Sixer’s Leicester Soapbox: defence caught napping in the summer sun

Malcolm Dawson writes… is a glorious summer’s day here in the East Midlands. Unfortunately for me I am unable to enjoy the sunshine, staying as I am with a mate of mine who happens to be a fan of Leicester City and writing this on his kitchen table. Not only have I had to sit and watch the Sky Sports Game of the Day coverage, I have had to do it whilst being told how useless we are and how it should have been 8-2 to Leicester. I’m putting up a spirited defence and showing a brave face but my arguments are hollow. Before the game, in the pubs on London Road, the Leicester fans I spoke to weren’t over optimistic about the season ahead and a draw was the popular pre-match prediction. I also got into a discussion with one of my friends from the Heart of England Branch of the SAFCSA, about our defensive options. Whilst we both agreed that Jones, van Aanholt and Matthews would give us a threat down the flanks, I made a point that I thought Dick might live to regret telling Vergini and Reveilleire to pack their boots without bringing in some players who prioritise the defensive aspect of the position. Limited Vergini and Reveilleire may be but my argument was (still is) that the three players we now have offer no options in the full back slots. Should there come a time when we need to stiffen up that area of the back line we can only replace like with like. And so it proved yesterday as we were ripped apart by speedy opponents and badly positioned defenders. I’ll let Peter Sixsmith fill in the details of another disappointing performance.


Here we go again.

What to say? The day started with that feeling of excitement in the pit of your stomach, a tingle that has been there every opening day for half a century. Could this be the season we begin to look like a genuine top flight team? Will our new and existing players get us off to a good start? Do the pundits know what they are talking about?

We had a lovely day for it. Friends and acquaintances were greeted as we clambered aboard the bus. Papers were read. Brian Matthews played his usual fine selection of 60s platters as the coach sped towards Loughborough for the first beer stop of the season. The sun shone, Advocaat is wilier than Ranieri and we have never lost at The New Leicester Stadium. And for 10 minutes we were the better side, stroking the ball around confidently and almost scoring. Defoe had the first chance and from the resulting corner, Kaboul powered in a header which Schmeichel blocked and Rodwell’s follow up was gratefully grabbed by the former Darlington keeper. The buzz in the away end was positive. There was movement, a bit of pace, Kaboul looked strong. All we had to do was knock the ball about, get the wide men involved and a shaky City defence would collapse and those awful clapper things that the crowd had been given would be confined to the dustbin of history.

Ten minutes of bliss. Ten minutes of dreaming of a bright future where we were cruising along in spring, preparing for a Cup semi-final or a late onslaught on a Europa League spot. Ten minutes when it was almost a joy to be a Sunderland supporter.

Twenty minutes later, we were 3-0 down and the mood had changed. City fans were roaring their heads off and the clappers were going 20 to the dozen. We were sat in our seats, heads down, contemplating yet another season of struggle and strife as the team imploded with Leicester having cruised into an unassailable 3-0 lead and our defence, our hopes and our pride destroyed.

To describe the defending as poor does not do it justice. Roget of Thesaurus fame could have come up with dozens of words that would give the reader a flavour of how “poor” it was. Here’s a few: appalling, naïve, brainless, wretched, disgraceful, inadequate. You get the picture. Two goals were conceded to headers from crosses that flew across our back four from the right hand side. They were put in by Vardy and Mehez, neither of who are renowned for scoring with their bonces. What both did was to get in front of our defenders and touch well hit crosses into the net, past a flailing Pantilimon.

At two down there was a sliver of hope. 2-0 is not irretrievable. 3-0 is. And thanks to Lee Cattermole 3-0 it was after he gave away a penalty that resulted in him being hooked by Advocaat. It was looking like Derby 1993 where we were in a similar position and lost 5-0. In addition to the three that they had put in, Leicester missed three good chances and Pantilimon pulled off a couple of smart saves.

Asleep at Leicester - just like the back four!
Asleep at Leicester – just like the back four!

The second half was no better, as Mehez and Vardy pulled our back four to pieces. Their pace and desire to run at defenders was in sharp contrast to our inability to do anything with the ball when we had it.

By this time, we were playing a 4-4-2, with Cattermole being replaced by Fletcher. It meant that Larsson and Rodwell had to police the middle and try to get us moving, a task that was clearly beyond them. Johnson tried to get things going but Lens was a peripheral figure and must have wondered if life in Kiev was really that bad after all.

City began to wilt in the heat (we would wilt in any temperature) and Defoe pulled one back, courtesy of a good ball by Johnson and there was a glimmer of hope; get another and they may collapse. Fat chance. Defending that would have looked shabby in the Darlington Church and Friendly League gave Albrighton a fourth and that was it. Fletcher’s goal made things look a little better, but we never had a sniff and the game ambled to an end, greeted ecstatically by the clapper wavers and grumpily by us.

