Dean Smith

Matchday With The Manager – Get The Basics Right

Manager Dean Smith’s message to the Leicester City squad this week has been clear – be harder to beat and show your quality.
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After conceding eight goals in the last two games, coming away with no points and dropping back into the bottom three, the Foxes have reached point critical in the season. And there are fewer places tougher to visit than Newcastle United right now, Leicester’s next opponents in the Premier League.

Ahead of Monday’s trip to St. James’ Park, an 8pm BST kick-off, Smith sat down with the media to address the current situation.

Liverpool reflections

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Harvey Barnes

It turned into a frustrating night on Filbert Way for the Foxes against Liverpool.

A 3-0 reverse at home to the Reds last Monday kept City in the relegation zone and, speaking from inside the King Power Centre at LCFC Training Ground on Thursday, the 52-year-old outlined how aspects of the performance, particularly from a defensive point of view, must improve.  

“For me, it’s not so much the performance, it’s the result that hurt us,” City’s manager told reporters. “I said that after the game. A lot was said about players not applying themselves and not trying. I’ve got figures to show that they did. They matched Liverpool in their running stats.

“But unfortunately, the scoreline is what is reflected in headlines and that’s what happened on the day. The players worked hard and ran hard. We know we have to [defend better]. That’s probably been the biggest concern since we came in.

“We’ve conceded the first goal in 19 out of the last 20 games. We’re conceding too many this season. There’s obviously fragility in our defence and that’s something we’ve certainly been working on since we’ve been here.

“Tactically I thought we were really good for 32 minutes. Our goalkeeper has not made a save and it’s 0-0. And then their goalkeeper puts one over the top of our back four, we have a little bit of panic stations, and they score a marginally onside goal.

“There’s not an awful lot wrong tactically with the second goal. Sometimes you have to applaud the opposition for their play. After that, I thought we got a little bit frazzled. Looking back, my reflections watching it now are the same as well.

“It was important that we got back in at 2-0 and there was an upturn in the second period for a short time. But you’re playing against Liverpool, sometimes you have to give credit to the opposition. They're 2-0 up, with their tails up, on a six-game winning run. If you go and open up, you get beat six or seven as we have seen them do to teams.”

The next challenge

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Kelechi Iheanacho

Kelechi Iheanacho is back in contention following injury.

Third in the Premier League, chasing a place in the UEFA Champions League next term, it’s been quite the turnaround for the Magpies over the course of the last year, overseen by a man Smith knows well.

As for Leicester’s predicament, other results cannot be focused on too heavily, he believes, with City needing to achieve their own part themselves.

“Newcastle have had fantastic season,” the ex-Aston Villa manager commented. “They’ve got a fantastic head coach who I was coming up against in League 1 nine or 10 years ago. I’ve a lot of respect for Eddie [Howe] and what he has done there.

“Going there, it’ll be a very partisan fanbase that will make it extremely hard for the first 15-20 minutes if they get their tails up. Our job is to stifle that as much as we can, whether that’s with the ball or without the ball, making them go where we want them to go, or going and taking the lead to try and win the game.

“I can’t control what happens at any other games. It might affect what we have to do at Newcastle, but we only have to concentrate on this game at Newcastle and get the win. It’s our cup final now and we know what we have to do.

“I don’t like playing on the Monday after the other games, especially when there’s only two games to go. I don’t want to have to suddenly change tactics from what I’ve been working on for four or five days. But one thing we do know is that we need at least a point from Newcastle.

“It’s out of our hands because if other teams get the results, there’s nothing we can do. If we get the performance that we’re capable of and we minimise mistakes, then it’s not a problem.”

Boosting confidence  

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Dean Smith

Dean Smith addressed the media in Seagrave.

Smith admitted that recent defeats, contributing to a very real threat of relegation, has mentally taken its toll on the players. That said, there is little time to waste and he revealed how the group have been working in Seagrave to turn a difficult period around.

He explained: “I think they are demoralised by the last couple of results. Before that, we had an upturn in performances. It’s very quickly forgotten but I’ve only been here for six games and I thought four of the performances in that were quite good.

“But the goals that we’ve given away in the last few games haven’t been good enough and that’s something that we’ve been working on. We made it difficult (for teams) when we came into the Club and that’s what we have to do now - go back to that. Be hard to beat first and foremost but show our qualities when we get the ball.

“They are down because of the last two results and the position that we’re in. They do care. I see that from what they give every day in training and what they are giving in matches.

“The work ethic I see is there. The numbers that I get from my performance department prove to me that it’s there as well. The thing that’s missing at the moment is keeping clean sheets and making fewer mistakes in the defensive third.

“We’ve put on different training sessions to what we did last week. But that was pretty much to concentrate on ourselves and what we need to do. We’ve worked on some stuff this week about getting the basics right.

“We are in a position that we don’t want to be in and no one expected us to be in. Our job is to get out of it. My job hasn’t changed from eight games to two games. We’re still in the same position as we were.

“If you look at it realistically, it was going to be really difficult to get points from Manchester City and Liverpool, as most teams find during the season. We’ve played Liverpool when their tails have been up. But other games we would have expected to get points and that’s probably why the Fulham one has hurt us the most.”




Leicester City Crest





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