Robert Huth

Premier League AT HALF: Stoke, Leicester, Watford lead

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Five midday matches have followed Spurs’ demolition of Bournemouth, and a quartet of relegation candidates are hoping to improve their status.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

Three of the four haven’t been successful.


Sunderland 1-1 West Ham United

The Black Cats’ relegation fate looked more certain thanks to an early Andre Ayew goal, but Wahbi Khazri isn’t giving up hope. Look above for an Olimpico goal from the Tunisian.

Stoke City 1-0 Hull City

Marko Arnautovic punished a ball and the visitors within the game’s opening moments.

Everton 0-0 Burnley

Ross Barkley did his best work at the other goal line, heading a Michael Keane header away from the score sheet.

Crystal Palace 0-1 Leicester City

Robert Huth went unmarked and made Palace pay.

Watford 1-0 Swansea City

Not a ton cooking at Vicarage Road before Etienne Capoue took advantage of Alfie Mawson‘s late half nap.

Defensive regression biggest culprit of Leicester collapse

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Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Leicester City’s title run last season seemed to be.

They have both gone up in flames just as quickly.

Leicester City is fighting relegation just a season removed from one of the most improbable championship campaigns of all-time. Plenty has been written about the reasons for their continuing collapse. Some have blamed manager Claudio Ranieri, hailed as a hero less than a year ago. Others point to the utterly eye-opening goalless streak, now at an ugly 610 Premier League minutes thanks in large part to the sudden ineptitude of Riyad Mahrez. Many point to the departure of midfield adhesive N'Golo Kante, who is nearing a second title in two seasons.

[ RECAP: Leicester City falls to Swansea City, fifth loss in a row ]

Those would all have merit. However, the overwhelming perpetrator is a massive regression of the back line, and unlike the other factors which have seemingly come from nowhere, this one we all should have seen coming.

Robert Huth, Christian Fuchs, and captain Wes Morgan played a combined 9,550 Premier League minutes last season as both Huth and Morgan played every tick of the clock. This year, those three players are 32, 30, and 33 years old. How the Leicester City board never found capable replacements or backups for those players is mind-boggling. Could we really have expected that trio to continue playing at an all star level as they climbed further above the 30-year-old mark?

[ LISTEN: 2 Robbies talk Leicester City ]

Squawka Statistics ranks Leicester City as the third-worst defensive team in the Premier League by its Performance Score, but it shows directly on the pitch as well. Fuchs was undressed in the recent 3-0 loss to Manchester United, and was yanked at halftime in the loss to Swansea on Sunday. Huth has looked slower and slower, and should have been sent off by referee Jon Moss for a terrible challenge on Swans midfielder Tom Carroll. Morgan should have been called for a handball when he clumsily went to ground to block a shot. The mistakes are there for all to see, and they’re getting more and more glaring.

Sky Sports tweeted this out on Saturday before the Swansea loss. It’s meant to put the loss of Kante into an image, but doesn’t this simply serve to display the defensive frailties? Look at the massive increase in defensive errors leading to goals.

It must be said that the disappearance of both Mahrez and Jamie Vardy is a troubling trend, and Leicester can’t win if they can’t score, that much is true. As the club grows increasingly incapable of scoring goals against Premier League opposition, their chances of survival get slimmer and slimmer, and the pair may end up finding themselves benched, Mahrez just a year removed from winning Player of the Season.

Ultimately though, the defense must improve if the club is to survive, and it likely won’t come with Huth, Fuchs, and Morgan all on the field together. Expect them to start seeing less time, with Ranieri saying after the Swansea loss, “Am I too loyal to my players? I could be, could be. It is difficult when you achieve something so good. You want to give them one chance, two chances, three chances. Maybe now, it is too much.”

The club failed to strengthen in this department in January, and ultimately Ranieri may be unfairly blamed for the sudden ineptitudes of the squad he led to the title just a year ago.

Huth admits his foul Traore should have been PK

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Given the short turn-around, Wes Morgan and Robert Huth were happy to take a point from Monday’s visit to Middlesbrough.

Huth especially, considering the Leicester City back figured he had given away a penalty kick when he clipped Adama Traore just inside the area.

[ RECAP: Boro 0-0 Leicester ]

Referee Bobby Madley didn’t see it that way, and Leicester held back Boro over the remainder of a 0-0 match at the Riverside Stadium.

