In 2016, Leicester shocked the world by winning the Prem with players who had yet to announce themselves. Over the next few years, they would become a model of a stable club that, sometimes, reached for Europe. Now, for two seasons in a row, the Foxes may be returning to a relegation level club.
Leicester’s 2016 story is one of the greatest in all sports that will continue to inspire people all over. However, the good vibes that have carried the club ever since are finally dissipating.
Following their improbable title win, there was a steady bleeding of important players from the club. Players like Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kanté were never truly replaced and their roles went unfilled. The board also failed to bring in proper Prem talent despite the occasional hit.
This season has seen a mixed bag of performances. For the most part, the offense is still humming with contributions from multiple players. It’s their truly awful defense that has condemned them to the bottom of the table.
While it’s highly unlikely that the Foxes will be relegated, there still should be concerns over the club’s future in the Prem. 2016 will never be replicated, but Leicester is too talented to be at the bottom of the league.
Even as they won the league, the front office should have surely known that the team had an expiration date. Top players like Kanté and Mahrez would surely be on the move while veterans like Wes Morgan were past their prime.
In the summer after their win, the Foxes brought in Nampalys Mendy, Ahmed Musa and Islam Slimani amongst others. Slimani’s game wasn’t meant for the Prem while Musa looked totally out of his depth in England. Mendy is the only one who has found success with the Foxes and this would be a pattern for the club.
Rather than bringing stability to their backline, the front office believed in building a powerhouse offensively. Forward after forward would try to fill Vardy’s boots despite the club icon continuing to perform well as he aged.
There were a few moves to rebuild their backline that did work, like Jonny Evans and Harry Maguire. Söyüncü had all the potential to be a cornerstone of that defense, but he has been completely frozen out of the team. Wout Faes is still in his first season in England, but he’s had such a rough go of things.
Also there was the weird situation with the club somewhat forcing captain Kasper Schmeichel out without a replacement. This forced the club to start Danny Ward, who had a historically awful start to he season. While Schmeichel has struggled in France, there were plenty of other keepers that the Foxes could have gone for in the summer and avoided the Ward disaster class.
It’s not as if all of Leicester’s moves have failed, Youri Tielemans and James Maddison are two players that most top 6 clubs would love. Patson Daka struggled in his first season, but has slowly gotten used to life in the Prem. Academy product Harvey Barnes has been one of the club’s best players and may be on the move soon.
Leicester’s failure to properly rebuild after their title win has come back to bite them. The decision to chase the same success of 2016 has now left the club completely stuck in the past.
Brendan Rodgers deserves some credit for stabilizing the club after a chaotic fall to start the 2018/19 season. Unfortunately, his magic has run out.
The offense is not the club’s biggest concern, given that they are near the middle of the pack in goals scored. Barnes and Maddison have scored the lion’s share of the goals with both players’ time in Leicester seemingly almost over. Daka is not the same player he was in Austria, but he has still shown flashes of potential.
A concern that must be addressed is the lack of production outside those players. Vardy is finally in the twilight of his career while Iheanacho has yet to find consistent form. Even outside of those players, the rest of the team is responsible for a shocking 7 goals and 8 assists.
Fans of the Foxes should look away while discussing this putrid defense. There is no good center back pairing on this team, no matter the set of players who play. To make matters worse, there is no consistency over who starts due to a myriad of reasons.
This makes any notion of grading Ward’s performances hard, but not impossible. To say that the Foxes screwed up with this choice would be an understatement. Ward has been the worst starting goalkeeper in the Prem by a country mile.
So much has come together to give Leicester a season from hell. From an offense reliant on a select few players to a defense like swiss cheese, there are so many potential excuses.
When they conquered England in 2016, the East Midlands side had the world’s attention on them. Thankfully, for the club, that attention is now gone, so that this collapse can go under the radar. For a club that had gone so far above their average, this may be a truly unfortunate regression to their mean.
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