Brendan Rodgers’ reign as Leicester City manager got off to a losing start on Sunday as his new charges fell to a last-gasp 2-1 defeat at Vicarage Road.
Jamie Vardy was on the scoresheet for the second successive match but was later substituted after suffering the ill-effects of a collision with Ben Foster – more on that incident can be found below.
We run the rule over how the Foxes’ players performed under their new head coach from a Fantasy perspective in our latest Scout Notes article.
Watford 2-1 Leicester City
- Goals: Troy Deeney (£5.9m), Andre Gray (£5.9m) | Jamie Vardy (£8.9m)
- Assists: Gerard Deulofeu (£5.6m), Troy Deeney | Youri Tielemans (£6.0m)
Brendan Rodgers wasted no time in putting his own stamp on Leicester City in his first game in charge.
While he made only one change to the starting XI from the team that defeated Brighton in midweek, the ex-Celtic boss ditched the recently-favoured 4-1-4-1/4-2-3-1 set-up of his predecessor in favour of a wing-back system for the trip to Watford on Sunday.
Veteran Wes Morgan (£4.5m) came into a back three alongside Harry Maguire (£5.4m) and Jonny Evans (£4.8m), with Ricardo Pereira (£5.4m) and Ben Chilwell (£5.0m) pushed forward as wing-backs in a 3-4-3.
Harvey Barnes (£5.5m) and James Maddison (£6.7m) were the two attacking midfielders chosen to flank Jamie Vardy (£8.9m), meanwhile, with Demarai Gray (£5.4m) dropping to the bench.
The initial results at Vicarage Road were mixed: the Foxes understandably struggled for any kind of coherence in the opening exchanges of Sunday’s loss to the Hornets and fell behind to their now trademark early goal, though steadily took control of the match in the second half without carving out too many clear-cut opportunities.
The positive news is that the trip to eighth-place Watford was arguably Leicester’s toughest fixture until Gameweek 36 and the Foxes next take on a Fulham side that have shipped two or more goals in all nine of their Premier League matches contested in 2019 – though who were admittedly much-improved in the west London derby today.
Rodgers only had four days of training with his new side ahead of today’s game, so a full week of preparation can only be beneficial in the run-up to a meeting with the Championship-bound Cottagers.
There are plenty of creases to iron out, of course.
Leicester have fallen 1-0 down in 20 of their 29 league matches this season, with their fallibility in the opening ten minutes again in evidence at Vicarage Road.
Moments after Kasper Schmeichel (£5.0m) had made an excellent save from Adrian Mariappa (£4.2m) and Morgan heroically blocked a follow-up effort, Troy Deeney (£5.9m) nodded Watford in front from a teasing Gerard Deulofeu (£5.6m) free-kick.
All of that happened in the opening five minutes and the frustration for Fantasy owners of Leicester’s defenders was that, much like in the recent games against Liverpool and Manchester United, the Foxes’ backline largely contained their opponents thereafter.
Watford, indeed, only had another three attempts on goal after that point – one of which was the injury-time winner that Andre Gray (£5.9m) converted after a sloppy kick out from Schmeichel.
While Leicester bossed possession and registered more than twice as many shots as their hosts, there weren’t any gilt-edged chances for the Foxes until Vardy raced onto a Youri Tielemans (£6.0m) through ball on 74 minutes to level the scores up.
Vardy recorded only 15 touches at Vicarage Road, fewer than any other outfield player who started in Gameweek 29 – a testimony to how well Mariappa and Craig Cathcart (£4.6m) played for the Hornets at centre-back but also to how little Leicester actually did with the ball for the bulk of this match.
There were glimmers of promise: Maddison flickered into life late on and set up an excellent headed chance for Morgan, while Chilwell and Pereira were prominent in the wide areas and racked up 72 touches in the final third between them.
While Leicester’s wing-backs couldn’t turn their touches into meaningful end product, there were faint signs of encouragement that the new system could improve their chances of registering attacking returns going forward. Chilwell, indeed, found himself in a handful of promising situations late on but couldn’t produce a telling final ball.
