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Leicester City

Watford 2-1 Leicester City: Three talking points from Vicarage Road

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Watford recorded their first victory in seven Premier League matches as they recovered from going behind to beat Leicester City and claim a much-needed three points at Vicarage Road on Boxing Day.

It’s easy to forget that the Hornets were just three points off the Champions League places back in October and it seemed like their rotten recent run of form would extend to seven league games without a win when Riyad Mahrez found space at the back-post to head home a deserved opener.

But within eight minutes – and on the stroke of half-time – the hosts responded, with defender Molla Wague being left unmarked to prod home an equaliser and leave things level at the break.

Watford started the second-half in the ascendency just as they had finished the first and they got their reward in fortunate circumstances when the ever-influential Abdoulaye Doucoure’s shot somehow found its way into the back of the net from on the by-line off ‘keeper Kasper Schmeichel.

Leicester pushed for a late equaliser only for Wes Morgan and Leonardo Ulloa to be denied by Heurelho Gomes, and Watford managed to hold out for a precious and richly-needed three points.

The result sees Watford move to within two points of Leicester in tenth place, now eight points adrift of Burnley in seventh place, whilst Claude Puel’s side remain in eight spot on goal difference.

Job done for Silva’s side

Watford’s early season momentum has slightly stalled somewhat in the past few weeks, and whilst there was nothing vintage about their win yesterday it will come as a relief to manager Marco Silva.

The Hornets hadn’t tasted victory in the league since the 3-0 win away at Newcastle in late November, going on a run of five defeats and one draw in the six matches prior to Boxing Day.

Tuesday’s win was also only their third in the previous 12 Premier League outings, picking up just ten points from a possible 36 since mid-October, and Silva will be hoping that getting three points against the Foxes can bring an end to a barren run that’s seen Watford drop down the table quickly.

It is perhaps the manner of victory that will have pleased the Watford boss more than anything, falling behind before half-time to a rare Riyad Mahrez header, and his decision to bring on Stefano Okaka and move Richarlison back onto the left-wing was one that ultimately turned things around.

Within moments Molla Wague – the centre-back making his first Watford start since arriving from Italian side Udinese on deadline day – levelled things up on the stroke of half-time, and from that moment on the hosts seemed to have a spring in their step.

Their winner came in fortunate circumstances but the Hornets won’t care how it went in, nor care that they scored twice from just one shot on target all game, and it’s now about backing this win up with another one against bottom side Swansea City this coming Saturday.

Another miserable Boxing Day for the Foxes

Leicester City supporters will be sick of the sight of Boxing Day soon as, for the 11th time in their previous 12 games played on December 26, they failed to win.

It’s a miserable record that has stretched throughout the club’s Premier League history and yet another Boxing Day defeat, this time at Watford, means the Foxes have now lost in their last four league outings on this particular day.

Claude Puel’s side will be left to rue their wastefulness in front of goal in a match where they would have been favourites prior to kick-off, and had Jamie Vardy not uncharacteristically missed when through on goal early on or had Wes Morgan’s late effort found the net it could have been different.

But instead they fell short against a team that possessed little attacking intent on the day, and the defeat means that Leicester have now gone four games without a win having lost just one of Puel’s first eight games in charge.

The ex-Southampton man claimed post-match that a draw would have been a fair result, and arguably so, but his side will have to pick themselves back up for a tough trip to Liverpool next up.

Doucoure’s return leads Watford to win

One of the main architects of Watford’s early season form, along with the irrepressible young Brazilian Richarlison, was Abdoulaye Doucoure.

And whilst Watford’s form has gradually derailed over the past months one man who hasn’t dropped his own performance levels is the Frenchman, and he was superb again against Leicester.

The 24-year-old central midfielder has been a revelation after an underwhelming first season at Vicarage Road last time out, spear-heading the Watford midfield in the long-term absence of Nathaniel Chalobah, and it was little surprise that he had the final say once against on Boxing Day.

