It’s been no secret that Leicester City haven’t been able to achieve the same kind of form that they showed in their stellar 2015-16 campaign in which they rose all the way to the top to win the Premier League title. However, the reasons as to why that is the case are far more than just the obvious one’s like N’Golo Kante’s departure from the club and superstars Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez not finding the same kind of form they showed last season. Here are six reasons why Leicester City have struggled so far in the 2016-17 Premier League season.
Disappearance of Defensive Resilience
One of the keys to Leicester City’s incredible title winning campaign last season was their resilience in defense, winning several games by just one goal to nil in the final few months of their title win. The Foxes kept 15 clean sheets in 38 matches last season, conceding less than a goal per game in the process. However this season, the same kind of defensive resilience has not been up to standard with Morgan and Huth in particular really struggling to cope with some of the league’s new standout strikers. One of the main reasons why Huth and Morgan haven’t looked quite as solid this season may be because of the change in rule that has seen referees begin to clamp down and inflict harsher punishments on grappling and holding inside of the box, two things that Morgan and Huth were culpable of several times last season and were rarely ever penalized for. Now that referees like Mike Dean have been blowing their whistles at any sight of an infringement inside of the area, Huth and Morgan have had to stamp that physical side out of their games and as a result have been far less successful at dealing with opposing attackers.
Leicester City’s incredible goalkeeper, Kasper Schmeichel, was an integral piece to the Premier League winning puzzle of last season, keeping 15 clean sheets and claiming 95% of the crosses that came his way as he appeared in all 38 Premier League matches. However this season the Danish goalkeeper has been unlucky to miss out with injury and Ron-Robert Zieler has struggled to fill the gap in his place. The Foxes have won just two of the eight games that Schmeichel has missed and in his absence, Zieler has saved an average of just one shot per goal and has made less than two saves per game. In contrast, Schmeichel has saved 2.8 shots per goal and has made four saves per game, proving how crucial he is at the back for Leicester City. Luckily for the Foxes, Schmeichel is now fit again and if Ranieri’s side are going to have any shot at climbing back up the table the Danish goalkeeper is going to need to stay that way for the rest of the season.
Failure to Bring in an N’Golo Kante Replacement
N’Golo Kante was arguably the most important player to Leicester City’s title win last season and he has proven that again this season as ever since his departure the Foxes have been on the decline while Antonio Conte’s Chelsea have prospered with his inclusion to the lineup, sitting in first place by six points. Obviously there are very few players that can do what N’Golo Kante can do as the Frenchman did after all make more interceptions and tackles than any other player in Europe last season. However, Leicester’s failure to bring in an adequate Kante replacement has seen them lose control over nearly every midfield battle and begin to slump down the table into despair. The combination of Drinkwater and Kante last season was one of the most successful central midfield pairings in Premier League history while the Andy King/Daniel Amartey pairing of this season has been arguably the Prem’s worst central midfield pairing so far in 2016-17. Nampalys Mendy was the man who was brought in to be that N’Golo Kante replacement, but the Frenchman was always a completely different style of player and after getting injured early on in the season hasn’t ever been able to sustain a regular run in the side. Instead of bringing in an adequate N’Golo Kante replacement like Idrissa Gueye, AS Monaco’s Fabinho or 30-year old French midfielder Lassana Diarra, Claudio Ranieri has stuck with Daniel Amartey in central midfield; a player whose natural position is actually right fulback. This has in turn caused Leicester to lose far too many midfield battles this season and slump down the table as they no longer have the screen in front of their defense that was N’Golo Kante. Gueye, Fabino and Diarra are all incredibly tough tacklers and highly perceptive of where to be in defensive areas. Fabinho and Gueye are also incredibly mobile, something that was so crucial to Leicester last season with Kante’s box-to-box nature acting as a starting point for several attacks in 2015-16. Diarra meanwhile is less mobile than Kante but with his Michael Carrick-esque style of play he always finds himself in the right place at the right time, something that N’Golo Kante is also a master at. Leicester City’s failure to replace their MVP of last season might just be the biggest reason of all why they have not lived up to that same promise that they showed when they won the title.