Here’s Huth, from NBCSN:

“I thought it was a pen. I was just waiting for the ref to give it. (And) my first time seeing it back, yeah”

Leicester’s center back duo admitted the short turnaround was rough on both teams, and probably contributed to the lack of energy. The Foxes claimed four points from the pair of contest

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Sunderland 2-1 Leicester City: Black Cats buzzing, Luck running out for Leicester

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  • Black Cats up to 18th
  • Own goal, Defoe the markers
  • Leicester two points clear of drop
  • Okazaki pulls one back

Sunderland looked left for dead; Now the Northeast club’s Premier League survival hopes very much alive.

The Black Cats knocked off Leicester City for a third win in four games, kicking the Foxes firmly into the relegation mix after a 2-1 match at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

Jan Kirchhoff hit the header than turned into a Robert Huth own goal, making a much-needed return to the Sunderland side.

Demarai Gray found Shinji Okazaki to make it 2-1 with 12 minutes to play.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Victor Anichebe is a striker in form, barely missing with an early laser before seeing a sure goal deflected away from goal to set up a fifth minute corner. The hosts were humming at the Stadium of Light.

Anichebe had a shout for a penalty in the 14th minute while Wes Morgan jostled with him in the box, but his cries were unheard and the big man didn’t go down.

Scary before the break, as Marc Albrighton and with Black Cats midfielder Steven Pienaar came together in an inadvertant collission. Pienaar was left the worse for it.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Islam Slimani didn’t see a seeing-eye pass through the 18 before it struck his shin, and Sunderland dodged an early bullet.

But oh boy. Kirchhoff won a free header by beating Huth to a corner kick, and his effort hit the defender on the way into the goal.

Defoe buttressed the lead with a fine goal, and it was one Sunderland would need following Okazaki’s finish.

Young goalkeeper Jordan Pickford got the job done for the Black Cats down the stretch, and Moyes can puff out his chest for yet another week after a miserable start to the season.

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Premier League preview: Leicester City vs. Arsenal

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  • Leicester has won just once in last 31 meetings with Arsenal
  • Both teams lost on opening day by one-goal margins
  • Arsenal may risk Euro returnees

Last season’s champions look to bounce back as they host Arsenal at King Power Stadium live Saturday at 12:30pm E.T. on CNBC or live online at NBCSports.com.

The Foxes began their season with a disappointing loss on the road at newly promoted Hull City, a game which manager Claudio Ranieri said his side did not play with the same togetherness they showed last campaign.

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Since that result, Leicester received a pair of boosts, securing Riyad Mahrez on a brand new contract and finding Robert Huth available for a return following his three-match red card ban stemming from the end of last season. Still, with a poor pre-season and the Hull City result hanging over the club, last year’s success seems to be more of a distant memory than ever before.

Arsenal is facing adversity of their own, with a monstrous 4-3 defeat to Liverpool a disappointing start to the year. The Gunners controlled much of the match, but a short spell of lowered concentration bookending halftime saw the Reds take advantage and storm the inexperienced Arsenal defensive line. It’s possible for the trip to Leicester that manager Arsene Wenger will choose to risk French international Laurent Koscielny, who is still returning to fitness following the extended post-Euro break.

Others that could also be brought back ahead of schedule could include Olivier Giroud and Mesut Ozil. Alexis Sanchez started up top against Liverpool in Giroud’s place, with Alex Iwobi coming into the side on the wing. Iwobi looked dangerous, and Sanchez is always a threat from any position, but the setup still had a feeling of apprehension at times.


What they’re saying

Wenger on spending in the transfer window: “You are absolutely convinced that I do not want to spend the money, but I reassure you we are ready to spend the money. What I fight against is to think that the only way in football is to buy. To buy in itself is not a quality but to buy the good players is a quality, and I think this club has been built on that.”

Ranieri on new Mahrez contract: “We are now in the Champions League and we need something more to play against the big teams. Now he knows very well what I want and my expectations are higher. Not only for Riyad but for all my players.”

Prediction

Leicester City will need more to shake their substandard start. Arsenal looked leaky defensively, but the Gunners for the most part controlled the game against an energetic Liverpool squad, and it’s likely that will remain the case again. Leicester City will need to score against the run of play, something which teams have had success doing against Arsenal. The hosts will be boosted by the home fans, and that should lead them to push towards a 1-1 draw against a possession-heavy Arsenal.