What can Leicester City realistically achieve this season?
Truth be told, Leicester City Football Club had no right to achieve what they did last season and win the Barclays Premier League, but did that stop them?
It certainly didn’t, and it became one of the most iconic, legendary and mesmerising sports stories of all time.
Their recipe for success consisted of six main ingredients: Nigel Pearson, Claudio Ranieri, Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, N’Golo Kante and perhaps most importantly, incredible team spirit.
Just like any good recipe, without one key ingredient the end product tends not to be that great, and it looks as if Leicester City may be following that path after the loss of N’Golo Kante to Chelsea, despite the Foxes doing well to keep a hold of Vardy and Mahrez who were both linked with Arsenal.
4 points from 4 games is not the start Ranieri was looking for and is only half the total the Midlands team had amassed at this point last year.
The Foxes have faced tough opposition in Arsenal and Liverpool already this early in the season, but a 2-1 defeat to newly promoted Hull City who only had 13 senior players was a very bad way to begin their title defence.
A 0-0 draw with Arsenal wasn’t too bad, with a decent win against Swansea including a beautiful team goal scored by Jamie Vardy coming the following weekend.
Last weekend the Foxes faced Liverpool at Anfield, and to be honest they never really got into the game, with their only goal coming from a catastrophic defensive error from Lucas Leiva, effectively handing Vardy a free shot on goal which he duly dispatched.
It is far too early into the season to take league positions incredibly seriously, but a few alarm bells will be ringing as the defending champions sit in 16th, 8 points behind league leaders Manchester City.
To compare them to the league leaders is a little daft, as even though they won the league last year, that is never consistently going to be achievable for a club of Leicester’s size and wealth, but a solid top 8 finish is certainly possible.
We haven’t seen much from Leicester’s star players with the exception of Vardy who has found the back of the opposition’s net on two occasions.
Centre backs Wes Morgan and Robert Huth haven’t looked as solid as last year, and Mahrez has been comparably quiet compared to last term.
We have also seen little from their key summer recruits Ahmed Musa (despite his incredible pre-season goal against Barcelona), Nemphis Mendy or Islam Slimani, although it is, of course, early days.
As Alan Shearer mentioned on Match of the Day following Leicester’s humiliation at Liverpool, the Foxes are continuing to play a very attacking formation and style of football, looking to expose and counter teams on the break with the speed of Vardy, which they managed to do against Swansea City, but the tactics may need to be refreshed as they no longer have Kante.
The French midfielder was key to the way Leicester played last year and have continued to play this term, as he covered every single blade of grass in the middle of the park, intercepting the ball and lofting it forward to Leicester’s attacking players.
Leicester no longer have a man capable of this in the same way Kante was in their team, meaning instead of punishing teams they are leaving themselves horribly exposed and vulnerable to lots of opposition attacks due to the attacking way in which they are set up.
A change of tactics may be needed for the champions, with perhaps something like a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 instead of the conventional 4-4-2 suiting the current group of players better.
Either way, something has to be done if Leicester want to prove last season wasn’t a complete flash in the pan, and with the added pressure of Champions League football where they will be keen to progress, things could spiral out of control very quickly if they aren’t careful.
Ultimately last year’s heroics are unlikely to be repeated, but a finish outside the top 10 would be considered by many as a bit of a disappointment, especially if they fail to progress in the Champions League.
If that should happen, they miss losing all of their key men and will face a huge uphill climb to regain their momentum.
Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by Alex Hannam.
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