foxes and scored this season but has seen his first team opportunities limited since the arrival of Kyle Naughton to the East Midlands.

The third man to leave Leicester this week is long-serving player Conrad Logan, the Irishman joining Bristol Rovers on a month-long loan deal. Logan has been with the Foxes since 2004 and has appeared for five other clubs during loan spells in that time.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Conclusions from Pride Park

Derby County0-2Leicester
(HT 0-2)

Yakubu 28
King 45+3

  • A bright early spell served us well. After ten minutes Leicester City were utterly dominant, parading the ball around the pitch like a senior side against the youth. Derby's brief forays into the away side's half in the early stages failed to impress. However it was once more Leicester's inability to create - and take - chances that gave this football match it's edgy feel until Yakubu fired home to rest those nerves.
  • King's injury time second was key. Without a second goal, this could have been one of those games that easily drift away from the leading side, who then end up conceding to drop two points. King's goal was key to ensure the Foxes left their East Midlands rivals with all three points intact, not to mention the Welshman crowning a superb team display with his finish. Without this goal, Derby's second half revival might have proven costly.
  • This was a decisive game of two halves. In the first half Leicester were dominant, the Foxes a class above an ailing Derby County side. In the second forty-five, the Rams fought back but again Leicester were equal to that, dug in and claimed a vital clean sheet. This was indeed a game of two halves but Leicester were more than a match for Derby in both of them, and that is to our credit.

Andy King
Another much brighter game for the young Welshman who has once more found his groove after that brace against Barnsley a week ago. King's ability to burst forward as almost a shadow striker is part of what makes his game so effective, and he was the man on a number of occasions today who was deep inside the Rams' half, applying pressure on the edge of their penalty area to give the midfield options. This was certainly the case as he slotted-home the Foxes second goal to cap his - and the team's - excellent performance.

King-credible: Andy King slots home after a wonderful team move

Feed the Yak: Yakubu gives Leicester the lead
Kyle Naughton and Patrick van Aanholt
The defensive duo who would rather be forwards. Naughton and van Aanholt both enjoyed attacking the Derby flanks, particularly in the first half as the Rams struggled to adapt to a new 4-3-3 system implemented by Nigel Clough as an attempt to stifle Leicester's positive, attacking play. They were, twice, caught-out by Derby's wingers after forays into enemy territory, but their threat up front - not to mention their pace - more than accounted for this.

The Everton loanee was another player who was much brighter today than last week, perhaps the derby atmosphere becoming infectious amongst newer players to the club. His opening goal, anyway, was one of the highest quality in technique and skill, the manner in which he allowed the ball to almost rest on his thigh before turning to unleash an almighty volley a pleasure to watch again and again.What a way to demonstrate the Foxes' intent in front of the TV cameras.

Ben Mee
Another assured performance from the youngster, who is proving now why it is him starting at the heart of the Leicester defence.

Broadly a controlled and capable performance, but Ricardo did seem very reluctant to catch the ball: a worrying trait in a goalkeeper. He seemed keen to clear his box even when under pressure inside his own six-yard box. Furthermore, some of his distribution left much to be desired. That said, he did seem to lead the four defenders in front of him with aplomb, keen to make his voice heard - and presence felt - in the solid Foxes defence. Derby's lack of real attacking nous, however, means that Ricardo's goalkeeping capabilities are yet to be properly tested in Leicester colours.

Derby County
Only in the second half and a switch to 4-4-2 did Derby get ahead in the possession stakes. The sheer gulf in class between these two sides highlighted the plight the Rams currently find themselves in. It was mentioned a number of times during Sky's coverage of the game that Leicester passed Derby as the Foxes rose up the table, whilst the Pride Park outfit seem to be in continual free fall. If this performance is typical of the Rams - and not just an off-colour day - they are in serious trouble. As good as Leicester were - and we were indeed very, very impressive particularly in the first half - Derby were terrible. Perhaps the blue shirted fans' chants taunting Nigel Clough about his future were not so wide of the mark...

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Leicester City name Vichai Raksriaksorn as chairman

Chairman: Vichai Raksriaksorn in Foxes colours
Leicester City have named their new chairman, filling the vacant position left by Milan Mandaric in November.

Vichai Raksriaksorn, father of new vice-chair Aiyawatt, has invested heavily since he was introduced to the club by Mandaric, with the appointment of Sven Goran Eriksson as manager a key indication of the Thai investors' Premier League ambitions for the club.

"I have made a solid commitment to sacrifice more than half of my time from my main business of duty free," said Vichai in an interview with the club's official website, "Financially, we have also invested more than was first anticipated. Ultimately, this will yield substantial improvements in the working structure of the club, both on and off the field, some of which we have already seen as the core competitive aspects of the team have been strengthened in all areas."

