Leicester City: from best to worst in the Premier League

Jamie Vardy of Leicester City (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Jamie Vardy of Leicester City (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images) /

Leicester City used to be a forced to be reckoned with. Yet the mighty have fallen, and look set for the Championship. Here is how it has happened.

2019-20, 2020-21. These seasons saw the Foxes fail twice to retain UEFA Champions league spots, but fifth place was nothing to scoff at: especially considering what was to come. In both cases, injuries and poor form in the second half of the season was to blame. Yet, the King Power was still flying.

As per FB Ref, Leicester saw a positive xGD90 (expected goal difference per 90) of 0.44 in the 19/20 campaign, and 0.26 in the 20/21 campaign. This fell in the 21/22 season to negative 0.30, and that value is almost identical at this point in what seems like our last PL season.

So Leicester City, what happened?

A story of what was good and what was bad. Leicester had/has a strong starting XI: coveted players such as James Maddison, Jamie Vardy, Youri Tielemans, Wilfred Ndidi, Caglar Soyuncu, Ricardo Pereira, etc. are all worthy of high praise, and certainly comprise the backbone of what should be a strong unit. As such, injuries aside, that squad was definitely good enough to do a lot.

It was also helped with mild improvements and changes as time progressed. James Justin, Wesley Fofana, the introduction of Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, etc. saw either squad depth improved or the starting XI improve. Of course, one of these would later leave and the other receive an irritating set of injuries keeping him an inconsistent appearance.

So, what happened this season and the last one? The squad somehow weakened. Not by much, but just enough to cause havoc when injuries struck. Jannik Vestergaard, Ryan Bertrand, the sale of Fofana and Kasper Schmeichel; these changes weakened the Foxes in key areas.

On top of that, the King Power club have never filled the gap at the right wing. Well, they did have Ademola Lookman for one season; which it still perplexes me that the player was not retained. Anyway, it is clear that squad wise we weakened, did not fill gaps we needed to, and retained a lot of players despite them being on shorter contracts.

Nevertheless, Brendan Rodgers’ team was still a strong one. So, could one or two players here or there lead to such a collapse? No. However, making existing players worse is certainly a sure-fire way to stare into the abyss. That responsibility lies solely with the aforementioned Northern Irish head coach.

When you have a midfield which included – at the time – the best defensive, the best progressive, and the best creative midfielders, you expect that they will likely stay that way until they leave. Yet, although ‘Madders’ remained productive, Ndidi has fallen off a cliff and Tielemans is on his way out while also being nowhere near his best.

To have had such a sharp drop off is astounding to me, and an indication of poor player management. Even Luke Thomas and Boubakary Soumare, both promising talents which have just not lived up to expectations. Thomas was great initially, then became inconsistent: again, Rodgers got his development wrong, and the English left-back is paying the price for this by being put aside by Victor Kristiansen.

Furthermore, just one look at the drop off of the English striker Vardy illustrates everything we need to know. From one of the best strikers around to unproductive, lacking impact and simply weak. Then, as soon as Dean Smith has shown some trust in the player, his form has returned. Vardy was overused, underappreciated, and then not supported correctly when his form fell. Rodgers has blood on his hands.

There is one final point I want to make: defensive organisation in key moments. Leicester City are a bewildering club. One moment the team can look unplayable and in complete control of both possession and the chances. The next, their goal is being peppered with incessant chances from balls over the top and out to the wing.

Next. Leicester 0-3 Liverpool: Foxes player ratings. dark

There seems to be little in terms of organisation. This was the issue for the entirety of this campaign: the Foxes just could not consistently control matches or prevent clinical chances and therefore would eventually be punished for it. Rodgers is responsible for that, but Kuhn Top should have acted earlier so another manager could have had the opportunity to resolve that with more games to go. Too little done too late.