Everything appeared to be so simple. Leicester City appeared to be assured of three points with 30 minutes remaining against a lackluster Brentford. When Ivan Toney pulled one back and then missed a simple headed chance, alarm bells did not go off. Enter Josh Dasilva, who had failed to score in his previous season due to injuries. He collected a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area, cut in from the right, skipped over a couple of half-hearted challenges, and curled a beautiful equalizer past Danny Ward. Leicester could only blame themselves, but Brentford, like a swarm of red and white striped magicians, had created something out of nothing.
“It was almost too much for Josh,” said Brentford head coach Thomas Frank. “But he’s a fantastic person who deserved it.” It was a massive moment that earned us a massive, well-deserved point. Positives outweighed negatives by a wide margin. Great teams are built on great mentality, but we still have a lot of tactical and technical work to do.”
Last time out, Leicester and Brentford were ranked eighth and thirteenth, respectively. Both could have had a better summer. Brentford’s attempts to keep Christian Eriksen ended in defeat, but Frank bolstered his shaky defense with Ben Mee and Scottish right-back Aaron Hickey. They have more steel than flair, as evidenced by their comeback from defeat on Sunday.
Leicester had to rely on World Cup-bound goalkeeper Ward, whose sole Premier League appearance at Watford last season was his first at that level since 2016, though early saves from Bryan Mbeumo and at Toney’s feet calmed everyone’s nerves.
“The goalkeeping situation is settled in my mind,” Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers said. “I’ve always said Danny is a first-team goalkeeper, and he deserves this chance.” He exuded authority and presence today. If Wen signs anyone, it will be a number three goalkeeper to replace Daniel Iversen.”
Jamie Vardy will have had less turbulent rest periods, while Ricardo Pereira is still six months away from fitness. There were no summer additions, with the exception of Aston Villa youth Paul Appiah. Eighth place already appears to be a difficult target, and despite Sunday’s intermittent excellence, game management remains an issue.
“We were fantastic for an hour,” Rodgers said. “Then we gave up two goals that we could have avoided with better planning and concentration.” We can certainly improve our game management.”
James Justin pushed up high to prey on Hickey, who may not have faced such relentless pressure with Bologna in Serie A last season. Hickey, on the other hand, held firm, and when Leicester looked for other options, David Raya made a camera-friendly flying save from Youri Tielemans after a fine ball from the dominant James Maddison. When the two linked again, Maddison’s clever header was just inches wider than Raya’s post.
Leicester were dominant, but their dominance was frail without a goal. They had one shortly after the half-hour mark. If the scorer was unexpected, the creator was not. As Toney slept soundly, Maddison lobbed in a corner from the left, and Timothy Castagne ghosted past him to head past Raya, the Belgian’s first goal since the corresponding fixture last season. Being ahead suited Leicester, and before halftime, more frantic interplay between Maddison and Tielemans resulted in the latter firing a shot against Raya’s post.
Brentford’s hopes of a comeback were seemingly dashed within a minute of the game’s restart. When Mee failed to intercept Wesley Fofana’s routine ball forwards, Vardy cleverly helped it into the path of Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, who smashed a low drive past Raya from 28 yards. Is everything finished? It appeared to be so.
Mee was soon replaced, and Brentford equalized almost immediately when Toney outmuscled and out-thought Daniel Amartey to collect Rico Henry’s ball, swivel, and fire past Ward.
Toney’s goal wasn’t as effective as it could have been at first. When Mbeumo crossed from the right, Fofana looped a header onto Raya’s post, but Brentford had a real chance to equalize. Toney ran in unnoticed at the back post and nodded widely. Any Brentford hope was gone as Toney lay on the pitch, a picture of desolation. Dasilva steps forward…
Leicester have had a turbulent summer, with no new signings, the loss of captain and fan favorite Kasper Schmeichel, and transfer rumors surrounding Wesley Fofana and James Maddison. Jonny Evans has been named Schmeichel’s replacement as captain, and manager Brendan Rodgers describes him as the “natural successor.”
“Jonny represents these players’ collective standards and values and what they stand for,” he said. “He’s a very experienced player.”
“He has a lot of respect in the locker room for what he’s accomplished and how he conducts himself on a daily basis.” He’s the obvious choice now that Kasper has left.”
Evans, a former Manchester United centre-half, has made over 100 league appearances for Leicester since joining from West Brom for £3.5 million in 2018. With Schmeichel gone, Danny Ward is set to take over in goal, and Rodgers has confirmed Ward and Daniel Iversen will now compete for the number one jersey.
Meanwhile, Thomas Frank believes Brentford will not suffer from second-season syndrome. Brentford’s 46 points last season were one more than the combined total of the other two promoted teams, Watford (23) and Norwich (22) as they finished a respectable 13th in their first Premier League season.
However, in recent seasons, Huddersfield Town and Sheffield United have been relegated to the Championship after strong starts in the Premier League. Leeds only avoided relegation on the final day of last season, finishing ninth in their first season back in the Premier League.
“In general, I don’t believe too much in second-season syndrome,” Frank said ahead of today’s match.
It’s a constructed narrative. Our opponents on Sunday won the Premier League in their second season, so perhaps that is the path we should take.
“Huddersfield’s underlying stats show that they were extremely fortunate to stay in the league [in their first season], so I wasn’t surprised when they struggled the following year.”
“We were unlucky not to stay in the league last year, so we have a foundation to build on.” That can change due to injuries and a lack of form, but hopefully the things we do every day keep us in a good place.”