The new chairman's message was echoed by his son and fellow investor.

"I feel certain that the new structure of the club emphasises the strength of Leicester City and will ultimately help to take the club forward," said Aiyawatt.

"What I am committing myself to might seem impossible to achieve from the perspective of others, but this dream began when we acquired Sven-Goran Eriksson as manager and signed players from the Premier League," added Vichai, "I am proud to say that we already have seven international football players with us, which is a fantastic achievement, with more to come I hope."

Wellens is Championship Player of the Month

Richie Wellens has been named as the nPower Championship Player of the Month for January. The midfielder was shortlisted for the award after a string of impressive performances that saw his team make an unbeaten start to the new year.

"Richie is an exceptional footballer and he has been in superb form in recent games," said manager Sven Goran Eriksson, "His energy, effort and vision are all key attributes to his game. I have been encouraging him to shoot more too, as he has a great shot."

Monday, 7 February 2011

Walkers Stadium's revolving door turning again

Jack Hobbs: Shown the door in favour of Bruma?
As the loan window opens once again tomorrow it seems Sven Goran Eriksson has already been busy working to make some changes to his impressive Leicester City squad.

Chelsea centre half Jeffrey Bruma is set to join the Swede's squad on loan from Premier League Chelsea until the end of the season, making him the second Pensioner after fellow Dutchman Patrick van Aanholt joined the Foxes in the January transfer window.

However, making room for Bruma will be a challenge for Eriksson and it seems fans' favourite Jack Hobbs could be the player to be shown the door. Hobbs, 22, has been at the Walkers Stadium for three years having joined on an initial loan deal from Liverpool, under Nigel Pearson in 2008. Now it seems the popular defender will be joining Neil Lennon's Celtic until the end of the season.

Both deals are yet to be confirmed but could go through tomorrow morning.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Conclusions from Barnsley

(HT 2-1)
Gallagher 15
King 43
King 58
Naughton 89
Mellis 45+1

  • What a message to the rest of the league. This was a superb performance from the Foxes with some truly remarkable goals. With the exception of five minutes either side of half time, Barnsley were nowhere today and the Foxes were rampant. The scoreline could have been easily five or six. Credit to the scorers, credit to Sven Goran Eriksson, credit to Leicester City. Playoffs, here we come..?
  • Try picking a man of the match. This must have been one of the best whole-team performances from a Leicester City side in a long time and, yes, the likes of Yuki Abe performed poorly relative to his own high standards, but what a full and rounded performance from the whole team. This is what gets teams promoted.
  • A great day for football. At the time of writing there were thirty eight Premier League goals and only three no-score draws in England. It's going to be a busy night for Lineker, Bhasin and co., and aren't you just delighted about that?

Paul Gallagher
Back in the squad having been sidelined by injury and, latterly, Lloyd Dyer, Gallagher scored a triumphant goal demonstrating his true class. There is no doubting the Scot's ability and skill and today he was able to demonstrate that as he scored a beauty. Gallagher also managed to prove his worth in other aspects of the game as he tracked-back and dug in to the midfield nicely.

Andy King
He's certainly back on form, the Welshman, with another majestic chip to score his twelfth of the season this afternoon. His thirteenth was even better, a super strike from twenty-odd yards to reward another super performance. Let's hope he gets that contract extension signed sooner rather than later. Get it tied-down, Sven!

Captain Fantastic: Andy King scored a brace for the Foxes

Chris Weale
A second successive exceptional performance from Leicester City's surely undisputed number one, with some cracking saves made by the Bristolian to keep the Foxes hopes alive. Crosses, one-on-ones and long shots were all dealt with ably by Weale this afternoon. Ricardo doesn't stand a chance whilst Weale is in this sort of form.

Team Spirit
Following the battling performance at Bramall Lane on Tuesday night, it was good to see some evidence of a content and happy camp during Sol Bamba's TV interview yesterday (was that Gallagher having a dance in the background?). That spirit so beloved of Foxes fans was displayed in the players' euphoria at Gallagher's opener this afternoon, even the outbound Martyn Waghorn jumping in time with the rest of the bench to join in the celebrations.

Yuki Abe
Another below-par performance from the Japanese, Abe seems to have lost his footing of late. Perhaps he needs a confidence-boosting goal, for he's now made twenty seven appearances in royal blue without breaking that duck.

