08 Apr Leicester’s change in luck
Leicester’s upturn under Craig Shakespeare is incomprehensible to Everton manager Ronald Koeman as he looks to end their winning run at Goodison Park on Sunday.
The Foxes have won all six fixtures since Claudio Ranieri was sacked towards the end of February after flirting with the relegation zone just nine months on from their improbable Premier League title triumph.
They could end this weekend back in the top half of the division, prior to a Champions League quarter-final trip to Atletico Madrid, thanks to the transformation Shakespeare has overseen with the same group of players that Ranieri had at his disposal.
The stark contrast in results has flummoxed Koeman, who is anticipating facing the Leicester of old on Merseyside.
“We know it looks like the Leicester from last season, with all the strength, with all the spirit,” the Dutchman said.
“I don’t understand why there’s a big difference. (It’s) the same players, maybe the manager now is keeping the team more what it was last season. Maybe that’s a reason, I don’t know. We expect a tough opponent.”
A raft of injuries has ensured Koeman has been unable to stick with a consistent XI himself and he will be forced into at least one change for the visit of the Foxes due to the absence of the suspended Ashley Williams.
With Seamus Coleman and Ramiro Funes Mori already missing, Koeman will have to again trust a youngster – probably Matthew Pennington – to fill in alongside the vastly-experienced Phil Jagielka.
The 34-year-old Toffees skipper had spent nine successive games starting among the substitutes before returning to the line-up for the most recent four matches, and Koeman has been impressed by the way he handled being left out of his team.
“I’m really pleased because Phil had a difficult time,” he explained.
“He had a difficult time when he was not playing because it’s a different role. I’ve asked him still to be captain of the team and I think he changed his mentality in that.
“Of course he’s normally still disappointed if he’s not starting. He’s showing at the moment that he’s still a really strong, good defender for the team.”
Of more concern to Koeman after the midweek draw to Manchester United is Everton’s shortcomings in attack after they went 1-0 up through Jagielka midway through the first half.
The Toffees manager was angry with the way his side failed to make the most of their opportunities when in advanced areas, which came back to bite them when United levelled late on, and he will seek an improvement against Leicester.
“We had five, six big, big counter-attacking movements and we did wrong,” Koeman said of the performance at Old Trafford.
“We did not even create a shot, a chance and in my opinion that was the key to why we did not win the game. There was a lot of space and the offensive side in the team was not what I expected.”