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Aston Villa vs Leicester | Give the Foxes a break... at your peril

Raf Diallo
Raf Diallo

16:59 9 Dec 2019

Switching on Aston Villa vs Leicester on Sunday, the main point of pre-match interest was how their playmakers Jack Grealish and James Maddison would fare. 

Both players with Irish roots have been central characters for their clubs this Premier League campaign.

The Villa player would nominally start from the left side, while his Leicester counterpart would play behind the Foxes front two with leeway to go wide.

However, very quickly it became clear that watching the way Brendan Rodgers' side counter-attack would take precedence over those two individuals.

The way Leicester play isn't exactly like their surprise title-winning side of three years ago. That team was more one-dimensional - and that is meant in the most complimentary way as their style was so effective.

However, a couple of things remain the same. Jamie Vardy is still in situ as the fast-breaking and ruthless spearhead. And they're still lethal on the break.

All that was in evidence as they thrashed Villa 4-1 away from home.

Slight Throw-Back

In a slight throw-back to the 2015-16 edition, Vardy had a foil in the shape of Nigeria striker Kelechi Iheanacho. The former Manchester City attacker had excelled as a late substitute against Everton the previous weekend.

His reward this Sunday was a starting role. He took on the role that Shinji Okazaki filled in the title-winning season. The Japan international used to drop deep and fill in between the lines, allowing Vardy to do what he does best in sitting on defender's shoulders and waiting for his chance to pounce.

Iheanacho did that to great effect against Villa. Take the first goal for example. Leicester won the ball back as they would time and again in their own half. Iheanacho received the ball on the half-turn just past the half-way line.

Fortunately for him, Aston Villa's key defender Tyrone Mings was not running freely, having pulled up with a muscular problem minutes earlier. A ball between the centre-backs found Vardy and he eventually finished it off.

Transition

The thing about Vardy is you know how he likes to play. But it's a sign of a great player and system that even when you come pre-warned, it's still tough to stop. The acres of space that Villa knew would prove lethal still opened up in the channels and in behind. As Arsenal found to their cost against Norwich, being disorganised in defensive transition can be dangerous when you lose possession in the opposition half.

He could have had a hat-trick before the half-time whistle, too. On 37 minutes, Iheanacho fed Maddison who, in turn, looked to play Vardy through into space. On that occasion, a timely intercept just about snuffed out the danger. He almost scored on another occasion, after breaking through beyond the defensive line. But the goalkeeper intervened.

The former England international is also unselfish. In the 31st minute, Dennis Praet played him down the right channel and he would have had an assist for Iheanacho but for a sliding block from a defender to cut out the cross.

On 67 minutes, his pull-back for Maddison saw the latter fire wide from a central position. But with Leicester 3-1 up, Villa would have to press higher and that was the only invitation Vardy needed to score his second.

It had come when Villa had a corner in the Foxes' half. But a coupled of bungled clearances later and Praet had a simple looped ball over the top for the Cheetah-like space invader Vardy to race onto and then show composure to score.

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Aston Villa Jack Grealish James Maddison Jamie Vardy Leicester Off The Ball Premier League

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