Ahead of the club’s 125th year anniversary tomorrow, the ‘The Opposition Opposition Opinion’, is back once again before our crucial encounter at St James’ Park tomorrow, bringing you some thoughts from a Leicester fan ahead of tomorrow’s clash with the Foxes.
Here we’re looking to bring you a view from the other side before tomorrow’s game, interviewing an opposing fan to gain their opinions on NUFC, some insights into their own club and their thoughts on of our upcoming match.
This week we’ve been speaking to Leicester City fan Jamie, who has had the following to say ahead of our their trip to St James’ Park for tomorrow’s 5.30pm kick off:
Q1) What have you made of your season so far? We’re keen to know what sort of shape you’re coming into tomorrow’s game in?
“To say it has been a mixed bag so far would be a bit of an understatement. Before pre-season I’d have laughed at the idea that Shakespeare would be sacked by mid-October, and I still feel he was quite unlucky to lose his job. 6 points from 8 games was obviously a poor return, but there were mitigating circumstances that could’ve bought him more time. Our opening fixtures were by no means friendly, with games against Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and Man United bringing a return of 0 points, but performances in these games largely deserved better. The whole debacle surrounding Adrien Silva was completely out of Shakespeare’s hands and can’t have helped the situation either. Having said that, some of our performances against sides we could and should be beating (in particular Bournemouth and West Brom), were abject to say the least and such turgid displays would’ve been one of the key reasons for his departure.”
“I will be the first to admit that I was initially sceptical of Claude Puel when he was announced as our new manager. His Southampton side did finish 8th and as League Cup runners up, but had done so with a perceived negative style – they failed to score in 42% of their home league games – and so his arrival seemed quite uninspiring. However, any suggestion that Puel’s Leicester side would set up negatively seem unfounded now. He immediately introduced a more attacking style of play, changing the now predictable 4-4-2 formation for a more fluid 4-2-3-1, and starting Demarai Gray in his first game.
“The difference has been noticeable, since his arrival 6 games ago we have lost just once (to Manchester City), won 3, rising from 13th to 7th in the process.”
Q2) What do you make of our start to the season & Newcastle’s current side? Who do you see as our threats & is there any weak links in our team that you feel you can exploit?
“Again a very mixed bag. The start to the season seemed to be going about as expected, but November was a torrid month. 1 point from a possible 12 in some very winnable games (United aside) is a poor return and they need to get some results in the hectic festive period to stop the nervous looks towards the teams below as, being realistic, the overriding objective from this point must simply be to stay in the division.
“Rafa Benitez is a manager who I rate highly, and there is certainly talent within the side. Mikel Merino is a terrific signing, and Rafa needs to find a way for him and Shelvey to operate within the same system it would seem. Jamaal Lascelles is a talented player and Jacob Murphy seems to be developing more and more with his increased first team appearances.”
“Weaknesses wise, the obvious answer would appear to be an out and out goalscorer. Dwight Gayle was formidable in the Championship but is currently tied with Joselu and the two centre backs on just two goals so far, but the real man to target would be Javier Manquillo. I was honestly surprised when he was signed, and I think that an in form Riyad Mahrez could potentially have a fair amount of joy down the Newcastle left.”
Q3) Likewise, who do you feel are the strengths & weaknesses in your Leicester side – any players for us to watch out for on Saturday for any particular reason?
“Leicester’s strongest players are pretty well documented; Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez are match winners, and both have proven that already this season. However, Harry Maguire has turned out to be an inspired signing at centre back and his ability to play out from the back has been absolutely crucial. Vicente Iborra was another summer signing and his return to full match fitness has directly coincided with our return to form. The Spaniard is one of those players who never seems hurried or flustered, and his combination with the excellent, all action Ndidi has helped us immensely.
“I wouldn’t particularly single any players out as individual weaknesses but as a whole our defence is rather on the slow side, and if we play with two attacking wingers (Gray & Mahrez), we are susceptible on the break. We do struggle more against teams who are content to sit back and not leave spaces for Mahrez and Vardy to run in to, so it will be interesting to see how Newcastle set up.”
