On the Cusp (FIFA 2000 #13)

Transfers:

Muzzy Izzet                 Tottenham       £7.5m

Ian Marshall                Tottenham       £1.2m

Robbie Savage           Juventus         P/ex

Gerry Taggart             Wolves            £500,000

 

Edgar Davids              Juventus         £15m + P/ex

Christian Panucci        Inter                 £8m

Edwin van der Sar      Juventus         £2m

So we were out of the hunt again and it forced a slight change of system. I had documented previously that we had played a combination of 5-3-2/3-5-2/2-3-5 at times but we were becoming more rigid. Edgar Davids came in, part exchange for Robbie Savage who complained of poor game time. Davids would relieve Recoba in the starting eleven and allowed for a more natural three-piece attacking midfield of Gerrard, Totti and Nedved whilst Davids would put out fires behind them. Carlos and new signing Christian Panucci would act more as midfielders.

Davids would have a large defensive responsibility down the left, Carlos allowed to bomb down the wing whilst Panucci was more rigid to his midfield and defensive responsibilities. We replaced Van Der Sar with Paul Robinson in net, our defensive record wasn’t the best.

Last season there was some doubts over Alessandro Nesta as a marauding box-to-box sweeper, Rio Ferdinand has come on in leaps and bounds – possible successor in the Beckenbauer role.

August 2001:

PL        Leicester 0-0 Aston Villa

PL        Leeds 2-2 Leicester                            Henry, Totti

CL       Rijeka 0-0 Leicester

PL        Leicester 1-0 Bradford                        Henry

PL        Man Utd 0-3 Leicester                        Ferdinand, Nesta, Henry

PL        Leicester 1-1 Chelsea                         Henry

CL       Leicester 1-0 Rijeka                            Recoba

PL        West Ham 2-3 Leicester                     Henry 3

7th       3pts behind leaders Liverpool

There were teething problems to the new system. The more offensive midfielders were occupying each other’s spaces and the only one that got his own room, Francesco Totti was wasteful against Aston Villa. He found the net at Elland Road but Alessandro Nesta went wandering too much, owing to Leeds’ two goals. We scraped through the Champions League qualifier in Croatia without much damage for the second leg and some Thierry Henry inspiration helped us at home to Bradford.

Changes were made for the journey to Old Trafford. Rio moved into the Beckenbauer role with Nesta alongside Cannavaro as more of a stopper. We blew them out of the water. We’d tweaked the midfield and defence and rolled the dice and it worked. But, as always, it takes time for a tactic’s fluidity. Come September we will be on fire.

 

September 2001:

PL        Derby 0-2 Leicester                            Totti, Gerrard

CL       Leicester 3-1 Kavala                           Henry 2, Davids

PL        Leicester 3-2 Tottenham                     Henry, Gerrard, Nesta

CL       Bayern 0-0 Leicester

PL        Middlesbrough 2-2 Leicester              Henry 2

CL       Dinamo Kiev 3-4 Leicester                 Henry 2, Totti 2

3rd       4pts behind leaders Arsenal

Leicester 7, Bayern 7, Dinamo Kiev 3, Kavala 0

One tireless man wearing goggles helped us achieve something great and at £15 million, Edgar Davids has been a bargain buy for my liking. We’ve lapsed back into a ‘score one more than you’ mentality, that was seen especially at home to Tottenham in the league and in Ukraine in a 7-goal thriller. I have to say that Davids’ stamina is something to be praised. A heat map that would cover the entire pitch, and four man of the match awards out of six matches speaks for itself.

 

October 2001:

PL        Leicester 1-0 Sheff Wed                     Henry

LC       Leicester 0-1 Liverpool

PL        Nottingham Forest 1-2 Leicester        Henry 2

CL       Kavala 0-1 Leicester                           Gerrard

PL        Leicester 2-1 Newcastle                     Henry 2

CL       Leicester 0-0 Bayern

PL        Sunderland 1-2 Leicester                    Henry, Nedved

2nd      Arsenal 32, Leicester 31, Man Utd 28, Chelsea 27, Everton 24, West Ham 23

Leicester 11, Bayern 9, Dinamo Kiev 7, Kavala 0

The only shame about our clean sheets and defensive tightness is that we haven’t been as fluid attacking as I’d like. For the neutrals, they’d obviously prefer our results from September but October for me was more productive. We qualified for the next stage in Europe and jumped up to second in the Premiership. Our midfield would swamp opposition’s, given there were usually always six blue shirts in there, we would struggle to be as effective up top. Thierry dragged us through a lot of sticky situations, improving us by ten points with goals alone.

 

November 2001:

CL       Leicester 0-1 Dinamo Kiev

PL        Leicester 0-0 Liverpool

PL        Birmingham 1-2 Leicester                  Henry, Carlos

CL       Leicester 0-1 Bayern

PL        Leicester 0-0 Charlton

2nd      Arsenal 39, Leicester 36, West Ham 32, Man Utd 32, Chelsea 31, Liverpool 30

Bayern 3, Man Utd 3, Leicester 0, Valladolid

We remain undefeated in the Premier League but lost both games in Europe as we followed Bayern into another group stage with them. We scored in just one game in November and have yet to score in three outings against Bayern, two 0-0 draws and a late winner from Elber at Filbert Street this month. We become too withdrawn, as we were this month yet lack a cutting edge. We are a potent attacking threat coming from the bench away from destroying this league.

 

December 2001:

PL        Everton 0-0 Leicester

CL       Leicester 1-1 Valladolid                       Henry

PL        Leicester 4-0 Wimbledon                    Henry, Panucci, Totti, Carlos

PL        Arsenal 0-0 Leicester

PL        Aston Villa 0-0 Leicester

3rd       Arsenal 44, Man Utd 44, Leicester 42, Chelsea 40, Liverpool 39, West Ham 38

 

We were toothless in Europe, again and the potency didn’t return to our game until a thundering 4-goal win at home to Wimbledon. That reckless abandon was there, there was no withdrawing into our own half, into our shell. The goalless draw at Goodison Park had put us top, it wasn’t a great performance but we were now top. It gave us confidence. As did another goalless draw at Highbury so by Boxing Day we were still unbeaten having played every team there was to play. One half of the season down, one to go. But by New Year’s Day we were back into third place. One draw too many, like 2000-01.

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