Five Thoughts: Leicester City 3-1 Fulham

Cameron Ramsey 10th March 2019

Fulham’s late capitulation at the King Power Stadium completely summarises our abysmal return to the Premier League. It really doesn’t matter who’s in charge, the Cottagers simply don’t have what it takes to compete and thrive in the planet’s most cutthroat division on a weekly basis. There were glimmers of sanguine in brief spells against Leicester City, but the Foxes stalked the Whites throughout and pounced without mercy.

A blustery afternoon didn’t quell the following faithful’s incredible support, though. We weren’t granted a full allocation, but we undoubtedly let Leicester know we were there. Even through half-time, our voices could be heard from the concourse. Grabbing points outside of Craven Cottage is not our forte, but when it comes to animated fanaticism, the Whites are honestly blessed.

So, Fulham haven’t claimed a victory in any away fixture this term and our dismal record lingers on. Nothing’s changed, as you were, but as clubs around us at the foot of the table are miraculously picking up vital points to compound our plight, Scott Parker’s adopted camp are now 13 points adrift. That mountain’s suddenly gotten a lot steeper, hasn’t it?

Selecting Self-Destruct Mode

Our demise at the KP was a direct result of our own disastrous conception. Having wrenched our way back into the encounter, the Whites rallied as a unit and hounded the Foxes after our equaliser, but the visitors’ remedial sense of urgency and necessity was desperately short lived. Inadequacies blemished sequences within the midfield department and our defensive quarters and we ruefully paid the price. Self-destruction in its ugliest form.

All of Leicester’s goals were presented to them on a silver platter. In the 21st minute, Wilfred Ndidi robbed Calum Chambers and charged towards the penalty area. The Frenchman slipped Jamie Vardy into the danger zone and the 32-year-old rolled Youri Tielemans into a prime position to break the deadlock. The Whites were exceedingly casual in possession and Rodgers’ high-press unmasked our lackadaisical tendencies.

Leicester’s second of the meeting – Jamie Vardy’s 100th for the club – is a perfect example of how you should not distribute the ball at the back. A rogue pass from Havard Nordtveit was hijacked by James Maddison and the 22-year-old intricately sent Vardy on his way. Bread and butter execution. Vardy registered his brace in the 86th minute; Harvey Barnes picked Denis Odoi’s pocket and duly located the clinical hitman. Unmarked in the 18-yard box, Vardy systematically stroked the ball past a flailing Sergio Rico to ensure that the spoils remained in the East Midlands.

Hot & Cold Harvard

A relatively lukewarm performance from one of our January signings, Havard Nordtveit, is undoubtedly worth scrutinising. Alongside Tim Ream, the Norwegian centre-half fittingly safeguarded the heart of our back four in fleeting patches, but overall the TSG 1899 Hoffenheim loanee toiled in Leicester’s shadow.

Nordtveit appears to be an assured operator with the ball and is visibly comfortable in congested zones, but the 28-year-old’s end product ultimately hindered our progress in proceedings. In the opening stages on the border of the 18-yard area, Nordtveit intercepted diligently to deny Vardy in the 19th minute and patrolled his department resolutely, but as the game rumbled on, deficiencies began to taint the Nordic defender’s conduct.

Physically outfought, rattled, Nordveit’s composure deteriorated. Heavy touches and misplaced passes decimated momentum and Leicester’s second, of course, arose from the Arsenal youth product’s apathetic compulsions. Nordtveit gifted the Foxes a window to slither through, and to a typically lethal  standard, the home side basked on his erratic disservice to gain advantage. Nordtveit has deputised valiantly in the spine of our set-up since his mid-season arrival, but his primary position has always been disputed. Saturday’s depraved outing signifies a catalogue of doubts and apprehensions regarding his underlying ability, suspicions that have previously been expressed by those that have monitored his development over the course of his career.

