5 big things we wanted to discuss from Leicester 2-1 Chelsea
1. Jamie Vardy should stay at Leicester
It's debatable whether his style is suited to Chelsea anyway, but for now that's a question that should remain unanswered
The England striker has been linked with a move to Stamford Bridge thanks to a combination of his own form and Chelsea's barren spell in front of goal. "He is top scorer and it is normal that big clubs want him," confessed Jose Mourinho before the match.
Whether he was referring to his own transfer plans remains to be seen, but no one could blame the Portuguese coach for harbouring an interest. “Sometimes we face very low (defensive) blocks where technical players in the box are very much needed,” Mourinho noted.
Vardy’s ability in such a situation was demonstrated in the first goal. Although Chelsea's backline was in its own area they still couldn't stop Vardy. His clever lay-off after a deep ball from N'Golo Kante fell to his strike partner Leonardo Ulloa, who then laid it wide to Riyad Mahrez. The winger has an almost telepathic relationship with Vardy and he expertly curled the ball into the leading scorer’s path for a side-footed volley into the back of the net.
With the European Championship just six months away and the Foxes now top of the league once more, it would be foolish for Vardy to even consider leaving any time soon. It's debatable whether his style is suited to Chelsea anyway, but for now that's a question that should remain unanswered.
2. Chelsea's full-back issues continue
I worked for four days for this match, I prepared every single thing related to this opponent. I identified four movements where they score almost every one of their goals
There has certainly been some improvement in Branislav Ivanovic since he returned from injury, and while the Serb was far from terrible at the King Power Stadium, he wasn't close enough to Marc Albrighton as the winger crossed towards Mahrez for the second goal. However, the burly stopper certainly wasn't as culpable as Cesar Azpilicueta, who was turned inside out by the Algerian before Mahrez brilliantly whipped a shot past Thibaut Courtois.
"My work was betrayed," Mourinho snapped to the television cameras after the final whistle. In the press conference he elaborated: "I worked for four days for this match, I prepared every single thing related to this opponent. I identified four movements where they score almost every one of their goals. My players had all of this information in training in the last three days."
Ivanovic probably should have scored at the other end of the pitch but he miscued his attempt at the far post following a corner. Chelsea have won just nine matches in all competitions this season, which is a staggeringly low amount for a team that were champions last term.
3. Kante shines (again) in central midfield
He recovers all the balls in this stadium and the other stadium, everywhere, he is unbelievable
Danny Drinkwater being forced off after only 16 minutes could have been a disaster for Leicester, but Kante was superb yet again for Leicester alongside substitute Andy King. The French midfielder, signed from Caen in the summer, will be pushing to make his nation’s Euro 2016 squad next summer if his performances continue at this level.
“Kante was amazing,” beamed Claudio Ranieri after the game. “You remember that in the beginning I put him as a winger, then I had to choose and I put him close to Drinkwater.”
The 24-year-old completed seven out of his attempted eight tackles, and managed three take-ons in a complete all-round display. Just before half-time he cut the ball back to Albrighton in an attacking area, only for Courtois to save comfortably. “He recovers all the balls in this stadium and the other stadium, everywhere, he is unbelievable,” joked his Italian boss.
4. Diego Costa’s belief shows no sign of returning
Diego’s lack of confidence in front of goal is bringing him to other areas
In the opening 10 minutes, Costa illustrated his usual brash behaviour when he dramatically threw himself to the ground after being blocked off trying to run past Wes Morgan. The Brazil-born striker began his normal appeal process, arms waving in the air, but his manager applauded the fact that he had attempted to run in behind Leicester’s defence.
"Diego's lack of confidence in front of goal is bringing him to other areas," Mourinho noted. "His movements are almost all from the centre to the sides, coming deep and then central defenders are pressing him."
Costa received the ball just once in the opposition area during the first half, and Mourinho’s observation about his player’s runs towards the flanks was apparent by the fact that left-back Azpilicueta made nine passes to him in the match, with Ramires the next nearest on five.
It was certainly obvious that he stayed more central in the second period, which may have been a combination of Mourinho’s half-time team talk and the change in formation late on.
The introduction of Cesc Fabregas brought Costa his only goalscoring opportunity of the game, as his fellow Spaniard cleverly lofted the ball over the defence and into his path. Costa should have finished the one-on-one but Kasper Schmeichel made himself big to deny the attacker.
5. Mourinho may have to change his formation
Costa needed a strike partner for some regeneration and Fabregas can’t be trusted as part of a double-pivot at present
After four clean sheets in five games it appeared that Chelsea had turned a corner in terms of their defensive durability. But new questions have now emerged in order to find the right balance between defence and attack. With Fabregas on the bench, Nemanja Matic had to be more creative and as a result the link play was less fluid, while the departure of Eden Hazard after only half an hour didn’t exactly help matters.
Chelsea resembled something of a 3-3-3-1 when John Terry left the field for Fabregas and this altered again to more of a 3-2-3-2 as Loic Remy replaced Oscar. The changes did bring about a goal but neither formation provided a long-term solution, as Costa needed a strike partner for some regeneration and Fabregas can’t be trusted as part of a double-pivot at present.
However, Mourinho isn’t keen to adopt the system used by Ranieri, although he did say that the better side won the match. “When a team like Chelsea plays in a typical 4-4-2, without a No.10, we lose our target in the build-up,” the Portuguese explained. “But losing 2-0 I tried everything. I kept that No.10 but I took off a defender.”
The most logical answer would be to use a diamond, but the poor form of their full-backs means that they would be exposed more regularly without any assistance from the wingers. Perhaps a 3-4-1-2 might temporarily help put a halt to their alarming slide.