“For things to remain the same, everything must change.”
The words of Tancredi in The Leopard are as much a mantra for modern football as a commentary on 19th Century Italian politics. Every summer, managers file into press conferences and repeat one after the other: we can’t rest on our laurels… we must invest in the squad to maintain our position. And this seems reasonable enough. Injuries, big money transfers, youth usurping experience. Stagnation threatens at every turn. (Ask a Forest fan.) There seems, however, to be a worrying trend in NPower land for ripping up and starting again. No club is a greater example of this than Leicester City.
Having taken the role of surprise package in last year’s Championship, the Foxes would have hoped at least to match that performance this time around. But the upheaval of the past six months, rather than filling the gaps in last year’s 5th placed squad, appears to have created new ones which will be more difficult to patch. Following Nigel Pearson’s move to Hull
, the job of the incoming Paulo Sousa appeared to be fairly simple, the side well organized, if in need of a little added value. The Portuguese, however, started a clearout that has accelerated since the arrival of the Thai duty free kings and the man who only needs one name
. The unfairly maligned ex-England manager can’t seem to see beyond the bright lights of big names (well, relatively speaking): sometime England internationals Chris Kirkland and Curtis Davies have been dropped into the side, apparently for the sole reason that they were available, while another Sven cap Darius Vassell was snapped up on a free transfer. Another loan signing, Roman Bednar, has completed the bizarre ostracism of last season’s top goalscorer, Matt Fryatt, and to little effect.
On the basis of Tuesday’s performance against a Millwall side which started the game on the same number of points as the East Midlanders, these changes have been to the detriment of the team. Indeed, with the exception of Vassell, it was the stalwarts who caught the attention of this blogger. Bednar spent most of his 45 minute appearance voicing, and at one point miming, his discontent with the decisions of the match officials, rather than using his obvious physical attributes to their full effect. It was only following a change in shape after the interlude that Leicester started to put their opponents under pressure, before the stupidity of Alan Dunne handed them a definitive advantage. The midfield quintet of Matt Oakley, Richie Wellens, Andy King and Lloyd Dyer impressed with their tireless running, and their clever movement on the edge of the penalty area prompted a few gasps in between sips of Bovril. But it was the once solid, and much tinkered-with sections who let the side down. The ducking and diving of Jason Puncheon getting the better of Man City loanee Greg Cunningham and Steve Morison causing jitters among a centre-back duo no doubt fearful of their places.
Many are predicting a late surge to a second consecutive play-off place, and Leicester should be a side to fear. No doubt some fair brass will be spent in January, with the owners desperate to reach the promised land. If the evidence of the first half of the campaign is anything to go by, though, I won’t be changing my betting slip.