Weaknesses; how long have you got? The back four looked like strangers and hopefully soon will be. The two full backs are inadequate. Jones has no pace and is consistently caught out of position. Van Aanholt has pace and is – well, you know the rest. Matthews did reasonably well when he came on but the game had gone by then. The central defenders were shocking. I expressed my worries that Kaboul might be another Titus Bramble and my fears were justified by this. He was awful. He failed to organise his defenders from set pieces, was turned several times (as he had been at Doncaster) and his part in the fourth goal resembled something from a comedy football match served up by the Monty Python team, although I feel that The Long John Silver impersonators team would have rejected both Kaboul and Coates for “not being quite up to it.”

Then there is Cattermole. Five years ago, he was sent off in the opening game of the season at home to Birmingham City. Two years ago, he was probably sitting at home as we slumped to defeat against Fulham. This year he had the ignominy of being hauled off by his manager as a result of giving away a penalty with a tackle that was clumsy, stupid and embarrassing all rolled into one. He cannot play in a midfield three. He isn’t good enough. He can sit in front and help protect the back four (although the entire Brigade of Guards would have been needed yesterday to afford protection to that hapless lot) but he cannot play creatively.

Jake: 'start as you intend to go on?"
Jake: ‘start as you intend to go on?”

Much thinking needs to be done about the system and his role in it. The same applies to Rodwell who was simply overrun and who played a major part in the catastrophe that was goal no.4. M’Villa has a reputation as a solid defensive midfielder and those qualities are going to be called upon between now and May.

We now have a week in order to sort out some of these problems. The return of O’Shea, who can at least organise a back four, is surely a certainty in place of Kaboul and, I would give Charlie Hurley a call and see if he can get his boots on as he must be a better bet than Coates on the Uruguayan’s showing yesterday.

As always, the game spoiled a good day. I paid my respects to Richard III as he lay under a tomb of Swaledale limestone in Leicester Cathedral. He lost his crown in a thicket hedge at Bosworth; we may well have lost our Premiership place at an anonymous stadium on the south side of Leicester.

Join the Salut! Sunderland Facebook group – click anywhere along this line

And follow us on Twitter: @salutsunderland … click along this line

Click anywhere on this sentence for a glance at the home page – and highlights of all the most recent articles …

15 thoughts on “Sixer’s Leicester Soapbox: defence caught napping in the summer sun”

  1. We’ve had these “blessing in disguise” situations before Paul and in the end all it amounts to is taking a drubbing away from home.

    Drummer, you are dead right. Short is trying to wing it as he has done for the last three seasons. He isn’t turning up at the Love Supreme shop buying badges and going down the sea front for a curry any more. Maybe he’s uncomfortable facing a disenchanted public these days.

  2. At least we are spared false dawns, this drubbing could be a blessing in disguise. Please note the qualification in my sentence (is supporting Sunderland a sentence? If so, 55 years is a bit over the top).

  3. In my attempt to Guess The Score (I got the number of goals right!) I said we would be 3rd last on MOTD and we’d get nowhere near SKY GOTD. WRONG! But it seems that to be 1st on MOTD or the GOTD we have to take a beating. Can we please please appear 1st for the right reasons. At least we will end the weekend above Arsenal.

  4. There are no positives with any of this. It’s all very well assuming Dick will be able to put things right. He knew from the off what’s wrong with this squad and told everyone “six quality signings needed.” The powers that be have not backed his judgment, and are failing the manager and the supporters in a most scandalous way.

    Astute and experienced DA, may be but he can’t make a silk purse from sow’s ears. The only good thing about this club is the supporters who turn up every week with no expectation or reward. Nothing changes but still they support the team and owner who are not worthy of that support. Short doesn’t have it in him to do what’s required and it’s time for him to go. The only way things will change is if there are serious protests and walk outs etc.Our fan base has been far too tolerant for far too long and as a result, loyalty has been abused time and ti again.

    We have failed completely in progressing under Short’s ownership and I for one have absolutely no faith left now in things being turned around. The club has stagnated totally, and we wil be relegated at the end of this season.

    • And the probability of relegation is about the one thing that might change Ellis Short’s thinking, because it will cost us [ him ] dearly.

      I think it will hinge upon Dick Advocaat’s ability to convince our owner that the present squad HAS to be strengthened. DA is no mug and he will know that 2/3 good signings could make the critical difference.