Failure to Adjust to Prem’s Changing Formations
This season Premier League football has shifted once again with several teams now switching from 4-2-3-1’s to 3-4-3’s. Leicester City meanwhile are still stuck playing a 4-4-2 and haven’t managed to figure out how to stop any team playing any kind of complex formation so far this season, even two of the worst teams in the league, Hull City and Sunderland. Claudio Ranieri has only played two formations this season: 4-4-2 and 4-5-1 and it is fairly safe to say that neither one has really worked out this season. Leicester have looked particularly susceptible to goals when coming up against teams playing with a lot of width like Antonio Conte’s Chelsea, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and even Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth. Although the men in blue probably don’t have the players to play a 3-4-3 formation themselves, their failure to adapt to the changing styles in the formations of the game has caused them to succumb to eight defeats so far.
Wrong Acquisitions in the Transfer Market
Not a single one of Leicester City’s summer acquisitions have hit the ground running and instead of playing the players that he thought were upgrades on the likes of Albrighton and Simpson in Musa and Hernandez, he has had to stick with nearly exactly the same the same set of players. The only major change to Leicester’s XI this season has been Islam Slimani coming into the fold for Shinji Okazaki and besides two or three powerful displays, things haven’t exactly worked out for the Algerian forward so far in the Premier League. Nampalys Mendy was always the wrong player to replace N’Golo Kante in the side while 19-year old Bartosz Kaputska was never ready to make the jump up to the Premier League from Poland’s top flight and has had to play all of his time so far for the Foxes’ U-23 team. Meanwhile, Luis Hernandez has looked shockingly bad when he’s featured this season and has been lucky to even make 4 league appearances so far, while Nigerian winger Ahmed Musa has only scored 2 goals in 13 appearances so far. Not a single signing of Ranieri’s has worked out for Leicester so far this season and the club’s failure to improve upon their squad from last season has seen them take a ginormous step backwards.
Misfiring Vardy and Mahrez
The most glaringly obvious factor in Leicester City’s struggles this season lie within the misfortunes of 2015-16 Player of the Year Award winners Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez. At this stage in the season last year, Vardy had scored 15 times already, compared to just 5 this season; while Mahrez’s tally of 13 goals after 17 games was ten higher than his tally of this season, 3. That’s right, Vardy has netted just 5 goals with 2 assists in 17 appearances this season, while Mahrez’s struggles have been even worse as he has scored just 3 times and added just 2 assists in the same amount of appearances. In contrast, last season it took the Algerian winger just 2 games to reach a tally of 3 goals and by the sixth Premier League game had already achieved 3 assists. Vardy meanwhile scored 6 goals in his first seven matches last season and eventually would go on to break the Premier League’s record for most consecutive games scoring a goal when he netted 13 times in 11 matches.
It has been no secret that Vardy and Mahrez haven’t been up to the same incredible standards that they demonstrated last season and there isn’t really a clear reason as to why this has been the case. Perhaps the only plausible explanation for their dips in form is that they have let all the talk about big money moves away from the Foxes go to their heads and start to have a bit of an attitude change about playing for the club that they achieved the impossible with last season. Whatever the reason for Vardy and Mahrez’s struggles this season, their failure to create chances and score goals has been one of Leicester’s main issues this season and is one of the key reasons why Claudio Ranieri’s side have struggled to stay afloat in the 2016-17 Premier League season.
After winning the Premier League title in stunning fashion in 2015-16, nobody really expected Leicester City to go on and win it again, but very few would have predicted them to play this poorly and be in the dire relegation fight that they now find themselves in. The Foxes currently sit just three points above the danger zone and unfortunately look a shadow of the side that we all came to love last season. Leicester City probably still won’t get relegated this season but if they do not address the issues above soon, Claudio Ranieri’s side could be in some serious danger and may be on a slope towards relegation from the Premier League.