EPL CHAMPIONS LEICESTER CITY DESTROY MANCHESTER CITY AT KING POWER STADIUM 4-2
Almost as few people would have seen this result coming as those who predicted Leicester City winning the title last season.
The champions served up the sort of master class performance that saw them become the toast of the EPL LAST SEASON.They simply ripped Manchester City apart in the first half, Jamie Vardy and Andy King making it 2-0 after five minutes before Vardy skipped through the non-existent City defence to make it three after half-an-hour, and four in the second half.
City, who stay four points behind leaders Arsenal, made the scoreline more respectable through an Aleksandr Kolarov free-kick and a late Nolito finish.
Just 18 minutes was showing on the clock and the possession statistics flashed up on the screen. For Pep Guardiola, it was mission accomplished. Manchester City were utterly dominant, with 71 per cent of the ball.
But before Guardiola even had time to relish that small victory, a long ball was played and Riyad Mahrez delivered just the most-exquisite one-touch pass into the path of Jamie Vardy, who raced forward, feinted, and eased passed Claudio Bravo. It was 3-0 and 20 minutes had gone.
Guardiola says he has to adapt to the English game but on Saturday he seemed as ill at ease as can be imagined. Dressed in his grey polo neck, with his Converse pumps and skinny jeans, he looked a man completely out of step with the culture, as though he has never even considered the sartorial elegance of an Umbro anorak emblazoned with the letters PG. And four wins in 15 games suggests more assimilation is required.
Never was the chasm between Guardiola and the English game more evident than in the post-match analysis. It was pointed out that Manchester City hadn’t won a tackle in the first 35 minutes.
Guardiola puffed out his cheeks and preached the gospel with the fervour of a zealot. ‘I’m not a coach for the tackles,’ he said. ‘So, I don’t train the tackles. What I want is try to play good, score goals. What’s is the tackle? Yes, the duels, you have to win the duels, that’s true. But normally when you play good, you win a lot of tackles. Yeah, it’s another aspect of the football, but in the end, we are not going to win or lose because of the tackles.’
Like a pioneering missionary on foreign shores, undaunted by the local customs, he sticks to his script.
‘I feel what I feel,’ he said. ‘Of course in the Premier League there are some special things. But the pitch is the same, 11 against 11. I have to control the difference between other leagues, but idea in which I believe I think is good; it will be good.’
Maybe it will. But right now, it’s bad; and on Saturday was as bad as it has been for City. For all their possession, City had zero impact on the game in the first half.
‘They controlled the ball but we controlled the game,’ said Claudio Ranieri.
In the first half, City been run so ragged and looked so ill at ease with the manner in which they had been asked to play, that they resembled one of those primary school teams on which you take pity when the bigger boys play them off the park.
Now Leicester City are the Premier League champions, so, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that they can produce moments of outstanding quality. Nevertheless, this is also the team which surrendered to Sunderland last weekend, whose reserves were humiliated in Porto and who have one win in eight games before this match.
Vardy hadn’t scored in 16 games for Leicester and Mahrez was an artist with creative block. Yet against City, Vardy was fearless, unstoppable and a proper pest again. He scored a hat-trick and it looked as though everything he struck would inevitably end up goal bound.
Then there was Mahrez, who looked easily the most-gifted player on show. That touch for Vardy for the third goal?
‘Oh,’ gasped Ranieri. ‘Unbelievable! Only he can do this. Other players, stop the ball and lose the momentum but he can play one touch. When he wants, he can play.’
It wasn’t just Mahrez and Vardy; Islam Slimani, Andy King, Robert Huth were all excellent. But the team, as it had been last season, was again the star.
‘It was special because we wanted to give something different to our fans,’ said Ranieri. ‘Because we haven’t played well so far. We spoke a lot after Porto and we reacted very well. It was important to make this kind of performance. It was fantastic to see.’
It is, of course, a caricature to suggest that Guardiola only cares about possession; this is a man who has won 21 trophies in seven seasons of management.
And it isn’t just the style which is at fault; the personnel at City are far below the standard he had previously worked with at Bayern and Barca.
Bacary Sagna is no Philipp Lahm; Fernando no Javier Mascherano; Jesus Navas no Arjen Robben. And that’s before we get on to Lionel Messi, Xavi or Thomas Muller and Manuel Neuer.
But it is partly the style, the gaps in midfield were an open invitation to Mahrez to produce his best performance of the season.
As for the instruction to play out from the back: it is a system which might have constructed specifically for Vardy to exploit.
Poor John Stones. At times he looked like the last man standing at Rorke’s Drift, yet wholly unable to stem the advance.
Asked to defend on his own, alongside full backs who left him exposed, he was ultimately embarrassed, his back pass for Vardy’s hat-trick completing a dreadful afternoon
Leicester were magnificent but as Anglo-Saxon as it comes in terms of style. Less than three minutes were on the clock when Robert Huth simply headed back a City goal kick; Mahrez touched it on delightfully for Slimani, who in turn played in Vardy.
He raced between the static Stones and Alex Kolarov and just powered the ball past Bravo.
Two more minutes passed and Leicester launched a long throw. Huth flicked it on to Slimani, who held it up and played it to Andy King.
Amidst a match of glorious moments, his finish perhaps topped them, powerfully struck and bending away from Bravo. Slimani volleyed over for close range and Vardy almost robbed Bravo before the third goal on 20 minutes. After it, Mahrez had a shot being pushed away by Bravo and Slimani should have headed in on half-time.
Of course, City responded. Kevin de Bruyne went close on 50 minutes and Pablo Zabaleta had a strike deflected just wide on 62 minutes.
As it was, Stones sealed their fate on 78 minutes, attempting to find Bravo. But Vardy anticipated, stole the ball and from the narrowest angle squeezed it in to complete a hat-trick, despite Sagna’s efforts to clear.
Four minutes late Alex Korlarov scored a fine free kick to mitigate City’s humiliation. It was their first shot on target. Nolito would make the score-line look a little less harsh, turning in Kolarov’s cross on 90 minutes.
But it was cosmetic; it couldn’t disguise the ugliness of the performance.
City will have to pick themselves up from this..they face Arsenal next sunday…That will be a lot tougher than this.