Leicester City 4 Manchester City 2: Pep Guardiola is clearly not for turning. And that, based on the post-match revelations of Leicester City’s match-winners, will be music to the ears of Manchester City’s future opponents.
Having watched his team torn apart cruelly by the revitalised Premier League champions, Guardiola was unmoved in his commitment to his principles.
City will continue to pursue his philosophical aims, he insisted, regardless of the shortcomings exposed ruthlessly by Leicester in general and Jamie Vardy in particular on Saturday.
Yet, as hat-trick hero Vardy and captain Wes Morgan revealed after Saturday’s game, upcoming opponents are already spotting ways to unpick the Catalan’s plans.
“We’d been watching videos and they like to use the keeper (Claudio Bravo),” said Vardy, who completed the treble that ended his 16-game barren run for his club by seizing on an errant John Stones pass and beating a stranded Bravo.
“Their keeper is a ball player so once you’ve got them in the corner you have to press the keeper slightly and luckily the ball came across and he wasn’t ready for it.
“I think they’ve obviously got their set way of playing and how their manager wants them to play.
“On Saturday it worked out in our favour but they’re going to get results playing that way against other teams.
“Vice versa for us, when we’re playing like we were. It was definitely beneficial for us and to get the win against a team like that is unbelievable.”
“They have a way of playing and like to build from the back and build through the field and get forward through good quick passing football,” added Morgan.
“We have studied them this week and we decided to sit back and nick the ball when it comes into our danger area and be effective on the counter-attack and it worked for us.
“Man City are a good team. I know they are having a sticky spell at the moment but there are a lot of good teams fighting for the title and I am sure come the end they will be up there still.”
Whether or not Manchester City make good on Morgan’s prediction and challenge seriously to replace Leicester as champions might well hinge on Guardiola’s ability to adapt the style that brought success in Spain and Germany for the unique demands of the Premier League.
His post-match claim that he is “not a coach for tackles” will raise alarm bells with a section of his club’s fans, especially after a statistic showed his side had failed to win a challenge until the 35th minute at the King Power Stadium.
By then they were deservedly 3-0 behind as Vardy brought a stylish end to his goal drought and Andy King added a memorable goal of his own for a Leicester side suddenly looking less like the lethargic model of this season and more like that title-winning 2015-16 vintage.
Riyad Mahrez was wonderfully influential, his touch allowing Islam Slimani to release Vardy for his opening goal, finished coolly, in the third minute and another sublime piece of control from Mahrez laying on Vardy’s second on 20.
In between, King lashed a superb shot past Bravo in the fifth minute from a Slimani lay-off as City’s flaws were exploited to the full.
Vardy completed his hat-trick on 78 to end a mini rally from the visitors. And a fine free-kick into the top corner from Aleksandar Kolarov followed by a clever finish by substitute Nolito might have halved Leicester’s winning margin, but it did little to ease the embarrassment for Guardiola and his brittle side who overstepped the line from idealism to naivety.
For Vardy and Leicester, though, it was a much-needed return to winning ways and a release of some of the pressure that had built in recent weeks.
The England forward had seen his workrate questioned by Alan Shearer and his finishing instincts called into question by Michael Owen during a three-month spell without a goal for his club.
“I don’t listen to that,” said Vardy.
“He (Owen) can say what he wants. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I’m not going to read anything to it and that’s up to them what they say.
“I’ll just get on with it, work on the training field and hopefully take it into the matches.
“At the end of the day the team comes first. Deep down we knew we were still the team we were last year.”
LEICESTER CITY (4-4-2):
Zieler 6; Simpson 6, Morgan 7, Huth 7, Fuchs 7; Mahrez 8 (James 90+1), King 7, Amartey 7, Albrighton 7; Slimani 8 (Okazaki 77), Vardy 9 (Gray 88).
Subs not used:
Chilwell, Musa, Hamer, Mendy.
MAN CITY (4-1-4-1):
Bravo 5; Zabaleta 5, Sagna 5, Stones 5, Kolarov 6; Fernando 6; Navas 5 (Sterling 58, 6), Gundogan 6 (Nolito 68, 7), Silva 5, De Bruyne 6; Iheanacho 5 (Toure 58).
Subs not used:
Caballero, Sane, Clichy, Adarabioyo.
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