Eight months ago, Leicester lifted their first ever Premier League trophy, which is equal to achieving the highest accolade in any form of sports, all over the world. Eight months later, the Foxes are battling it out to avoid a relegation spot. The team is currently one point, and two places above the bottom three, however, the management of Leicester has given the vote of confidence to Claudio Ranieri and is keen on retaining him. Well, what has changed so significantly in these eight months for Leicester?
Ranieri was named the Coach of the Year just two months ago, and now he has a difficult job in hand – how to avoid the relegation shame. If Leicester gets relegated, it will be the first team to win the trophy and get relegated next season since 1932. This prospect is on the cards with the worst title defense ever seen. How miserable were they this season? Let’s take a brief look back.
Since August, Leicester has lost 13 games out of 24, winning just five. Last season, they did not just win the league but walk away ten-points clear, losing only three matches during the entire campaign. Things, however, have quickly gone haywire this season since they haven’t won a single away game, and did not manage to score a single goal in the first five matches of 2017. No team has ever endured such a miserable run over the past 31 years.
— SuperSport (@SuperSportTV) February 9, 2017
The formidable partnership between Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez was one of the focal points of Leicester’s success last season but that seems to have vanished. The man with the inspiring story, Vardy, scored 22 goals last season compared to the five this season. He was named Football Writers player of the year and was also nominated for Ballon d’Or and FIFA Player of the year. However, his performance this season only forces us to label him a one-season wonder. Same goes for Mahrez, who has scored three goals this season, scoring two of those from the penalty spot. We haven’t seen much of his tricky and mazy dribbling this season that made him the goal-scoring machine he was last season. He was awarded PFA Player of the Year and BBC African Footballer of the year award due to his attacking excellence.
The duo was outrageously brilliant together, and the trust they had on each other was exceptional. The linked-up play saw them involved in seven goals, but all this is missing since August. However, things started to change a bit after October but to no great effect. They were seen passing each other more often, but even that did not lead to many goals. Shockingly, the pair has combined for just one goal in the last 12 months.
— Sky Sports News HQ (@SkySportsNewsHQ) February 6, 2017
Leicester sold Premier League crown to Chelsea in €32 million. Well, it was predicted that Leicester would lose some of their key players to big money moves, but Ranieri kept hold of Vardy and Mahrez, but he let Kante go. Now, a team that is extremely reliant on counter-attack needs a player of Kante’s ability. He can break the opposition’s attack and come back to protect the back. Troy Deeney made it quite clear in the start that breaking Leicester’s defense is much easier now compared to last season. Kante’s form for Chelsea is a hallmark and gives a particular view that he was the key factor behind Leicester’s success.
— Kante Facts (@KanteFacts_) February 7, 2017
The back-line of Leicester has also started to crumble, with age being one of the problems, but the rock solid defense isn’t the same as it was last season. The defense managed to have 15 clean sheets last season, but this time round, they have started to concede more often. The backline isn’t performing as per expectations and is finding itself exposed every now and then. This bitter truth of the defense line is not allowing them to work as a unit. The stats shout about how their work rate has taken a drastic dip.
What can be the possible reasons of decline? According to some, the pressure of Champions League football and coping up with the challenge is not allowing the team to showcase excellence at every stage. Leicester has been brilliant in the UEFA Champions League, but when they play in the Premier League, the essence seems to disappear. Another factor is the players who are not available due to international duty, which is not allowing Ranieri to make changes. But it’s not just the players; Ranieri has also shifted his style and has been the “Tinkerman,” a name he earned for himself during his time at Chelsea.
✅ Champions League Champions 2017
✅ FA Cup Winners 2017
❌ Relegated from Premier League
— Football Super Tips (@FootySuperTips) February 8, 2017
After such a dismal start to the season and start of 2017, will Leicester be able to survive the relegation challenge? Well, they aren’t in any such trouble as of now, but with just 14 matchweeks to go, they may find themselves lurking behind. If Ranieri doesn’t find answers for the lost equation, Leicester will become the first side since 1931 to relegate the very next season after winning the title. But for now, it is quite obvious that this has been the worst title defense ever!