St Andrews setback keeps Foxes’ feet on the ground
Leicester’s 2-0 loss to Birmingham City on Sunday was an indication that despite a recent run of good form, there is still work to be done before Sven-Goran Eriksson can consider his side a legitimate promotion contender.
The Foxes were undone by a second-half penalty and a breakaway goal after Matt Mills was shown a red card by substitute referee Kevin Wright for a two-footed tackle, although the former England manager had no complaints with either decision after he witnessed his side suffer their first away league defeat of the season. Instead, Eriksson is more likely to be concerned about his side’s poor second-half display in spite of his captain’s dismissal.
The result was in stark contrast to the Foxes’ last televised game at the start of October which saw them demolish local rivals Derby County in a season-best 4-0 win. Leicester looked shell-shocked after falling behind early in the second-half against Birmingham and never recovered. The midfield play was erratic and never controlled the game, leaving strikers David Nugent and Darius Vassell little to work with. Richie Wellens and Jermaine Beckford were given too little time to have any real impact on the game, and Kasper Schmeichel was uncharacteristically out of position for the second goal.
A quarter of the way into the season, Leicester have shown significant improvement after a slow start which saw them lose their opening two home games. They were undefeated in seven before the international break and kept four consecutive clean sheets after the centre-back pairing of Matt Mills and Sol Bamba began to solidify. In this time, Leicester have knocked Southampton, Brighton and Derby off the top of the table, and yet have struggled in games against mid-table sides – much to the frustration of Foxes fans.
After 11 games, there can be no excuses. Expectations are too high for that. The settling in period is over. There have been glimpses of excellence this season and times when every individual element has come together nicely. But the loss against Birmingham was a harsh wake-up call that this will be a long and difficult season, and that nothing will simply be handed to them.
Of course, there are upsides. Leicester have a chance to quickly put this loss behind them with a game against Watford tomorrow night at the King Power Stadium, and Sven-Goran Eriksson has an almost fully fit squad to choose from – one with such depth and quality that would make other Championship managers envious. In terms of league form, Leicester have also won their last three home games and have scored eight goals in those wins, while Watford have won just two of their opening 11 games. Finally, Leicester are just two points outside of the playoff places – and five points outside the automatic promotion places. These are encouraging signs, but Eriksson will expect his players to respond and play significantly better than they did at the weekend.
With Leicester City in the national media spotlight this season, the pressure is on Sven-Goran Eriksson. Anything less than promotion in May will be regarded a failure. But for now, Sunday’s loss should be considered a minor blip. One defeat in eight games is hardly reason to panic. The Championship is a tough, physical league, but alarm bells should not be ringing just yet. The side is good enough to quickly return to winning ways.