Patrick van Aanholt
Consistency is needed in the Foxes defence, and despite the obvious benefits of Sol Bamba's controlling head at the back, the youngsters around him floundered more than once this afternoon with disastrous results. The biggest culprit has to be Chelsea loanee Patrick van Aanholt, the Dutchman clearly a threat on the wing and from set pieces but his defensive positioning leaving a lot to be desired. Indeed, van Aanholt's inability to track back nearly led to an early goal for the Tykes, only Gallagher's wits saving the Foxes on that occasion. 

City duo up for awards

Leicester City midfielder Richie Wellens has been shortlisted for January's nPower Football League Championship Player of the Month award after a string of excellent performances that saw the Foxes through January without a defeat.

Manager Sven Goran Eriksson is also shortlisted for the Manager of the Month award against Billy Davies at Forest, Millwall's Kenny Jackett and Brian McDermott at Reading.

Wellens faces stiff competition from Shane Long of Reading, Doncaster Rovers' Billy Sharp and Swansea City's Scott Sinclair.

The winners will be announced next Thursday.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Hamann joins Foxes' coaching team

Former German international midfielder Dietmar Hamann has become Sven Goran Eriksson's latest high-profile signing as the 37 year-old joins the coaching staff at the Walkers Stadium.

Hamann, whose previous playing clubs include Bayern Munich, Newcastle United, Liverpool and Manchester City, has left his position as player-coach at Karl Robinson's Milton Keynes Dons and joins Leicester City as a replacement for Chris Powell, who left the Foxes to take the job as Charlton manager last month.

New coach: Hamann played under Eriksson at Man City

Hamann was the last man to score in an international game at the old Wembley Stadium, also the last game of Kevin Keegan's reign as England head coach before Eriksson took over. The German also played under Eriksson at Manchester City.

Hamann's contract is believed to be purely as a coach and he is not expected to play for Leicester.

Also in the news today, Foxes midfielder Andy King has been selected as part of Gary Speed's first Wales squad for their first game in the inaugural Carling Nations Cup game against the Republic of Ireland. King will be available for selection for this Saturday's league game with Barnsley, reports the LCFC official site, and will go-on to join his Welsh international team mates in Dublin that evening.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Conclusions from Bramall Lane

Sheffield United0-1Leicester
(HT 0-1)

King 4

  • A true Foxes spirit is shining through. This was always going to be a tough fixture as one team very much on the up, playing free-flowing, pacey, attacking football was drawn against a team lingering on the brink of relegation with a 'hoof and hope' approach. But Leicester City hung on in there after going ahead early and were rewarded - with some luck along the way - with three golden points.
  • Steve Howard might sometimes be the answer. Without doubting the almighty Swede, of course, it seemed that Leicester lacked a certain holding presence tonight as the Foxes were put under pressure from a scappy Blades side. If possession is to be our game - even on boggy pitches on a tricky Tuesday night fixture in the North - perhaps we should look towards our big northern players to try and bring things under control. Introducing Paul Gallagher was a great call by Sven Goran Eriksson as Lloyd Dyer began to struggle. 

Chris Weale
Saved by the woodwork, Matt Oakley and Marcus Bent's poor finishing to spare his blushes, Weale nonetheless put in one of those fantastic performances this evening that showed why it is him - and not ex-Portugal international R1cardo (yup, that's what he has on his shirt) - wearing the number one shirt at the Walkers Stadium. The Bristolian's place is firmly assured after a man of the match performance making two incredible saves to deservedly earn a clean sheet against the odds.

Andy King
Captain fantastic pulled off a wonderful piece of skill to half volley, half chip the ball over the lost Blades keeper to open the scoring. Five games without a goal for Leicester's top scorer, what a way to get back on form.

Sol Bamba
The cult status of this guy is now stratospheric. He was immense tonight, winning balls from nowhere and covering for both Ben Mee and Patrick van Aanholt when those youngsters made errors. Another superb performance from the Ivorian. Forget "Sol, Sol Bamba": this lad is here, there and everywhere.

Ben Mee
His few errors aside, this was a much more positive night for Mee who now seems to be finding his feet in the Championship. His début last week was woeful but tonight his performance, both defensively and more widely, was much more impressive from the Premier League loanee.

Yuki Abe
Far from his finest performance in royal blue, Abe's usual controlled passing and assurance in the holding midfield role seemed lost in the hoofball played by Sheffield United. Eriksson made the right move in taking him off when he did.

Needed to put in a shift tonight and didn't. The Yak's lazy style of play was not suited to the 'muck in and have a go' attitude required against a gritty Blades side. An improvement to the form of his previous appearances is badly needed.

Marcus Bent
The ex-Leicester man had a woeful night in front of goal. He was clear to score and failed to hit the target on three or four occasions - perhaps costing Sheffield United a result they badly needed, if not deserved.