The inside track on Leicester City...
27 October 2016|Tottenham Hotspur
Rob Tanner had the professional joy of reporting on Leicester City's title win last season for the Leicester Mercury. He follows the Foxes home and away so who better to run the rule over the reigning champions ahead of Saturday's Premier League clash at the Lane? Over to you, Rob!
ROB TANNER, LEICESTER MERCURY
First thing's first Rob - what was it like to report on the Leicester City story last season? It must have been quite a journey for the Mercury!
Rob: "It was incredible. The Mercury has been following City since the club was formed in 1884 as Fosse and while there have been many magical moments in the club’s history, such as Wembley finals and promotions, there has never been anything quite like last season’s extraordinary events. As a community newspaper, it was incredible to see how the whole Leicester community came together to cheer in City as they rubbed shoulders with the Premier League’s elite.
"Leicester is a multicultural City and everyone, regardless of ethnicity, revelled in the remarkable success. Nothing brings a community together and unites people like football. It was also a source of great civic pride as the whole world’s media seemed to descend on Leicester towards the end of the season to record history being made. In some cases City had put Leicestershire on the map, literally, because many of the media outlets, especially from the US, didn’t know where Leicester was. It was the highlight of my career to witness and record City’s title triumph for the Mercury and the celebrations in the city."
Below: Islam Slimani
How have the summer arrivals settled? Of the players Spurs fans might not have seen live, who has caught the eye so far?
Rob: "It has been a real mixed bag for the new signings so far. Islam Slimani, the £30 million record signing from Sporting Lisbon, appears to have settled straight away and he has probably made the biggest impact. He is a tall but mobile striker who likes to get in the box and get on the end of crosses. He has also struck up an instant understanding with his fellow Algerian, Riyad Mahrez.
"But it hasn’t been so good for the other signings. Ahmed Musa, who City signed for £16 million, has taken time to adapt and has not established himself as a regular starter yet. He has been used more as an impact substitute, although he started last week against Crystal Palace on the wing and scored his first goal for the club. Papy Mendy, the £13 million signing from Nice, suffered an ankle injury in the goalless draw against Arsenal in August and recently had to undergo surgery to remove a bone chip. He will be out for another few weeks yet. Bartosz Kapustka, the 19-year-old Poland international winger, hasn’t made one appearance yet since his £7 million arrival from Cracovia, while Spanish defender Luis Hernandez has been in and out of the side."
Below: Daniel Amartey
A lot was made of N'Golo Kante’s exit, what impact has that had on the team so far this season?
Rob: "It has had a big impact. Kante was a revelation last season, although he also needed time to adjust to the Premier League. Former head of recruitment Steve Walsh, who badgered Claudio Ranieri to sign Kante, used to joke that City actually played three in central midfield, Danny Drinkwater in the middle and Kante either side. At times it did seem like he did the work of two players because he covered the ground so effectively. Since he left City have not changed their 4-4-2 system and they have looked much more vulnerable away from home. Young Ghanaian Daniel Amartey has stepped in and he is learning, but away from home City have been over run at times. Recently Andy King has stepped in and his experience has been valuable, but City have found life without Kante much more difficult."
Below: Shinji Okazaki
Has Leicester's playing style changed much from last season?
Rob: "Ranieri has repeatedly said he wants to change City’s approach as other teams are now familiar with them, but there hasn’t been many changes at all. It is still a 4-4-2. The back four has hardly changed, except Hernandez coming in at right back from time to time. The four across the middle still includes Drinkwater, Mahrez and Marc Albrighton most weeks, with either Amartey or King filling the Kante role. The only noticeable change is when Jamie Vardy and Slimani play together. They play more as a pair rather than when Shinji Okazaki partnered Vardy last season. The Japan international does a great job of dropping into midfield when City don’t have the ball and making the four into a five. Okazaki returned to the side last week against Palace and had a great game so it will be interesting to see what Ranieri does at Spurs on Saturday."
Below: Andy King
Looking at this weekend’s game, how might Foxes line-up? Anyone definitely out?
Rob: "Papy Mendy is definitely out while Matty James, who has not played in the first team for 18 months after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament, is still working on his fitness. There was an injury concern over Andy King, who limped off towards the end of last week’s win over Palace, but he should be okay. It should be a familiar looking City side, although Okazaki may stay in the side to offer that extra defensive assurance."
Below: Claudio Ranieri
Finally, how do you expect the game to go on Saturday?
Rob: "City have been poor on the road this season. They have lost every Premier League game and the defeats were heavy at Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea. All three defeats came just days before wins in the Champions League and City have a crucial tie against Copenhagen on Wednesday. Another win would guarantee their place in the knock-out stages and Ranieri has admitted they are prioritising the Champions League at this stage before focusing fully on the league, but the level of performance was so poor against Chelsea they can’t afford to repeat that. The fans, who have been so fantastic in supporting them through the thin and the thick since they returned to the Premier League, won’t accept it. I believe it will be a better performance from City but Tottenham have started this season so well and seem fired up by what happened at the end of last season. They will be out for revenge."