Individual errors, ruthlessly and gratefully punished by an under pressure and often under par Leicester side consigned Town to yet another defeat and the very real possibility of being overwhelmed by their lack of potency up front.
It was, perhaps, significant that the first two catastrophic errors were committed by 2 players new to the team – Durm, on an otherwise solid debut, and the raw Diakhaby made basic mistakes which doomed the game management which has gained so many points under Wagner.
In stark contrast to the insipid display at the same venue on New Year’s Day, Town took the game to their opponents from the off and were ahead within 5 minutes as the impressive Billing’s long throw in to the heart of the home defence caused enough confusion to allow Zanka to sweep in for a crucial lead.
A decent first half performance was ruined, however, when Town conceded a soft equaliser from their own corner. With men committed upfield, first Mooy and then, fatally, Durm, failed to deal with possession. The Australian couldn’t control a bouncing ball effectively but the threat of a breakaway was non existent when it broke to his German colleague. His attempt to sidestep a potential, rather than actual, challenge disastrously fell to a Leicester player who slipped to a team mate with a panorama of fast breaking options in front of him and defenders caught flat footed. Wisely, he chose Vardy whose first touch played Iheanacho in for a simple finish past Lössl.
To their credit, Town didn’t crumble with the setback though a careless tackle by Zanka gave Maddison the opportunity to craft an opening for Vardy from the free kick which the Yorkshireman snatched at and put wide.
For all their intent, the visitors’ attempts on goal were weak and speculative but, overall, they comfortably matched their hosts in an encouraging first half ruined by a single mistake, ruthlessly exploited.
Stout defending in the early part of the second half kept a visibly roused Leicester at bay, though a misplaced Mooy pass allowed Chilwell to release Vardy’s electric pace behind Town’s defence culminating in an easy save by Lössl.
The turning point came just after the hour mark. Van La Parra did well on the left, cutting inside and releasing a perfect ball in front of Depoitre who, inexplicably, failed to shoot before the ball was taken off his toes by the recovering Maguire (the same player he had memorably beasted in the home game last season).
The inability to take such an opportunity – Depoitre was also guilty of heading straight at Schmeichel later in the game – was hugely costly. Up to this point, Leicester had been largely unimpressive and receiving little support from a very quiet crowd; a second setback could’ve undermined them, allowing Town to take advantage of the discontent.
Instead, a naive foul on the edge of the area following poor control by Diakhaby sealed Town’s fate. The impressive Maddison evaded the top of the wall – why Billing wasn’t in the middle of it rather than at the edge may be something to consider – and his ferocious effort flew past Lössl who had little chance of stopping it, despite post match claims.
Deflated, the visitors became easy pickings for the revitalised home side and, yet again, moments had fallen badly for the strugglers. Van La Parra gave the ball away cheaply just inside the Leicester half, allowing Iheanacho to return a favour to the lightning fast Vardy, playing the ball perfectly behind Zanka for the now ex England striker to lift the ball over the exposed Lössl.
There was still time for Depoitre’s header in to Schmeichel’s grateful arms but the last 20 minutes were comfortable for the former Premier League Champions who must have been relieved that they had been let off an uncomfortable hook with Depoitre’s spurned opportunity.
Things are now looking bleak for Town. Even reasonably competent performances – and for an hour, one mistake aside, this was one – bring no reward and pressure builds on the obvious vulnerabilities of a team which finds it ever so difficult to score.
However, just as people drown because they panic rather an inability to swim, Town’s management have been adept at finding solutions in the past and cool heads are needed.
Wagner has been mocked for his comment about this squad being better than any he has had at Town, but he is right. Despite the ultimately disappointing result, his team were infinitely more effective than they were nearly 9 months ago even if it wasn’t good enough to gain a point.
Worryingly, however, the team still looks like a work in progress with little impact being felt by the genuinely new signings who have yet to integrate. Durm, error aside, looks promising on this showing but Diakhaby needs a lot of time and work, leaving us reliant on Kachunga who, sadly, is out of his depth.
Other results – including a worryingly emphatic home win for Burnley who represent the only realistic chance for points before the next international break – left Town rock bottom if not quite at crisis point yet. This will be reached if the chronic goal scoring problem shows no sign of resolution, and soon.
Billing remains the brightest positive of a difficult start to the season – comfortably Town’s best player, it is difficult to recall a single error in his game and he is a reminder that patience with talent is a virtue. There is more to come too; as his confidence grows with experience, he may be the player who adds the unexpected for a team which can be robotic and over drilled.
But it remains the fact that we are in a bad place right now, and it would be a brave man to predict anything but relegation on the evidence so far.