“We’ve come for a draw,” chanted the Leicester City fans. At least they could see the funny side during what was an uninspiring FA Cup third round tie against Fleetwood Town.
The goalless draw means far more to the Cod Army than it does the Premier League side. A replay will earn the League One outfit a small pay day but for Leicester it will be an irritant.
In an already packed fixture list, another match isn’t what the Foxes needed.
Claude Puel heavily rotated his team, understandably after the busy festive period, but if he’d played a full strength side then surely Leicester would’ve won the game and avoided another 90 minutes being added to their schedule?
In all likelihood the answer is yes, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Puel did what he felt was right but it didn’t pay off.
However, he will have learned a lot from the dour 90 minutes and here are the three big questions the game a Highbury raised.
Will Puel Be Given The Signings He Needs?
This was predominantly a second string Leicester side, Puel made eight changes, and it was desperately obvious. Apart from Demerai Gray the Foxes lacked any imagination when they had possession while they were far from secure when Fleetwood attacked.
Yohan Benalouane and Aleksandar Dragovic were the centre-back pairing and while the former defended crosses into the penalty area well – he registered 11 clearances and five interceptions – his passing was poor, completing just 69.2 percent of the 52 he attempted.
Midfielder Andy King was also wasteful with the ball which meant Leicester were rarely able to build attacks through midfield. It all culminated in the Foxes not registering a single shot on target during the game.
The performance was concerning and should only heighten Puel’s desire to bring in signings this month.
Any side without five key players would struggle, but the Leicester have spent big money in the last 18 months so their squad should be stronger and possess more quality than it currently does. The Frenchman will hope to rectify that.
How long will it take for Adrien Silva to get up to speed?
It was never going to be easy for Silva to make an instant impact at Leicester after the ridiculous exile he faced following his summer move from Sporting CP.
No matter how hard he trained over the past five months, nothing could replicate the environment of a competitive game. So it wasn’t surprising to see the Portuguese included in the starting XI against Fleetwood.
However, with hindsight, it may have been a mistake from Puel to hand the midfielder his full debut against the League One side. Yes, he worked hard but the pitch at Fleetwood was never going to be conducive to Silva’s talents.
He is a player who possesses excellent technique but on a dry and bumpy pitch, Silva, who started the Euro 2016 final for Portugal, wasn’t able to dictate the game.
He had the second fewest touches of any Leicester player who started the match (29) and also managed the second fewest passes (21).
He was brought off after 56 minutes and that game time will undoubtedly serve him well going forward. But it may be wise for Puel to integrate Silva slowly in the coming weeks, even if 28-year-old is determined to make up for lost time.
Time for Leicester to finally cut Slimani losses?
Puel this week admitted he is finding it difficult to keep all the strikers in his squad happy. When fit Vardy is first-choice, that much is certain, which leaves Shinji Okazaki, Kelechi Iheanacho, Islam Slimani, Leonardo Ulloa and Ahmed Musa battling for one spot.
“We cannot give them all game time they want,” Puel accepted. “It is important to have a better balance in the squad with different players in different positions in the team.”
Ulloa and Musa are likely to depart this month, with clubs in the Championship and Premier League linked. And, on the basis of his performance against Fleetwood, Slimani should also be moved on.
The Algerian hasn’t come close to living up to the £30million Leicester paid Sporting CP 18 months ago. Slimani has scored just 13 goals in 46 appearances the for club and has started just six games this season.
His most recent goal for the Foxes came on New Year’s Day in the win over Huddersfield Town, a match in which he was included in the starting XI. That day the 29-year-old impressed so it was understandable he was given another chance against Fleetwood.
But his display at Highbury was at best ineffective and at worst disinterested. He played 79 minutes in which he had the fewest touches of any Leicester player that started the game (26) and failed to register a shot on target.
When he was replaced by Iheanacho there were ironic cheers for the travelling Foxes support – it summed up Slimani’s afternoon even if the service up to him was poor.
According to reports, Beşiktaş want the sign the striker this month to replace Cenk Tosun, who has joined Everton.
The Turkish club are unlikely to offer close to the £30million Leicester paid but at this point it may make sense for the Foxes to cut their losses and end Slimani’s disappointing spell with the club.