Last week, Fulham gave it a good go against their arch-rivals Chelsea only for them to lose 2-1. As long as they have an unsettled first team, they will continue to lose. But all that is being asked of the supporters at Craven Cottage, is they put in an honest shift for a full 90 minutes to see them through the end of the season. By then, the board will hopefully, though probably won’t unless massive changes take place, will start this project all over again in the Championship and see if they can take on the Premier League one more time with a much better team.
But until then, they will continue the rest of the season with a trip to the King Power Stadium first. Over there hosts a Leicester City side that has gone through so much tragedy and plenty of growing pains. First, they lost their owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha to a helicopter crash not that far from the football ground that shocked the sporting world. Next, they went on to only collect four points in eight Premier League games between December 27th and February 24th and were eliminated by Newport County in the Third Round of the FA Cup. After all that mess, Claude Puel was sacked and Brendan Rodgers insulted half of Glasgow to take over this past week.
In spite of the supposed “new manager” honeymoon that was supposed to take place, Rodgers’ first game in charge was a 2-1 defeat to Watford. Fortunately, Fulham have not won a single game away from Craven Cottage, so tomorrow’s fixture shouldn’t be too much trouble for them.
Still, there are some interesting bits in which Fulham can capitalize. First, the Foxes have been outscored 23-10 in the first half alone and are outscored 26-11 when the contest is tied this season. Along with that, Leicester might give up the fifth fewest expected goals in the Premier League at 35.64, but that total increases to 41 in actual goals conceded. That difference between expected and actual goals conceded is only smaller than Cardiff City and Fulham in the league. Add in the fact that Leicester have conceded 27.8 goals more than their expected tally since 2016/17 and you wonder why Kasper Schmeichel is still starting in goal for them.
This isn’t a bad squad on paper and probably should be fighting for a place in the Europa League, but Leicester is truly underachieving and they need to improve on a few items fast before their chance runs out.
On that note, here are three players to watch that will be cheered on most by the home support at King Power Stadium.
First up is an England center back that looked set to garner 50 caps; especially after having such an amazing 2018 World Cup. However, enough holes in Harry Maguire’s game were popping up and it is now being challenged by Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, James Tarkowski, Lewis Dunk and Joe Gomez nipping at his tail to collect more England caps instead. That being said, Maguire’s passing ability this season has been the best its ever been. These traits alone and performing well in set pieces will always make the 26-year old someone who should be selected by Gareth Southgates for years to come. But if he can work much more on the defensive aspects of his game, he would truly be unplayable.
Next up is Leicester prized possession in the January transfer window. Simply put, Nempalys Mendy isn’t good enough to partner with Wilfried Ndidi in the double pivot for a top ten Premier League team. As a result, the Foxes picked up Youri Tielemens from Monaco on a six-month loan deal. Most said it was deemed a low-risk move for all involved because the future Belgian star could return to France if things don’t work out in Leicester. There was just a sense in the air that Tielemens was flat out underachieving since trying to replace Tiemoue Bakayoko from that famous 2017 Monaco team that won the Ligue 1 title and made it to the Champions League semifinals. And while results haven’t gone the 21-year old’s way since he’s arrived in Southern France, his underlying numbers are still quite strong. If Leicester can stay patient with him, he could still come good on the potential that he was expected to fulfill.
Lastly, I could have written about Jamie Vardy. After all, he has scored 99 times for Leicester and he hasn’t looked like he’s slowed down too much despite being 32 years old. However, his other numbers certainly have as his shot rate has plummeted to 2.39 per contest. Along with that, his dribbling rate of just 0.28 per 90 minutes is easily the lowest since 2013-14 and his 0.33 non-penalty goals per 90 minutes is the lowest since 2014-15.
So instead about looking at Vardy’s radar, let’s look at the talk of the Championship while he was out on loan. Thanks to his exploits at West Brom, Harvey Barnes has come out of nowhere to show a case in point that he not only belongs in top flight football, but he deserves to start week-in week-out. And while you might think his production has worsened by going up a league, Barnes’ shot rate has amazingly improved from 3.56 per 90 minutes while with the Baggies to an amazing 4.51 while with the Foxes. His dribbling might have depreciated, but that’s more of a result of who else can do the work for the team in that department more than anything else. The point is, Harvey Barnes is still really good and he’s here to break more Fulham hearts.