    • I agree Jeremy , but the walk outs happened last season on a handful of occasions . Unfortunately it was portrayed in the media as fair weather disloyal fans deserting their team . If it had happened at the Wonga or West Hams ground it would have being the most loyal fans in the country ,with no other option driven to this desperate act . We as fans are not very vocal in our displeasure though , we generally don’t chant against our managers or owners . The last time it happened was against Bruce and that was a vocal minority .Short knows , he’s trying to wing it , we arn’t fooled , this will come to a head sooner rather than later . If he doesn’t act in the next few weeks and open the wallet ,we are done .

  5. Look Malcolm, I tried, I really did. I admit it, I’m a failure as a father.
    On thing I did forget to mention- we thrashed the Aussies too!

  6. The family and I are visiting Krakow and having a great time. Plenty to do and see and with Leeds Rhinos winning so convincingly on Friday night, what could possible go wrong?
    Our Saturday morning was spent at Auschwitz-Berkenau camp, which was harrowing, thought provoking and made me guilty to have a drink in 35 degrees of heat.
    Back in the city we went to a bar for a cooling beer, caught the end of the ManUtd game- it looked awful- and ordered food.
    On the big screen came the news that the Sunderland match was on live- so I thought I’ll give it half an hour! This was the chance I had been waiting for, a chance to show the world what a great team I supported and what they could do to the likes of Leicester.
    Oh dear, oh dear me.
    At 3-0 I was happy to walk away convinced that 5 was just around the corner. The defence was poor and ponderous and the midfield lacklustre. Yes we got a couple of goals but crikey, what a mess.
    Sniggering from the children- one a Mag the other a Gooner- got my own back this afternoon though, but it still didn’t feel great.
    Think I’ll stick with the RL, The season stretches out before us like a long string of gloom. Unless…

  7. Its one game,I think Advocaat knows whats wrong with the team and i’m sure he will get it right soon.We all know we need another 4 or 5 GOOD PLAYERS to have any chance to compete in this league.Lets hope xmas comes early?

    • I agree Ian – it’s only one game and the fact we went three down so early in the first match has perhaps added to the disappointment. Like you I will wait a few games before the traditional pessimism sets in and see what happens in the two forthcoming home games. But as I said in the introduction one of my concerns is about the fullback positions. Neither Jones nor PVA are the most defensively astute and both get caught out of position too easily. Whilst neither Kaboul nor Coates looked solid yesterday they will be easily dragged out of position if the full backs are perennially caught upfield and there are no Larssons or Cattermoles there to cover.

      I see our new midfielder got himself sent off playing for the U21s this afternoon. I’ll wait for Pete’s comments when they come in but not the most auspicious of starts for the Frenchman.

  8. Well my day was far more exciting than that. Les Frogs, a delightful diabetic chef and her 70 year old husband had stayed for a week and, because they had only brought hand baggage, declined to let me drive them to Birmingham International Airport to catch the flight home two hours before take off, preferring a last minute gallop.

    As we sat in the inevitable traffic jam, caused by a car crash on the M40, watching the sands of time run away, I kept getting these interesting match reports of Sunderland heading for relegation. We still just about got the two worried Frenchies there in time for their plane home but security, ever vigilant to stop people getting out of the country, found her diabetic syringe for the insulin and confiscated her Metformin tablets as they were in a tablet holder and not in a marked packet and refused to even look at all her fully up to date medical records she is required to carry. Clearly, as she cannot speak a word of English they had captured a druggie. In short they made them both miss the plane, while I was on my way home spitting feathers listening to reports of yet another typical Sunderland surrender. I arrived home five minutes before the phone rang.

    My friends have no money to buy new tickets and there is no other flight anyway so they will have to stay in an hotel and pay another £600 or so to fly tomorrow, o perhaps go all the way to London and get on the Channel tunnel train to Paris.

    No one in security speaks French so I explain the tow aged people concerned are poor and they have saved up for this holiday I explained that the security officers had put her life in danger by taking her medication. What do you propose doing they asked? Could I not pay for a ticket tomorrow and come and get them to take them to a hospital who would provide new medication, I did and of course they didn’t because there was no doctor available.

    No “by our lady” I can’t pay for them I said, I am a pensioner and we have just gone down another goal and my nerves are all aquiver but I can and will collect them and if they cannot pay for flights tomorrow how do you expect them to go into an hotel or pay for Eurostar.

    Now my news turned out to be much better than the Sunderland team’s because despite the Calais problems “Entent Cordiale” still exists between the Brits and the French. A wonderful lady at FlyBe spoke to two other non French speaking people at Air France and they rode to the rescue with replacement tickets albeit at sparrow fart this morning.

    I feel as I have spent the entire weekend driving 210 miles backwards and forwards to the airport but my friends are at least back in Paris. Knackered I may be but I am so glad that I did not go to watch the match, this was far more exciting.

Comments are closed.

Next Post