Leicester City vs Everton analysis: How did Nigel Pearson's Foxes fare on their Premier League return?
Leicester City boss Nigel Pearson will be buoyed by his side's second half performance against Champions League chasing Everton
King Power Stadium
Saturday 16 August 2014
As Chris Wood wheeled away after salvaging a 2-2 draw for Leicester City against Everton this afternoon, the majority of the 31,603 supporters who were crammed into the King Power Stadium collectively breathed a sigh of relief.
The first half, which saw Roberto Martinez's side twice take the lead through Aiden McGeady and Steven Naismith, acted as a harsh wake up call to any Foxes fans who thought their scintillating Championship form would continue into the top flight.
Nigel Pearson, the former Southampton and Hull City boss who has now managed the East Midlands club in the top three divisions of English football, inspired his side to a staggering 31 league victories last season.
The likes of David Nugent and Riyad Mahrez, however, were given precious little time to dwell on their previous successes as Everton kept the ball for large periods in the opening forty-five minutes.
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The key to surviving in the top flight - and ultimately thriving - is keeping your patience when the going gets tough and Pearson will have been pleased with how his troops responded to their opponents' impressive ball retention.
Kasper Schmeichel, who revealed earlier in the week that he finds his illustrious surname to be a hindrance rather than a source of encouragement, was barely tested as a backline including Premier League debutants Wes Morgan and Liam Moore stood firm.
Kasper Schmeichel celebrates after Chris Wood's late strike against Everton While saying Leicester weren't required to make a series of last-ditch challenges would be bending the confines of reality somewhat; the hosts were relatively comfortable considering the last competitive fixture to be played at the King Power Stadium was against Doncaster Rovers.
Richie De Laet, formally of Manchester United, was also a threat down the right flank while Paul Konchesky gave the Foxes some well needed top flight experience.
Many pundits have commented on Pearson's low-key activity in the summer transfer window, with some expressing concern over the depth of his squad, but the absences of Matty James and Jamie Vardy were barely noticed.
James was the anchor of their midfield last season, allowing his teammates to roam forward, but a scraped shin proved too problematic to shake off.
Marc Albrighton, signed on a free transfer from Aston Villa, was also missing while Danny Drinkwater, an invaluable presence alongside James, pulled up with a suspected hamstring injury after just 39 minutes.
City adapted well, though, with Andy King and Dean Hammond delivering impressive and combative displays.
The 31,603-strong crowd in Leicester was a source of strength for the Foxes Riyad Mahrez is another player who the Foxes will lean heavily on for a creative spark this season and he produced enough glimmers of quality to suggest he is set to continue his remarkable rise after joining the East Midlands outfit from Le Havre in January.
While there was little to be done about McGeady's marvelous opener, a curled effort too high for Schmeichel to reach, Pearson will have been a touch frustrated by the defensive misgivings which lead to Naismith's strike on the brink of half time.
These lapses in concentration are inevitable in your first season back in the big time but, should they continue into the depths of winter and beyond, they could prove terminal.
The Foxes boss will know this well, however, having been assistant manager to the likes of Kevin Keegan and Bryan Robson in the top flight at Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion respectively.
Chris Wood races towards the King Power crowd after grabbing a late winner for the Foxes Having a striker who is confident in his own abilities in front of goal will be vital and, after beating Tim Howard with a powerful half-volley in the first half, Argentine Leonardo Ulloa introduced himself to the Premier League in some style.
Chris Wood, linked with a switch to Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers, will also be feeling fairly happy with himself tonight while Nugent put in a decent shift behind his new £8m strike partner.
With Pearson refusing to deny his interest in former Real Madrid and Inter Milan midfielder Esteban Cambiasso, it is clear that he values the importance of keeping the ball during the coming campaign.
Finishing with just 36% possession against the Toffees, despite the result, it's evidentially an area in need of improvment.
“I think the players, if you ask the players, will have learned a few key lessons today," Pearson said at full time.
"That would mean that they have to believe very much in their own ability and that we probably have to make a little bit more out of our own possession at times.
“We have shown resilience and belief, and it’s good to get something out of the game against a side which has shown over a number of years the amount of quality they have.
Leicester manager Nigel Pearson watches from his usual position in the stands “It’s encouraging, but we’re under no illusions as to how difficult this division can be. My job as a manager is to keep preaching what we’re about and hopefully we will build on what has been a good performance.”
While it is impossible to predict the events of the coming nine months, for the Premier League continues to live up to its billing as one of the most competitive top divisions in world football, Leicester at least looked the part on the opening weekend.
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