Q4) How do you see the match panning out? Score Prediction?
“Purely on form you would back Leicester to win this one, but we are so unpredictable in general that you never really know.
“Being completely biased I’ll say a 1-2 City win.”
Q5) How do you see both sides faring over the season? Predictions for rough league position?
“Our resurgence has given me fresh hope for this season. A lot hinges on the January window, keeping Mahrez is the prime objective, but I do think the top half is a genuinely achievable position. When Adrien Silva is finally cleared to play in January he will greatly facilitate Puel’s goal of making us a more “ball playing” side too and give us a whole new manner in which to attack teams, so things could potentially be looking up for us. I’ll go for 9th.”
“I genuinely want Newcastle to stay up, and whilst there is no doubt that right now relegation is a possibility I think you will turn it around. There may be fresh investment in January needed to have that little bit of quality needed to consistently win games, but the potential is certainly there. 13th.”
Q6) The last time you boys came to St James’ Park was this time two years ago in your title winning season (it still sounds crazy saying that!). Vardy was unstoppable that day & Mahrez ran rings around us. What have you made of those two ever since their incredible rise to the top in that table topping year?
“Those two were absolutely unplayable that year, and it seemed like everything they touched would turn to gold. Vardy actually levelled the record for most consecutive goals scored in that game, and he often seemed to score based on sheer force of will. Not much has changed with him, his work rate is phenomenal and I don’t believe there is another striker in the league quite like him. What did change last year was the quality of service to him, but there is no doubt that if given the opportunity he is still a potent finisher.”
“Mahrez gets a huge amount of flak from some Leicester fans, mainly for a perceived lack of effort and the drop in his overall performance following the title winning season. I think the criticism, whilst not totally unfounded, is somewhat unfair. He was some fans’ scapegoat for a wholly underperforming side, and his notoriety meant he was a target for opposition managers – who often put two or even three players marking him. I liken him to Ozil in that it is his demeanour that often leads people to assume he is lazy, that ‘so laid back he’s almost horizontal’ exterior that can be mistaken for laziness. However, when he is on song he can single handedly win games – if Leicester can find him consistently in any sort of space then he is a huge danger.”
Q7) Harry Maguire – He was a player Benitez was said to be a big fan of over the summer, but he obviously ended up signing with you guys. What have you made of him?
“I am extremely pleased that things ended up that way!
“We were crying out for a centre half heading into the summer and got Maguire in very early.
“£17m seems an absolute snip for a now full England international, and his performances have fully justified the plaudits going his way.
“We are used to big, strong and brave centre backs at Leicester (see: Morgan & Huth) but it is his ability with the ball at his feet that sets him apart.”
8) Danny Simpson – He was a Championship player who helped us get promoted not so long ago, but he was part of a team that won the title last year. What are your thoughts on him?
“It took Danny a while to settle in at Leicester, and he looked every bit a Championship player initially. However Ranieri identified his strengths and duly played him in a system that made the most of them.
“He is resolute defensively and this provided the platform for Mahrez to excel as he did, and he hasn’t looked back since and has developed into a top quality defender.’
9) And finally – if you could make a combined XI from our two squads, what would yours be? (be honest!)
(4-5-1): Schmeichel – Simpson, Lascelles, Maguire, Chilwell – Mahrez, Ndidi, Iborra, Merino, Gray – Vardy
A superb insight from Jamie here, who gave us a really interesting and in-depth response here.
He has clearly been impressed by the impact Claude Puel has had at the club and it is interesting (and slightly frustrating) to see how highly he rates Harry Maguire – the former Hull centre-back who Benitez was said to have been a big fan of over the summer.
They’re in-form and will represent a real tough test tomorrow, however Jamie clearly rates Rafa, Merino, Lascelles and Murphy – although it seems he fancies Mahrez to have a field day if Rafa opts for Manquillo at left-back!
We’ll be back early next week with the thoughts of an Everton fan ahead of Wednesday night’s visit of Sam Allardyce’s Everton to St. James’ Park.
Here’s hoping for a big performance and a much needed win tomorrow on the day of the club’s 125th birthday.