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Leicester City FC
Leicester City FC

Leicester City’s Europa League hunt, and effectively their season, came to an end with Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Burnley.

Here, reporter James Sharpe looks at five of the key talking points from Turf Moor.
Stats point to positive future under Puel

While Claude Puel’s face filled the screen on Match of the Day as the Leicester City manager gave his reaction to a defeat at Burnley, a curious little graphic flicked into the bottom right-hand corner.

Expected Goals (xG): Burnley 0.85, Leicester 1.95.

We all know by now that xG measures the quality of chances a team has in a game and gives a number that represents the probability of those shots resulting in a goal.

In short: City had better chances to win the game than Burnley did.

Of course, that matters little to City fans who have just watched their team gift Burnley a 2-0 headstart inside 10 minutes on their way to killing off their chances of European football.

“Expected goals in such a pointless thing,” came one comment on social media. “The thing that mattered was it was 2-1. Burnley are seventh and we are nine points behind. It’s a nonsense stat.”

Now, of course it is the ‘balls into onion bag’ number that is the most important, but xG does have its uses, especially in the on-going debate over Leicester’s long-term style under Puel.

What xG does do is give you a clear idea of how effective your general play is. Or, at least, *should* be over time. Not just in one game.

Based on xG this season, Leicester would have eight more points and would be seventh.

That does not mean they should be seventh. Variables such as individual defensive errors and missed chances mean that Leicester should be eighth, nine points off Burnley.

But what it does show is that, over time, Puel’s approach should be able to bring sustainable positive results. And sustainability in the top half is what the owners want.

xG won’t change the result at Burnley, but it should at least give some hope for the future.
Morgan criticism justified (for once)

Plenty of the space in this column over recent months has been given to defending the performances of City captain Wes Morgan in the face of growing criticism.

Supporters had been frustrated at the decision to bring Morgan straight back into the side after injury, despite Aleksandar Dragovic performing well alongside Harry Maguire in his absence.

A fair view, and harsh on Dragovic. But Morgan is the captain: highly popular and influential in the dressing room. And his performances were still solid, and some opinions became twisted and premeditated because of it.

However, over the last few games Morgan’s performances have been poor and his mistakes have led to City conceding goals and, in turn, points. The criticism is now justified.

But should Morgan’s role as captain have any effect on his place? Nigel Pearson used to say that every player’s position is up for grabs, but the captain’s place is different.

Should Morgan’s popularity among his team-mates, his influence, play a role in Puel’s decision? How would his removal from the side affect dressing-room morale or squad happiness with the manager? Should that even matter?

This is the man who lifted the Premier League trophy. But he is struggling for form. It is a sensitive subject, but these are the decisions which Puel is paid to make.
Choudhury makes most of Ndidi’s suspension

Puel has got another decision to make for the visit of Southampton. Wilfred Ndidi returns from his two-game suspension and will come straight back into the starting line-up.

The question is: who should partner him? Adrien Silva or Hamza Choudhury?

Choudhury has been excellent in his last two games and, for the start of his full debut at Burnley, looked more assured than Silva.

It would be harsh to leave Choudhury out, but he is potentially too similar a ball-winner to Ndidi. And while Silva had a disastrous start at Turf Moor, he did improve and his creativity is likely to be needed.

Regardless, Choudhury has done enough to show, with time and experience, that he will become a mainstay of the first-team for years to come.
Time for experimenting is now

Well, that’s that then. Barring a miracle, Leicester will have to wait another year for European football.

Five games left to see if you finish eighth or 12th. What is left to play for? Other than pride and prize money, little.

What should Puel do now? Is now the time to phase out those players who he feels cannot adapt to his style ready for a summer clear-out?

Is it time to bring in more of the youngsters to see who can make the grade? Centre-back Sam Hughes continues to bang in the goals for the development squad. He could be worth a try.

This is the first time in a long while that Leicester have nothing to play for. As frustrating as that has been, at least make the most of it.
Hamer’s final chance to shine for City?

For a few weeks now, there have been growing murmurings that Kasper Schmeichel could do with a spell outside of the team.

A couple of rash errors, and some wayward kicking, has tested some fans’ patience with City’s No.1.

Well, they might just get their wish now. Schmeichel limped off late in the defeat at Burnley and will need to assessed ahead of Thursday.

Not only will those fans get to see whether their wishes were well-placed, it is also a great chance for Ben Hamer to showcase his talents to either Puel or potential suitors as he approaches the end of his contract.

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he Blues boss has a notoriously unstable relationship with owner Roman Abramovich.

Conte has complained about a lack of transfer funds this season, claiming he always ends up managing football clubs under austerity.

Chelsea are however believed to be close to signing Roma striker Edin Dzeko for a fee of around £30m, and team-mate Emerson Palmieri for around £20m.

Pirlo was full of praise for the man who managed him at Juventus from 2014.

But he admitted there was significant doubt over whether he would continue his reign at Stamford Bridge beyond this campaign.

Asked if Conte will be at Chelsea next season, the Italian legend told talkSPORT: “I don’t know.

“Now, for me, he’s the best coach in the world.

“He has a contract there, [but] I don’t know where he’ll be in the future.”

Meanwhile, Pirlo junior is set to have a trial with Juventus in the coming weeks, Ilbianconero reports.

 

Niccolo Pirlo, 15, is a promising and talented centre midfielder who could join the Old Lady’s U15 squad.

“He is similar to me, he has technical skills but not as much grit”, Pirlo has recently said about his son.

Pirlo’s son is currently contracted with Pecetto, a non-professional club from the province of Turin.

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Jurgen Klopp
Jurgen Klopp

 

 

Jurgen Klopp is one of four candidates being considered by the Bayern Munich hierarchy to take charge next season, according to reports in Germany.

Bayern are currently being managed by Jupp Heynckes until the end of the season, after the Bundesliga champions fired Carlo Ancelotti in October.

The Bavarian giants are said to be looking seriously at four possible permanent successors – and Liverpool boss Klopp is among them.

According to Bild, Klopp ‘is now increasingly exposed to criticism from his club Liverpool’, and his leaving England to return to Germany is not to be discounted.

Klopp is highly respected at Bayern, having built his reputation by coaching a Borussia Dortmund team that regularly challenged for domestic and continental supremacy.

His Dortmund side won the Bundesliga title in successive years in 2011 and 2012, and reached the 2013 Champions League final at Wembley, where they were beaten by Bayern.

The other candidates being considered are reportedly Thomas Tuchel – who succeeded Klopp at Dortmund – Joachim Low, World Cup winning coach of the German national team, and caretaker Heynckes taking the job full time.

Of those three, Tuchel is the likeliest given he is currently unemployed, while Bayern president Uli Hoeness has suggested Heynckes could stay on.

However Heynckes responded by saying he plans to stick to his current agreement and leave Bayern at the end of the season, while any move for Low is complicated by his contract running until 2020.