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Leicester City have equalled their worst ever start to a Premier League season.

With just four points on the board with six games gone, Craig Shakespeare’s class of 2017 is on a par with Brian Little’s group of 1994.

They would later go on to be relegated under Mark McGhee after Little jumped a sinking ship for Aston Villa.

Of course, that statistic after this defeat to Liverpool doesn’t tell the complete story.
Shakespeare’s men don’t look relegation fodder

In fact, despite four losses, Shakespeare men don’t look like relegation fodder.

The table may not lie, but it can mask the truth that City have been up against four of last season’s top-six sides and, although they have ultimately come out on the wrong side of the result, they have been in with more than a good shout in each and every game.

At Arsenal they led 3-2 until the last seven minutes.

Against Chelsea, they had a great chance to open the scoring a minute before Alvaro Morata did and still could have taken a point from the game.

And against Liverpool they were a saved Jamie Vardy penalty away from a point.

Only at Manchester United were they really put under the cosh, but still frustrated them for 70 minutes.

The fine margins of games have gone against City.

A missed chance here and a missed tackle or header there and the outcome could have been very different.

 

Philippe Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho

City boss Shakespeare can draw positives from the attitude of his players, who have battled and scrapped, and shown a steely determination to keep pushing as they have had to come from behind in five of their opening six games now.

Only against Brighton did they open the scoring and against Liverpool they were 2-0 and chasing the game.

He can also be encouraged that his strike force has goals in them.

Vardy’s sixth strike in four games against Liverpool was his fifth of the season, while Shinji Okazaki’s close-range finish just before half-time, which pulled City back into the game, was his fourth of the campaign – his second against Liverpool inside five days.

Admittedly, only Harry Maguire has also chipped in with a goal, but City are creating chances and Okazaki’s form seems to have ended the debate over who should partner Vardy in City’s attack.

Leonardo Ulloa, Islam Slimani and Kelechi Iheanacho have all been recruited to replace the little Japan international, but he remains the best foil for Vardy with his energetic and honest displays.

When N’Golo Kante left Claudio Ranieri believed City couldn’t continue to be effective in a 4-4-2, but it is Okazaki’s work-rate and intelligence that makes it possible.
It’s now time for honesty

He admits he is more determined to get into the box and contribute more goal this season, and he has certainly showed up to Vardy’s goalscoring party.

However, now we get to the tricky bit. It is honesty time.

While facing such sides with genuine quality within their ranks can reveal how much character there is within your squad, it can also highlight your failings.

City have come up against some top-quality players who can punish the slightest mistake with their predatory skills, and none more so than Philippe Coutinho, who is quite simply world class.

But City will know in their heart of hearts they are conceding far too many goals.

Two set-pieces at Arsenal were their downfall, and that Achilles heel paved the way for defeat at United too.

They lost to Chelsea after conceding a very soft goal through a number of failings which contributed to Kante’s strike, while the goal they conceded at Huddersfield was also poor. Ben Chilwell, who had an excellent game bombing forward from left-back, was caught out by Coutinho’s perfect cross for Mohamed Salah’s header which opened the scoring.

Kasper Schmeichel was probably expecting him, from such an acute angle, to plant his header back across goal because he was caught out at his near post too.

The second was a quite brilliant free-kick from Coutinho, but the free kick was caused by left-back Alberto Moreno being allowed to run freely beyond City’s midfield.
Sharp contrast between Mahrez and Coutinho

Riyad Mahrez, who should have been tracking Moreno, had allayed fears that his desire to leave the club before the transfer window closed would affect his performances.

Since the window shut and he didn’t get his move, his displays have enhanced those concerns.

The contrast between Mahrez and Coutinho, two players who were desperate to get moves from their clubs in the summer, could not have been more stark.

The worst goal was the third. City were back in the game thanks to Okazaki’s predatory instincts just before half-time, although he certainly did his best to also put off keeper Simon Mignolet in the build-up to the goal.They were pushing for an equaliser and the game was becoming stretched and open, but there was still plenty of time to go when Maguire stepped out of the defence with the ball, losing it and then leaving City to defend a break-away three on two. With Coutinho again involved, the outcome was inevitable.

Even then Vardy had the chance to grab something from the game for City but Mignolet redeemed himself with a penalty save, and Islam Slimani planted a free header wide.

The outcome could have been very different and that should be encouragement enough for Shakespeare and his players, but there are still areas that require addressing, and there is no glossing over that fact.