The mood coming out of that game couldn’t have more different to the Manchester United win. In fact that already feels so long ago. Since the Burnley draw the Foxes have been on a two game losing streak and there was a real sense that this was the perfect opportunity to get back to winning ways and move back up the table. It wasn’t going to be an easy match for us with West Brom doing better than expected and Saido Berahino in great form. Nonetheless it felt like a must win game so it couldn’t have been more disappointing when the final whistle was blown.
Wasilewski replaced Moore at the back, and Nigel Pearson opted for a narrow 4-4-2 with four central midfielders in the middle, a formation untested and unexpected. Matty James, Andy King and Esteban Cambiasso came in for Hammond, Mahrez and Ulloa, with Vardy and Nugent the two strikers. It was a surprising team selection when I first saw it as a real strength last season was our great wideplay from the wingers, so to play narrowly and crowd the middle immediately felt an odd decision. Equally, to play Nugent again instead of our top scorer Ulloa seemed strange and I’d have liked to have seen De Laet dropped in favour of Danny Simpson who is yet to make his home debut.
It was a bright start but as the weather dulled so did the football. Despite the new formation, the Leicester players started well enough, showing some tidy quick passes around the midfield, but this was really the issue for the game. There was plenty of possession for the Foxes but it was reliant on the two full backs De Laet and Konchesky to provide the width, and neither of the two looked threatening with attacking intent when they received the ball, often just passing the ball straight back into the middle.
West Brom on the other hand were much more direct throughout the game, with fast counter attacking football that appeared to create more problems than our possession based play. Based on meaningful chances however, I think it was a very equally matched encounter. The Baggies defence combination of Craig Dawson and England international Joleon Lescott, who both had really impressive games, repeatedly frustrating the Leicester front-line with a well drilled offside trap, as well as dealing with crosses into the box with ease.
It took a freak own goal just after half time from the unfortunate Cambiasso who couldn’t avoid captain Wes Morgan’s strange decision to head the ball back into the danger area with little pressure on him. To concede this poorly was sickening, especially how reliable Morgan has been all season up to now. From then on West Brom dropped even deeper and it became increasingly apparent Pearson needed to change things up. It was on 68 minutes that the first change was finally introduced with Ulloa coming on for Nugent who put in his usual high work rate but had repeatedly been caught on the ball and lost possession too easily.
With little impact from Ulloa, and still no meaningful chances – with numerous corners wasted, an area I think really needs work on – the formation was changed to a 4-3-1-2 when Nick Powell came on for Drinkwater and Chris Wood came on for Vardy at 81 minutes. I was excited to see Powell in action as his chances have been limited until now. He did look lively and carried the ball with purpose, I hope to see a lot more of him. With two big men up front now we began to simply launch the ball into the West Brom box in desperate search of the equalizer but it never came. A 1-0 home defeat.
It’s hard to draw any positives from such a disappointing game, our home unbeaten record was finally over and while QPR and Burnley lost to keep us hovering above the relegation zone, a Sunderland win on Monday will take us down a spot. I have to be critical of Pearson for his team selection which is hard to say after he did after all get us promoted. It is early days so I won’t rip up my season ticket just yet and I was relieved to hear not a single “boo” after the final whistle as we didn’t deserve to lose. It would have been justice if we’d snatched a point at the end just like Burnley kindly pulled off last home game but it wasn’t to be.