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We're getting left (at the) back

We're getting left (at the) back

The left-back position is fast becoming a major headache for Leicester City manager Craig Levein.

Today's incumbent, at least at the start, was Nils Eric Johansson and it is hard to recall seeing a less convincing performance for Leicester City in that role.

Earlier in the season he seemed steady (if vulnerable to being turned) and City had a reasonable run of mean displays defensively.

But yesterday, though he started well enough Nils was not only woefully exposed for Millwall's goal but his passing touch deserted him and he also lacked urgency going forward.

Thankfully, the manager substituted him at half-time, presumably to save further punishment both for him and the City supporters.

Before the Millwall goal, Johansson, an erstwhile centre-half failed to make several bread and butter passes in close succession.

It was he who lost the ball to allow Millwall to launch their goalscoring attack, he who was turned and left for dead for the resulting goal and minutes later he was being beaten again in a near repeat which ended harmlessly.

But two other incidents emphasised a day to forget for a man declaredly more suited to centre-half.

One was a raking crossfield pass from Paddy McCarthy to a position where McCarthy expected Johansson, as part of the advancing defence, to have run.

Unfortunately Johansson had barely moved and the pass went hopelessly astray to the demonstrable annoyance of McCarthy.

A little later Johansson saw Danny Tiatto on the left touchline yet failed to make the five yard pass necessary to give him possession, steering the ball well wide and out of play while under very little whatsoever.

Craig Levein had dropped Johansson from the left back spot earlier in the season but the problem seems now to be becoming a nightmare, simply because, if he doesn't pick Nils he has limited alternatives.

Alan Sheehan arguably the club's best left back, remains suspended. He blotted his CV big time by getting sent off and being at fault for Crewe's goal in the recent 1-1 draw.

But Sheehan did lots of good or competent things in the time he was on and the worst thing he probably did was leave his manager in such a no-win situation over who to play left-back.

With a rush of games scheduled over the holiday period, Levein doubtless wished to rest one or two - Stearman for instance - and felt that Johansson's presence would be less disruptive to the team in general than anyone else.

Perfectly reasonable thinking but how it backfired and the half-time substitution of Johansson probably said more about the manager's feelings on the subject than any words.

Kisnorbo was the man to take the poisonned chalice at left back and, although turned inside out on one occasion that could have led to a goal, he was always vulnerable in the three-man defence so it would be unfair to judge his efforts harshly.

Indeed City were far more effective (if more exposed) in the second half, including 30 minutes with 10 men, than they were in the first.

The question now is, who does Levein play at left-back in the Reading match on Wednesday?

Tiatto and Sheehan will be suspended so Maybury/Stearman appear the only obvious alternatives, unless he leaves Kisnorbo there but in the normal four-man defence.

Let's hope he has forgiven Sheehan for his youthful nievity and that Sheehan has learned from his mistakes. If he has, I've a feeling the Irishman might be required to pay his boss back before long.

But I wouldn't be surprised if the problem has now convinced Levein to buy another left-back when the transfer window opens.

He cannot continue conceding goals from the same place.

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Date:Wednesday December 28 2005
Time: 2:24PM

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