Football Features

“Leicester are Champions League material” – Five things learned as Man City squeeze past Foxes

By Ollie Thomas

Published: 19:38, 22 February 2020

Gabriel Jesus scored a late winner as Manchester City opened up a seven-point gap between them and third-placed Leicester City.

In a game which could easily have gone either way, Jesus spared Sergio Aguero’s blushes after he missed a second-half spot-kick to secure a vital win at the King Power against Brendan Rodgers’ side.

Jamie Vardy hit the post in the first half and Ederson denied Harvey Barnes in the second, but the Foxes failed to get on the scoresheet as they slipped to another home defeat. But what did we learn from Saturday evening’s clash?

1. Leicester are Champions League material

Given Liverpool’s dominance of the league this year, one could be forgiven for forgetting that Pep Guardiola’s Man City are one of, if not the, best teams that England has ever seen. And Leicester matched them stride for stride today.

When teams come from nowhere and find themselves flying high at the start of the season, it’s important not to get carried away – after all, consistency is what gets you places (and trophies) in football. Granted, they’ve stuttered a little of late, and ultimately lost today, but a point would have been the least they deserved after another display which had a lot of quality and determination to match.

Let’s not forget that they have a misfiring Jamie Vardy as their only real goal source and are missing Wilfred Ndidi, who has been one of the standout Premier League players this season. This Leicester team is the real deal and they’re only going to get better.

2. The Premier League is a training session for Pep

Everyone knows that the title is gone – it has been since Man City lost at Anfield back in November, to be honest. Given Man City’s pending European ban, this campaign potentially represents their last chance for a few years to finally complete the set and get their hands on the coveted Champions League trophy.

So, when we say that the league is now merely training for Guardiola, we don’t mean that they’re blowing teams away as they have been for the past couple of seasons. No, these games are now a chance for City to get players back up to speed, to try different systems and tactics and to prepare for their clash against Real Madrid next week.

The substitution of Aymeric Laporte at the start of the second half was the best indication of this: he is their best defender by a distance and is coming back from injury. If the league was still important to Guardiola, there is no doubting that the French centre-back would have played the full game. But he was replaced by Otamendi with over a third of the game remaining.

The Premier League is secondary for the champions now. It’s all about Europe.

3. VAR makes no sense. At all.

Did we learn this exclusively from this game? No. Is it still true? Yes.

This week has been nothing short of disastrous for the lads at Stockley Park, with yet another bizarre display at the King Power this evening.

A Leicester penalty claim was dismissed in the first half, despite the ball clearly striking the raised arm of Kevin de Bruyne in the penalty area from a James Maddison free-kick. However, in the second half, City were awarded a spot-kick when Dennis Praet was in a pretty much identical body position to his compatriot in the first half.

All fans want is consistency – if they disagree with the decisions, so be it. At least treat each incident in the same manner. Fortunately for the Foxes, justice was done and the resulting penalty was missed. Talking of which…

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4. Ederson’s first-ever goal is surely weeks away

Why can no one take penalties for Man City?

Sergio Aguero’s tame effort was the fifth spot-kick they’ve missed this season – fortunately for them, it didn’t prove costly, but missing penalties is not a habit that you want to get into.

Pep Guardiola has said that Ederson is the best spot taker in the squad. Now, getting your goalkeeper to take a penalty would normally be deemed ridiculous. However, given that seemingly not a single outfield player is even vaguely reliable from the spot, why not give Ederson a chance? He clearly has the temperament for it and we all know he’s not too bad with his feet. At this point, Guardiola has little to lose.

Whack him in your Fantasy Premier League team. It’s happening.

5. Jesus is ready to be the main man

Sergio Aguero: step aside. Jesus is here.

Once again, Gabriel Jesus was the hero for City. After a year or so which saw his development stutter thanks to injuries, poor form and the undroppable nature of Aguero’s performances, it seems that a new era for City’s strikers is about to begin.

Don’t get us wrong – Aguero is still a phenomenal player, a Premier League legend, who is still more than capable of bagging 20-plus goals per season. However, Jesus is starting to turn into a player who can match that tally and more. His energy, movement and link-up play are arguably superior to Aguero’s now. It’s easy to forget that the Brazilian is just 22 years of age; he is approaching a crucial time in his career and he is surely now ready to make the step up from understudy to lead role.

His winner today was taken like a world-class striker. Maybe that’s the label Jesus deserves.