Floyd Ayite’s Application

For a player that’s dangled on the fringes of the matchday fold for the majority of the current campaign, Floyd Ayite reaffirmed his credentials to both Parker and Fulham’s travelling support on Saturday afternoon. Entering the fray for Ryan Sessegnon at the interval, the Togo international clenched his responsibilities by the scruff and injected the Whites’ right wing with enthusiasm, vitality and intent.

Evading Ben Chilwell on the parameter of the turf, Ayite surged goal bound. Dipping his shoulder, the 30-year-old jinked into the penalty area and sauntered across the target. Chilwell and Harry Maguire failed to stunt the advancing attacker and with the net in his crosshairs, Ayite grasped the opportunity to unleash. Ayite’s miscued strike trickled over the line, and though Kasper Schmeichel pawed at the ball in a moment of frenzied distress, parity was gloriously restored as the travelling faithful lifted the roof.

Ayite explored the length of the pitch with a driven, attentive mien and his inclusion bolstered the Whites’ prosperity on the counter. Observant with the ball at his feet, the overlooked attacker contributed to Fulham’s patterns of play sufficiently and was tireless out of possession whilst tailing the Foxes. Every member of the fold must invest all that they have into our final fixtures. The inevitable prospect of relegation’s leering and perhaps we haven’t seen the best of Ayite in the Premier League, but when we required a reaction in the second-half, the diminutive flanker’s refreshing escapades were the perfect tonic to our dejected pleads.

Fatigued, Flawed Attack

It’s a recurring issue but our attackers, particularly Aleksandar Mitrovic, were isolated in the final third, and whilst the Serbia international grappled to retain possession as a lone striker, Fulham couldn’t support his hardened enterprise. Threatening phases were at a sparse premium and over the duration of the encounter, the Whites only managed to muster a meagre total of 6 shots, compared to Leicester’s 18.

Leicester were a superior force in virtually every respect and their stranglehold on the match stifled the Whites impetus. Counter attacks could have been frequently appropriated, but those in possession and those in assistance laboured out of the depths of their own half. Fulham were reluctant to seize the initiative and Rodgers’ defensive components were subsequently able to contain and restrain the Cottagers’ arduous progression.

Other than Ayite’s equaliser and Mitro’s 68th-minute header, there was very little to be inspired about. We all know of the deadly prowess that Mitro’ brandishes in the penalty area, both aerially and on the deck, but we rarely ventured into idealistic zones where we could locate his supreme offensive attributes. Fulham were passive, flat and ponderous whilst straining to dissect the opposition’s robust shape, and if we’re to gracefully plummet from the top-flight, we have to be brave, resourceful and ruthless in front of the goal mouth in the encounters that lay ahead.

Bestowing Bryan’s Brilliance

Pitted against Ricardo Pereira, Demarai Gray and a free-roaming Vardy, Joe Bryan certainly had his day’s work cut out before kick-off, although the 26-year-old left-back was arguably our man of the match. Determined to compete on an even keel with his opposite numbers, Bryan surged along the left touchline swiftly and effectively, both offensively and defensively.

Last-ditch blocks relieved pressure and spared Fulham from further bloodshed. Vardy could have doubled Leicester’s lead before the interval and a goal seemed the only plausible outcome, but as the Foxes’ trusted marksman readied his right boot for action, Bryan plunged into Vardy’s path to disarm the striker before he could detonate. That is the commitment we need during this never ending slog.

Aiding Ryan Babel in advanced quadrants, Bryan was willing to administer the ball effectively, and with the score line trapped at 1-1, the fullback could have issued Mitrovic a match-winning chance. in the 68th minute, Bryan propelled a tantalising cross into Mitro’s domain. Rising above Leicester’s rearguard, the former Newcastle United man glances across goal but Schmeichel, frantically shuffling across his 6-yard box, somehow flicked the destined header wide for a corner. In truth, Bryan’s final product this season has been fairly beneficial, so if he’s inclined to dart from box to box, he has to be the man to load the penalty area with ammunition if an opportunity surfaces.