On Monday night, I was at The Madjeski Stadium for Reading vs Leicester City in the Championship, a division that The Foxes have obviously recently got promoted from so are now looking forward to playing Premier League football.
It finished 1-1 on Monday night, Alex Pearce’s header giving us the lead before Danny Drinkwater’s long range effort to equalise left Alex McCarthy rooted to the spot. So after watching Leicester for 96 minutes, how well can they do when they play in the Premier League in 2014-15, where hopefully The Royals will join them?
Nigel Pearson’s side have come up against top-flight opposition twice in the cup competitions this season. Having lost 3-1 to Manchester City in the Capital One Cup in December, one month later they suffered a 2-1 defeat to Stoke City in the FA Cup, so they will be under no illusions as to the colossal task of adjusting to the intensity of the Premier League.
The first thing that struck me was the pace in the Leicester side, especially on the counter-attack. Striker Jamie Vardy, who has 16 league goals this season particularly caught my eye, having a goal ruled out for offside and scaring the Reading defenders before being brought off with 25 minutes to play.
Wingers Lloyd Dyer and 23 year old Frenchman Riyad Mahrez, who looks a real talent, were also key to the pace in the side, whilst Anthony Knockaert, the winger on the bench has impressed me hugely in the Championship this season and will be key in to their Premier League hopes. He is not as quick as some of his teammates but what he does have is mesmerising trickery and quality on the ball as well as the ability to create a chance out of nothing.
Another stand out player this season has been striker David Nugent, who not only tops the club’s goalscoring charts with 18 strikes but also has the joint most assists in the Championship – 13.
Although he wasn’t the best player on the night at The Madjeski Stadium, you could see he was a key player as he also has a lot of pace and was the man that his teammates looked to give the ball to, as if they knew that he could conjure something up.
It is this counter-attacking, fast moving style that will be vital in games against the big boys as if the defence can succeed in the hard job of keeping the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City at bay, the attackers will punish them on the break.
Talking of defence, Leicester aren’t bad in that department either. Former Manchester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, who made numerous good saves on Monday night anchors the Leicester rear-guard with support from the likes of ex-Liverpool left back Paul Konchesky; players whose comprehensive experience undoubtedly nurtures the outstanding talent of younger stars such as England U21s Liam Moore, who I’m sure will flourish in the Premier League.
Indeed, it goes without saying that promotion will ultimately generate a significant level of income and subsequently instigate a high order of transfer activity as befitting of any team looking to adjust to a higher level of performance, with The Foxes no doubt needing to invest in the summer like any other promoted team. Yet Leicester have a great foundation of young players and more experienced veterans who have shown throughout the entirety of this season that they are capable of playing expressive, commanding, and, most significantly, winning football. Few teams in the Championship withhold the consistency and stability of a Leicester City who almost certainly have the ability to compete should they achieve the promotion they seemingly deserve.
I can’t end without giving a mention to manager Nigel Pearson, who has done a fantastic job at The King Power Stadium. It wasn’t going to be easy picking the players up from play-off heartbreak last season but he has done it remarkably well and I think he will keep the club up next season, it won’t be easy and a relegation battle is inevitable, but Pearson’s tactical knowledge and the team spirit that has been so evident throughout the season and was easy to see on Monday night, will save Leicester from the drop.
Good luck to them in the Premier League next year! Congratulations!