A whole lot of effort - for nothing.

Published: Tuesday, 01 November 2022

They were brilliantly marshalled. The game plan couldn’t have been more perfectly executed. They were disciplined. There literally was nowhere for City to run. They’d obviously worked on everything they did - for hours on the training ground - leading up to the game. And it worked. They denied Erling Haaland space to run into and stopped City from scoring in open play. Well done lads. Well done.

Of course there was one unexpected surprise. Haaland wasn’t there. He didn’t play. So he was never going to score anyway. De Bruyne did. He broke the tedium with a genius of a free-kick and City didn’t need to do anything else to win the game. That was it. All over. Leicester got absolutely nothing out of the day and their supporters went home probably wondering why they’d bothered to buy a ticket. My goodness it was a tough watch.

I’d have had a little more sympathy for Brendan Rodgers and his team if they’d been playing at The Etihad. But they were at home. And didn’t they notice that Haaland’s name wasn’t on City’s team sheet when it was handed in?

They looked scared stiff. But why? They’re a PL team - not a National League side. They’ve got good players. They won the FA Cup with a lot of them the season before last. They’ve been champions of the PL and the recent form had been good.

Pep Guardiola was right to ask James Maddison ‘why didn’t you play like the last 15 minutes the whole game?’ In revealing the content of their post match chat my guess is that Maddison was pretty pissed off that the game had passed and Leicester had been so passive. And I’ll bet he wasn’t the only one. What was the point of Jamie Vardy being on the pitch?

Look. I get it. You don’t set up to play City leaving huge gaps for them to exploit. You don’t want to take a good hiding and we all know that if they’re in the mood that’s often the case. But come on. What we saw at Leicester Saturday morning bordered on a disgrace. Their fans let them know it every time they ventured to the half way line - before turning back and retreating into their shell. Football is supposed to be an entertainment business.

I like Rodgers. He’s a good coach and I know very well what the plan was - stifle Haaland and maybe nick something later in the game if they were still in it. But Haaland wasn’t there. Are they so inflexible that they couldn’t change the game plan an hour before the match?

And they were at home - playing in front of their own supporters, who pay good money to be entertained. Fans don’t want to watch a brilliantly executed chess match that ends as this one did. Why not have a go? City hate that. They want things all their own way and Leicester gift wrapped the easiest 90 minutes they could’ve had. It was embarrassing - as well as dull.

Why not change at half time - why not have a go - without being reckless? I say again - Rodgers is a good coach so why didn’t he change it? It was terrible. If that’s the future we’ll kill the game. I’m glad Leicester got done.

Top marks to Leeds, who went to Anfield with a bit of devil in them and got their reward. In the position they were in you’d have forgiven them for doing a ‘Leicester’ on Liverpool - but not a bit of it. They proved that if you rattle the cages of the big boys you can unsettle them.

Brighton did it to Chelsea - who we discussed last week. They’ve been getting results, but what happened at the Amex has been coming. It’ll be fascinating to see how Potter reacts - and how long it takes now for that dressing room to tire of the tinkering. Raheem Sterling at right wing back? I’ll bet we never see that again. But, of course, that wasn’t the only problem. The honeymoon is over.

Spurs we’re terrific at Bournemouth after they’d done 2-down. Why can’t we see more of that? They’ve got good players as well. Why are they always kept in a straight jacket by Conte? There’s a time and a place of course, but not always.

And I’ve nothing but sympathy for Spurs after the way they were treated in the CL. It was a scandal that they thought they’d qualified for the group stages - only to be told after a five minute delay that they hadn’t. The decision was wrong - proving that VAR isn’t fool proof. The ball was nodded backwards - away from Kane. It ended up with him because a defender deflected it. The goal should’ve stood. Of course Conte was going to lose control and as a result he’s banned missing arguably the biggest match in Tottenham’s season. That isn’t right either. It’s a restraint of trade. How can the authorities stop him from doing his job?

I’m no fan of touch line bans in the modern world. What’s the point? Communications are so good now that Spurs will come up with a solution of sorts - but they shouldn’t have to. Fine Conte - and Klopp for his outrageous behaviour the week before - and send them out to do some kind of footballing community service. And donate the fine to charity.

Regular readers will know that it was a couple of months ago that we suggested Messi would be on his way to Inter Miami at the end of the season. I told you Adidas would fix it. There was no way a Nike-sponsored Ronaldo was ever going to Miami. And I’ve got a message for those of you who abused Phil Neville when the news emerged.

No. It would not be a ‘crime against football’ if Neville was coaching Messi next season. Neville is a good man. He’s done his time learning his trade and Miami have had a very good season on his watch. Sadly, I don’t think he’ll get the chance to work with Messi. My instinct tells me that Messi will already be planning who he wants at the helm. Players with the pull that Messi has don’t work with coaches they don’t fancy. If he’s going - he’ll decide who goes with him. Neville knows that.