Pearson’s Return – Who Wins? Who’s Off?

A phenomenal number of personnel changes have taken place in the 18 months or so since Nigel Pearson was last manager of Leicester City. Kyle Naughton, Manuel Vitor, Yakubu, Jeffrey Bruma and Ben Mee all came and went. Jack Hobbs, Martyn Waghorn and Matty Fryatt, all Pearson stalwarts, must feel like some of the unluckiest footballers in the country after following their man East only for him to leave them behind once again. Sven Goran Eriksson’s signings will, meanwhile, be wondering what the future holds under the new boss.

One game into Pearson Era No.2, who has been sobbing down the phone to Eriksson at 3am and who has been flirting with the new boss?

Apparently Moreno is still at the club, by the way. No, really.

The Winners
Matt Mills
Huge cliche this, but Matt Mills is a Nigel Pearson kind of player. A strong, brave, old-fashioned centre half, Mills fits in to Pearson’s philosophy that the first job of a defender is to defend. In Pearson’s last spell at the club, he brought in the hoary, experienced Wayne Brown to complement the raw talent of the young Jack Hobbs. Despite a collective lack of pace, they forged an impressive partnership in the 2009-2010 season. Mills could be Pearson Mk2’s Brown. Without the (alleged) racism, hopefully.

Andy King
King, despite showing sporadic glimpses of the form that brought him 16 goals in 2010-11, has started to look an increasingly frustrated (and frustrating) figure in the Leicester midfield. A victim of Erikkson’s failure to settle on a consistent midfield formula, King’s late, Lampard-esque bursts into the box have become less frequent. Pearson’s return should see King once again become a focal point of the attack, although the lack of width at the club this season could continue to trouble the Welshman.

David Nugent
Nugent has been one of the few unqualified success stories of Eriksson’s signings. A mobile, hard-working, excellent finisher, Nugent resembles Matty Fryatt without the flat feet and extended bouts of depression. Still only 26 as well. Phwoar.

The Losers

Yuki Abe
Poor Yuki Abe. A calm, classy, international midfield stopper, English football’s lack of respect for the ‘unseen’ has seen Abe drift away from the first team and, since his return from international duty last month, he’s barely even seen the bench. Pearson seems unlikely to be the man to revive Abe’s fortunes. Favouring graft over the type of sweatless elegance purveyed by Abe, Pearson seems likely to opt for some form of Wellens/Danns/King/Johnson combo. Sigh. You may have noticed that I rather like Yuki Abe.

Jermaine Beckford
Portraying Pearson as some kind of Howard Wilkinson-style maverick dismisser is wide of the mark, but his treatment of DJ Campbell and Max Gradel go some way to showing us how Beckford might fare under his reign. So far, Beckford looks like the archetypal deadline day panic buy, struggling first to fit into a system he has been shoehorned into and then feeling the wrath of City fans for failing to even put in much of a shift in recent weeks. Beckford does, however, have the advantage of being more of a Pearson kind of player than both Campbell and Gradel. Strong and physical, he could benefit from the more direct style likely to be employed by his new manager. An awful lot depends on how much Beckford fancies the challenge. His goal against Palace last weekend was a good start to the redemption process.

Gelsen Fernandes
After a brief period as a fans favourite at the King Power, a position achieved largely through wild lunges and lots of running about, Fernandes has been well and truly off the radar since Eriksson’s departure; he has not made the 16-man squad since the 3-0 defeat to Millwall which ended the Swede’s reign. Turns out we’ve got too many central midfielders. Who knew, eh? Never as vociferous a consumer of loan signings as Eriksson, expect Pearson to ship the Swiss back to Saint Etienne at the soonest possible opportunity.

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