He was a huge miss for Marco Silva in Saturday’s disappointing defeat away at Brighton & Hove Albion and it was clear to see how much his return buoyed his side, being the glue that holds this Watford side together, and he single-handedly created the winning goal from out of nowhere.

Whilst it went down as a Kasper Schmeichel own goal it once again highlighted the impact he has been having in front of goal for a central midfielder – after half of the season he’s already scored some six times – and it wouldn’t be surprising if there was heightened interest in him in the upcoming January transfer window.

But his impact runs deeper than his goal tally and he’s forged an identity for himself this season leading by example, being the driving force for a team that are a shadow of their 2015/16 selves.

Will is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Salford, specialising in the art of sports. Long-time suffering Northampton Town fan who once saw us win a league title. Find him on Twitter - @96PearsonW.

Leicester City

Tottenham would be the perfect move for Leicester star Demarai Gray

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Photo: Getty Images

Having failed in their bid to bring Demarai Gray to Wembley for the 2017/18 season, Tottenham could be reigniting the interest in the hope of signing the young winger ahead of their move to New White Hart Lane.

Reports originating from ESPN say that Spurs are looking to sign the England under 21 captain after Leicester City refused to do business for the former Birmingham man in the past.

Gray’s form has not been as convincing as some may have hoped for this season, with just four goals and three assists from 39 appearances in all competitions, but that has not put Daniel Levy and company off.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Demarai Gray has found his game time limited of late, despite only missing three Premier League games to date this season. Since the turn of the year, the winger has made only four starts for the Foxes and may relish an opportunity to be trusted more regularly, particularly at a club like Tottenham.

Working under Mauricio Pochettino would undoubtedly be a huge draw given his reputation for developing young players. That is believed to be key to his interest in Gray, who could follow in the footsteps of the likes of Eric Dier and Dele Alli in joining the club and going on to become regulars in the Premier League and for England.

Leicester will not be keen to part ways with one of their most exciting young talents and will command a huge price, which may put Levy off, but there are few English players in his age range with such potential and if anyone could justify such a fee, it may well be Gray.

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English Premier League

17 goals in 32 games: Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy better now than title-winning season

The Englishman’s fine form has gone somewhat under the radar this season.

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

Jamie Vardy was a late developer, but he has emerged as one of the best strikers in the Premier League since Leicester City were promoted to the division.

His best season came when the Foxes sprung a surprise to win the league title during the 2015/16 campaign.

It would have been easy for the striker to trail off after that incredible year, but he has continued to work hard and is going into this summer’s World Cup as England’s form striker.

Considering Leicester are finishing the season with a stutter, the performances and consistency of Vardy have gone under the radar, but he deserves a lot of credit for his excellent goal-scoring campaign.

In 32 Premier League matches, he has scored 17 goals at a rate of one every 165.2 minutes. It is impressive for any striker to score as regularly as that and the 31-year-old will feel that he is at the peak of his powers.

Leicester have lost three of their last four matches and that has meant that the focus hasn’t been on the team. However, Vardy continues to deliver the goods in the final third, having scored in each of the Foxes’ last five matches.

(Photo by Lindsey Parnaby/Getty Images)

The England international currently has the record for scoring in the most consecutive Premier League matches scored. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that he has managed to hit another hot streak.

It can even be argued that Vardy has improved since Leicester’s league-winning season, especially when it comes to the mental side of the game.

He has become a more intelligent player and that is evident through his positioning and anticipation in the final third.

The 31-year-old gets a lot of chances from being in the right place in the right time, whereas during the 2015-16 campaign, the majority of his goals were carbon copies of each other. There would be a long ball over the top and his pace would give him the chance. Now, he is a much more complete player.

In addition to improving the mental side of his game, Vardy has become a more clinical finisher as shown by his sharp increase in chance conversion.

During the incredible title-winning season, the striker had a chance conversion rate of 20.9%. This campaign, it stands at a very respectable 28.8%. This is due to the striker gaining more experience and knowing how to take the chances that come his way.

Michael Owen once said that the Leicester City man wasn’t a natural finisher. That is no longer the case.

(Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

The stats also show a style-shift in Vardy, as he averages only 0.39 ball recoveries per ninety minutes, as opposed to the impressive 1.47 that he managed during the excellent season of two years ago.

This suggests that the striker realises that his body can no longer go as it once could and he is decreasing his overall workload due to this. As a result, he can focus on taking up dangerous positions and scoring goals.

Although Vardy is not likely to surpass his 2015/16 total of 24 goals, it can be argued that this season is just as impressive. He is playing in a mid-table side and has shown an improvement in his finishing, which was already at a high level during the title-winning campaign.

The Foxes front-man knows that he won’t get as many chances to score as he did back then, but he is making sure that he makes the most of them.

England will favour Harry Kane this summer in Russia, but the Leicester City forward will have a big role to play for the Three Lions. His form this season shouldn’t be ignored.

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Bournemouth

Leicester City 1-1 Bournemouth: Three talking points from the King Power

Rob Meech

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Leicester City
Photo: Getty Images

Riyad Mahrez’s stunning 97th-minute free-kick rescued a point for Leicester City against Bournemouth.

Mahrez, who had been heavily linked with a move to Manchester City in the January transfer window, curled the ball past Asmir Begovic from 30 yards to deny the Cherries victory in a grandstand finish at the King Power Stadium.

Joshua King had given Bournemouth a first-half lead when he stepped up to dispatch a spot-kick after being fouled inside the area.

The Foxes threw everything at their opponents in the second period but had to wait until deep into added-time for a dramatic equaliser.

Here are three talking points…

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Redemption for Mahrez after troubling period

The Algerian’s attempts to engineer a switch to City and subsequent failure to report to training had not been well received by Leicester supporters.

Mahrez had been a key figure in the Foxes’ phenomenal Premier League title triumph two years ago, but his reputation suffered a battering when he made it clear he saw his future away from the club.

After a difficult period for all involved, Mahrez is back in the fold and now back in the fans’ good books.

His last-minute goal against the Cherries certainly was evidence of his redemption.

Thirty yards out, the 27-year-old started the ball outside the wall and watched it bend back past Begovic’s outstretched right hand.

Leicester, who have never beaten Bournemouth in the top-flight, are winless in five Premier League matches, but they remain eighth in the table.

With Mahrez’s reintegration seemingly complete, a fruitful finish to the season could even help them push for a European place.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Howe ‘disgusted’ as Bournemouth concede so late

Bournemouth’s backs had been firmly up against the wall in the second half as they sought to hold on to their tenuous advantage.

It looked to have been a worthwhile effort until Mahrez’s moment of magic.

A share of the spoils was probably fair in the context of the game, but Cherries manager Eddie Howe admitted he felt ‘disgusted’ after watching the visitors concede so late.

Only four minutes of stoppage-time had been scheduled, but an injury to Simon Francis as well as a substitution meant referee Lee Probert played nearly double that amount.

Despite missing out on what would have been a crucial win, Bournemouth are edging towards safety.

They have lost only once since Christmas, a run that has helped them climb out of the relegation zone and amass 33 points.

Two more victories from their remaining nine fixtures should be enough to secure Premier League football for a fourth successive campaign.

(Photo by Roland Harrison/Getty Images)

Summer will be a key time for both clubs

In a league that is dominated by the so-called ‘Big Six’, the primary aim of the other 14 clubs is survival.

As mentioned above, both Leicester and Bournemouth are all but guaranteed to be playing in the top-flight next season.

The question for both in the summer will be, how can they push on?

The first job for the Foxes’ hierarchy and manager Claude Puel will be deciding the future of Mahrez.

Do they cash in on their star player and reinvest the funds into the squad, or do they try to tie him down to a new contract?

Bournemouth’s ambitions are perhaps not as high as Leicester’s, but after finishing ninth last season, another mid-table position will consolidate their status as a bona fide Premier League outfit.

On the field, there may be some significant outgoings as Howe looks to freshen his resources.

The out-of-favour Harry Arter is one player who looks likely to leave the south coast.

Off the field, the club will hope its plans for a new stadium get closer to becoming a reality.

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