Things we sort of learned

What did Jon Rogers and Dan Brigham learn from a cruel defeat to table-topping Leicester? Stuff about playing five at the back, worst misses of the season, clappers, Cockney gangsters, Jonny super-Howson, Paul McCartney and the same old story…

We’re an excellent Championship side
You know what Saturday reminded me of? A really good Championship team coming up against a top Premier League side in the Cup, carrying out a great gameplan and playing really well.

As a neutral you look at them and think the manager has set them up very well. They've got some Premier League-class players like Jonny Howson, Alex Tettey, Timm Klose, Nathan Redmond and Robbie Brady (and isn’t a shame Wes Hoolahan was injured; we’ve heard he’s excellent). They'll probably get promoted.

But, after that Cameron Jerome miss and the slack defending for the goal, they'll need to buy a bit of quality up front and at centre-back to stay up.

It’s been the same story all season.

Alex Neil may have made mistakes, and Patrick Bamford probably should have been brought on much earlier for a tiring and increasingly ineffective Jerome, but it didn’t directly affect the result. Once again it was poor finishing from a Championship-level striker and ball-watching from a Championship-level centre-back that has directly affected the result (and blaming Brady more than Ryan Bennett is like blaming the guy who loads the gun rather than the guy who shoots it).

It’s been the same story all season. DB

Jerome keeps on being Jerome
Jerome. Oh Jerome. Or as I like to call him, FFS Jerome.  

I love his pressing and pace in the channels, but oh how I wish he could score more goals. Oh. FFS Jerome.

Garry Birtles, who co-commentated on the stream I watched, called his first-half header as the worst miss he’d seen this year. Well, Mr Birtles, unless you have the first signs of dementia, which I’m sure you haven’t, it wasn’t the worst miss. It was an excellent chance, sure, but it was flashed at him, and he had no time to think. He should have scored and he was inches away from doing so, but an instinctive flick of the forehead while 12ft in the air isn’t a miss of the season.

The chance 10 minutes before, when he was through and only had to the keeper to beat and he passed it back to him in a very strange way – THAT was the bloody worst miss of the season! FFS Jerome.

Oh… and Mr Birtles, unless you have the first signs of dementia, which I’m sure you haven’t, it wasn’t the worst miss. JR

Five at the back works
Five at the back worked. Jamie Vardy, Shinki Okazaki and Riyad Mahrez were strapped down and blindfolded for most of the match, while Russell Martin excelled in the sweeper role (and also excelled in the 1960s-Cockney-gangster-haircut department too). Ivo Pinto and Robbie Brady also look like far more natural wing-backs than full-backs.

The team were far more attack-minded – getting up the pitch quickly – than they were at home in the wins over Aston Villa, Southampton and Swansea. Redmond spent most of the match higher up the pitch than Jerome, which meant we always carried a threat on the break (and, essentially, played two up top). Wes Hoolahan’s creativity and ability to probe was missed though – for all of Steven Naismith’s (quite limited) industry, he’s not a chance-creating machine like Hoolahan.

Will Neil stick with this formation? Five at the back has worked wonders for Southampton since they were introduced to it (although Chelsea eventually found a way through on Saturday) and turned Leicester’s season around when they switched to it about this time last year. It gives a good balance between defence and attack. With Martin as a sweeper, it also gives the team licence to push up higher at home if they wish. Expect to see it again on Tuesday against Chelsea. DB

It’s Leicester’s year
Leicester were aggressively mediocre weren’t they? Yet, they kept a clean sheet and took the only clear-cut chance they had. It was the cliché-ticking characteristic you need to win titles: play poorly yet come away with three points.

Their win felt a bit like the Paul Lambert years in the Championship: not the best on paper, not the most convincing, but drive and ambition flowing through their veins. After the goal went in, I thought Kasper Schmeichel was going to join in with the celebrations with Chris Goreham screaming “ISSGONNAGOIN… ISGONNAGOININ”.

I’m not alone in thinking this Leicester side is the best thing to happen to the Premier League in a very long time, and the reaction from the home fans, the manager, and even some sections of the press as Ruddy unfairly picked the ball out of the net suggests that this, surely, is their year. JR

All hail Howson
Once again Howson was the best player on the pitch. Now, I always love a bit of hyperbole about Jonny, and here’s some more: there’s been a touch of Bryan Robson about his performances in the last two games.

He reads the game expertly, puts tackles in, drives forward and makes things tick (he also loves a Robbo-esque professional foul occasionally). There were a couple of slips when he gave the ball away cheaply, but other than those it was almost a complete performance.

Howson and Tettery make a perfect central midfield partnership, and they kept the immense N’Golo Kanté very quiet. They also encapsulated the scrapping, tackling, pressing, tugging, harassing performance that the whole team put in on Saturday, winning the majority of 50/50s in the middle of the park. This is a team prepared to fight for their survival.

Whatever happens this season, if Neil has one big regret it’s surely that he hasn’t played Howson in central midfield more often; it’s like getting to duet with Paul McCartney and putting him on the tambourines. It’s not entirely Neil’s fault – Redmond’s reluctance to track back has forced Neil to shift Howson to the right too often. But, now he’s where he belongs in the centre, he has to stay there. DB

Let’s get the clap
Those bits of paper that the Foxes fans were holding. “Clappers” I think they are called? They seem to be the key to their success, the real reason their table topping.  

I can see it now. David McNally in a cloth cap, thumbs in his braces, leaning on his heels: “BOYS, FIRE UP THE PRINTING PRESS. THE CLAPPERS ARE COMING OUT TO PLAY”. JR

Daniel Brigham tweets at @dan_brigham
Jon Rogers tweets at @BigGrantHolt

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