Makeshift Leicester Team Get West Brom Job Done With Minimum Fuss

At first glance, there does not seem to be a great deal to discuss about Leicester's straightforward 3-0 win over West Bromwich Albion on Sunday afternoon.

The Foxes finished fifth in the Premier League last season, count the Golden Boot winner among their ranks and the Baggies are being widely tipped to get relegated.

There is, however, more here than meets the eye. Firstly, this was only the Foxes' third Premier League win since the shutdown in March. This run saw them fail to beat struggling Watford, Brighton and Bournemouth towards the back end of last season, so getting over the line against Slaven Bilic's likely strugglers will be a relief.

Secondly, the Foxes managed to secure this victory in the midst of a defensive crisis.

During Leicester's last Premier League game - a 2-0 defeat to Manchester United - Brendan Rodgers opted to field a back three. Against West Brom, the Northern Irishman did not even have three fully fit centre backs in his squad.

Injuries, suspensions and some short-sighted recruitment all played a role in the crisis that led to Wilfred Ndidi playing his fifth ever career game in the heart of defence. Ndidi's shock career change facilitated an even more unexpected selection - Papy Mendy in defensive midfield.

Mendy's recent Foxes career provides a textbook example of how the coronavirus crisis has affected top level football. Though it often does not seem like it, the vast majority of Premier League clubs have not been immune to the economic effects of the shutdown.

Prior to the crisis, Mendy was set to depart the King Power Stadium. However, after club and player both tested the market, the Frenchman ended up penning a new deal and made his first start since June against the Baggies.

Fellow fringe players James Justin, Dennis Praet and new signing Timothy Castagne were also afforded starts in a hodgepodge starting XI.

Despite the alterations, Leicester controlled the game well and, more importantly, secured a vital three points. The sort of pitiful collapse that haunted the Foxes last campaign never appeared close with a string of unlikely heroes all playing their role.

Early on, West Brom enjoyed some joy going forward, slipping behind the visitors' makeshift back four on several occasions. Midway through the first half, Rodgers' side tightened things considerably with both Ndidi and the excellent Caglar Soyuncu enjoying straightforward afternoons.

Credit for this has to go to Mendy. Look up "neat and tidy midfielder" in the Oxford English Dictionary and you are bound to find a picture of the diminutive Frenchman. Not only did the 28-year-old circulate possession excellently, he also showed an aggressive side that was sometimes lacking during his previous run in the team under Claude Puel.

Mendy dictated the pace of the game and the decision to hurriedly extend his contract appears to be a very intelligent piece of business.

Leicester's defensive solidity was complemented by a component attacking display. New signing Castagne zipped up and down the right-hand side like a excitable toddler, high on e-number. The Belgian also finished well for the game's opening goal, arriving late at the back post and looping Dennis Praet's cross over a flailing Sam Johnstone.

It was also pleasing to see Justin with the defensive shackles off. The former Luton Town man joined the Foxes with a fearsome reputation for bombing forward and the hype is finally starting to make sense after a conservative start last season.

Harvey Barnes continued to cement his reputation as the most infuriating player in the Premier League, with a flurry of missed chances overshadowing several jaw-dropping pieces of wing play. Jamie Vardy, meanwhile, did Jamie Vardy things as Jamie Vardy often does. His spot kick brace was just reward, after he was starved of service for most of the first half.

Leicester will face much tougher tests than this one during their ridiculously congested season. However, after a summer of worry, there was something refreshing about seeing a makeshift Foxes XI get the job done with minimal fuss - and look extremely suave in the process thanks to their beautiful burgundy away strip.

They should probably still sign another centre back though.

Source : 90min