Are Maresca and City losing their minds?…

One City, one Middlesbrough

Colin Hall’s post-match analysis

Championship leaders Leicester City suffered their second straight loss at the Riverside as hosts Middlesbrough won thanks to a late free kick from Sam Greenwood, ending the Foxes’ record of SEVEN straight away triumphs.

The Blue Army watched in frustration as their team controlled the game for extended periods of time but was unable to capitalize on any of the several opportunities that were presented.

As they have in previous weeks, Kelechi Iheanacho (twice), Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, and substitute Abdul Fatawu all wasted opportunities that they could have reasonably been expected to take.

On the other side, a strong defensive effort appeared to have stopped the home team’s onslaught, but a string of mistakes provided the game-winning opportunity.

Strange backheel play by Jannik Vestergaard set up a potentially disastrous Boro onslaught, which was thwarted by an overly bold challenge from Hamza Choudhury. Greenwood launched the ensuing set-piece over Mads Hermansen’s dejected plunge over the wall.

The home team handled the last few minutes with surprising ease, even with Jamie Vardy’s late entrance. Their triumph sparked wild celebrations from a stadium that had been mostly silent for the majority of the match.

The outcome has caused a great deal of unease among some members of the fan base; some online critics have even questioned whether Enzo Maresca can keep the Foxes in the top division against resurgent challenges from Leeds and Southampton. However, while this kind of reaction is understandable from those who are still hurting from the serious managerial errors that caused us to collapse into this league, the truth is that we are still leading the division on merit and appear to be there for the foreseeable future.

Even in a division where the manager and the majority of his team had very little previous experience, a return of 39 points from the first 16 games is still far beyond anyone’s wildest expectations at the beginning of the season. This is easily the best start to a City season in living memory.

Maresca is only beginning a long-term endeavor to become a major player again at the top levels of English football. Even while he has made remarkable improvement overall, there will inevitably be setbacks, especially in a league known for its demanding physical and mental demands.

Additionally, there is always the risk that a manager with more experience in this league will sometimes devise a strategy that Maresca and his team would be unable to defeat, as was the case against Leeds.

Furthermore, we cannot overlook the effect of the recent series of injuries that have cost us THREE international midfield players.

But with important players expected to return from the international break and a run of games coming up against some of the Championship’s weaker teams, Maresca should have no trouble getting his team back on track.

Conor Coady, a proven leader and winner at this level, will provide much-needed consistency to a defense that has shown vulnerable at times in recent weeks.

And while there are still concerns about whether Vardy and Iheanacho’s rotation will produce enough results across a 46-game season, up to this point, goal contributions from other places have shown to be sufficient to guarantee wins the majority of the time.

The Foxes should maintain faith in Maresca’s approach despite the recent setbacks, as there are many reasons to think it will succeed not only in the upcoming weeks but also over the entire season.

Middlesbrough (4-2-3-1): Dieng; Jones (Dijksteel 90 + 1), Crooks (Rogers 68), Greenwood; Coburn (Latte Lath 73); Van den Berg, Fry, McNair, Engel; Howson, Hackney. Glover, Clarke, Barlaser, Gilbert, Silvera, and Bangura were not substituted.

Greenwood (83), the goal.

Rogers, Howson, Jones, Crooks, and bookings.

Leicester (3-4-3): Hermansen: Faes, Vestergaard, Justin; Choudhury (Vardy 85), Ricardo, Winks, Dewsbury-Hall; McAteer (Fatawu 58), Iheanacho, Mavididi. Not used as substitutes: Stolarczyk, Coady, Souttar, Casadei, Albrighton, Cannon, Daka. Bookings: Vestergaard, Winks, Choudhury. Referee: Oliver Langford Attendance: 30 042 The opinions expressed in this report are exclusively those of the Trust member nominated to file it.

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