Tielemans’ passing from central midfield looks key to Leicester’s attacking prospects, with the Belgian having provided the assist for Vardy’s goal and having found the two wing-backs out wide on a number of occasions.
Rodgers said of Tielemans’ role in this 3-4-3 set-up:
The idea today was to have three centre-backs plus Wilf [Ndidi] just controlling the counter-attack. That would give Youri the license to move forward that bit more. You can see he can make that pass and play it.
Vardy’s strike came from his only shot of the match, with the groggy-looking Leicester forward being substituted late on after an earlier clash with Ben Foster (£4.6m).
Rodgers’ assuaged any fears of a serious injury after full-time, however:
He’s OK. He’s more from the impact from the actual collision so he’s just felt a little bit wary. Other than that, he should be OK. Just didn’t feel quite right, he maybe could have stayed on but there’s no point in risking him.
We are hoping he will be OK in the next couple of days.
The former Liverpool manager also provided some comments on Vardy’s role under his stewardship, which will be encouraging for those Fantasy managers who own the premium forward or who are considering a move for him:
He’s a player I’ve always loved, we’ve seen in the last number of years, he’s a born goalscorer, but he is perfect for us in the intensity in which he presses and his running ability.
He showed what he is great at, the pass by Youri, great speed and a wonderful finish, so it is just about getting players in and around him, so he is not on his own and we did that in the second half.
Rodgers said of his side’s efforts overall:
I was really disappointed for the players and supporters today because we got off to a slow start and conceded early on in the game, which was not ideal, especially away from home.
I know it’s a trend that we need to eradicate. Then, I thought we worked our way into the game. We were a little bit slow with our passing in the first half, but we still got into some good positions.
We addressed one or two items at half-time and I thought in the second half, the players were excellent. I thought we looked like the team that would equalise, and we did.
We scored a fantastic goal and it just looked like a matter of time before the second would come. We had all the pressure and really sustained our attacks. You could just sense that they were going to be happy to take a point, Watford.
The more we get used to working together, the better we’ll become.
Watford’s Fantasy assets might be largely unfavoured for the rest of March, given that they face away matches at both Manchester clubs either side of a blank in Gameweek 31 (though the Hornets could have a Double Gameweek 32, depending on what happens in the FA Cup quarter-finals and the subsequent fixture rearrangement).
The hosts were much-improved from a defensive perspective after the 5-0 hammering at Anfield in midweek, with their solid backline helped out by the formidable twosome of Abdoulaye Doucoure (£5.9m) and Etienne Capoue (£4.8m) in central midfield.
It was a curious match for Watford’s attacking assets – the bustling Deeney emerging with a double-digit haul from one shot and one key pass, while Deulofeu was mostly anonymous after his assist for his strike partner’s early goal.
Gracia cited uncertainty over Leicester’s tactics as a mitigating factor but added that the rearguard effort in the second half was by design, rather than as a result of any dominance from the visitors:
We always try to prepare for games the same way but in this case, it was different because Leicester had a new coach and we didn’t know the shape and the players they would choose.
When we started playing against three at the back we tried to adapt quickly and I think we played better in the first half, we adapted very quickly we scored and created more chances.
In the second, it was the moment when we tried to defend close to our goalposts, tried to be compact and in this way we were able to win against a very good team as Leicester is.
Jose Holebas (£4.8m) returned at left-back for Adam Masina (£4.3m) in what was Gracia’s only change to his starting XI.
Watford XI (4-4-2): Foster; Janmaat, Mariappa, Cathcart, Holebas; Hughes (Cleverley 90′), Capoue, Doucoure, Pereyra; Deulofeu (Gray 69′), Deeney.
Leicester City XI (3-4-2-1): Schmeichel; Evans, Morgan, Maguire; Ricardo, Ndidi, Tielemans (Mendy 83′), Chilwell; Maddison, Barnes (Gray 66′); Vardy (Iheanacho 83′).
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