James Maddison and Youri Tielemans look tired, new signings have failed to settle and injury woes have seen Leicester endure a shambolic September with ONE WIN as Brendan Rodgers contends with a slump
- Leicester have endured a torrid September with just one win in six games
- The Foxes ended last season on a high, winning the FA Cup against Chelsea
- However, Brendan Rodgers’ side have been well off the pace this season
- Sportsmail takes a look at where Leicester have fallen short so far
Having long threatened to break into English football’s upper echelons, Brendan Rodgers and Leicester City appeared to finally blow the door down on a wet Wembley afternoon last May.
A gritty 1-0 win over Chelsea in the FA Cup final, with a thunderous Youri Tielemans strike separating the two sides, felt like the beginnings of an era at the top table with the Foxes rubbing shoulders with their financially-stronger rivals.
Yet the Foxes have made an uncharacteristically slow start to the 2021-22 campaign, much to the bemusement of supporters and onlookers alike.
Leicester have endured an uncharacteristically slow start to the 2021-22 campaign
The Foxes’ FA Cup triumph last May seems a distant memory amid their concerning form
One win from six games has spelt a shambolic September for the East Midlands side, who sit 13th in the league and bottom of their Europa League group, some way off the side that showed the panache and verve that took them to back-to-back fifth place finishes.
Sportsmail takes a look at where things have fallen flat for Leicester, with a number of factors besetting Rogers and his underperforming outfit.
First half struggles
For a team so accustomed to flying out of the traps from the first minute, Leicester have struggled to find their rhythm in the opening 45 minutes over the past six games.
The Foxes have scored just twice in 270 minutes of first half action, with Legia Warsaw punishing the Premier League side’s sloppiness to take the lead 31 minutes into their Europa League clash on Thursday.
This flaw has often required Leicester to chase the game in the second half and the Foxes have put in better second half displays due to the urgency of salvaging a result.
The East Midlands side have struggled to make an impression in the first half of their games
Leicester have been forced to up the ante in the second half and the statistics reflect that
According to Opta, Leicester’s total shots in the second half of games are almost double their first half total (48 to 26), while their expected goals are up from 2.81 to 5.31.
It is a pattern that has not passed the attention of boss Rodgers, who labelled his side’s first half displays ‘passive’.
‘It was the same against Burnley,’ Rodgers reflected. ‘We were too passive in the first half, and then in the second half much better.
‘We’ve got to start games strong and finish them well, and at the minute we’re finishing them strong but not starting them well. It’s my responsibility to fix that.’
Slow tempo woes
Leicester’s success over the past two seasons has come from their urgency both in and out of possession, however, the statistics show that this facet of the Foxes’ game has dropped in the past six games.
According to Opta, tackles have dropped from 18.5 per game before the international break to 14.8, interceptions are down from 11.0 to 6.8 while possession won in the final third has fallen from 3.8 to 2.7.
Interestingly, Leicester have enjoyed more possession of the ball (58.2 per cent) than in the first four games of the season (50.8 per cent), while total shots, expected goals and passes completed have all increased.
Leicester have also struggled to play with any urgency when in possession of the football
Yet Rodgers has come to rue his side’s lack of cutting edge. Leicester’s shot conversion has fallen from 15.2 per cent to 9.5 per cent in the past six games.
Schmeichel said: ‘On a difficult European night, a difficult pitch, we created enough chances I think in the second half. Unfortunately, it took until half-time to get things right.
‘I think in eight out of 10 games we’d get something out of the game with the amount of chances we created but we lacked that little bit of cutting edge today and we’re disappointed.’
Injuries and player absences
It is an excuse that Rodgers will be reluctant to fall back on, but one that cannot be overlooked. Leicester have been hindered by a handful of long-term injuries and player absences that have had a knock-on effect on performances.
James Justin’s exploits at right back have been difficult to replace since the youngster picked up a knee injury last season, although Ricardo Pereira’s return from injury has been a boost for Rodgers.
Injuries to key players such as James Justin and Wesley Fofana have hampered Rodgers
Wesley Fofana, who earned rave reviews due to his outstanding debut campaign at the King Power Stadium, has been a huge miss at centre back after injuring his knee and ankle ligaments earlier this term.
Meanwhile, defensive stalwart Jonny Evans has been a big miss for Leicester this season with a foot injury and illness ruling the experienced centre half out for most of the campaign thus far.
Rodgers has also had to contend with non-injury related player absences, with Kelechi Iheanacho unable to play in Poland this week as a result of documentation issues.
Tielemans and Maddison look jaded
When the chips are down, coaches look to their big players to deliver and at the moment Youri Tielemans and James Maddison are not clicking, much to the frustration of Leicester supporters.
Tielemans enjoyed an outstanding campaign last term capped off by his sensational winning strike at Wembley, but the Belgian has appeared off the pace this time around.
That may be due to the physical effects of 51 appearances in all competitions last season, while the 24-year-old’s ongoing contractual uncertainty may be weighing on his mind. He has one year left on his deal with the Foxes and is yet to agree to fresh terms.
James Maddison (L) and Youri Tielemans (R) look jaded after a marathon slog last season
Maddison has yet to make his mark for Leicester this season. He missed out on Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the Euros this summer and is yet to show that the Three Lions boss was wrong in omitting the creative midfielder.
In six league games Maddison has failed to register a goal or assist, has created only four chances and has taken just two shots. His pass accuracy of 73.55 per cent is down on his figures last season (83.33 per cent).
When Maddison is on form, Leicester are a tough team to beat. Leicester fans will hope that the Englishman finds his spark sooner rather than later.
New signings not up to speed
Leicester’s savvy recruitment has been one of the cornerstones of their ascent into the top six. Fofana, Caglar Soyuncu and Wilfred Ndidi have all proven remarkable acquisitions and are testament to the Foxes’ smart scouting department.
On paper, the signings of Patson Daka, Jannik Vestergaard and Boubakary Soumare for a combined total of £60million appeared yet another masterstroke from the recruitment team, yet all three have struggled to make their mark as of yet.
Vestergaard has been thrown straight into the action owing to Evans and Fofana’s absences, although the Dane’s vast experience at top flight level has made his tricky start to life at the King Power all the more baffling.
Summer signings, including Jannik Vestergaard, have failed to hit the ground running
Daka, viewed as one of European football’s top prospects prior to his arrival from RB Salzburg, has been unable to match the performances of strike partners Vardy and Iheanacho.
Soumare is adjusting to Rodgers’ style of play, with the Northern Irishman looking to utilise the Frenchman in a box-to-box role, rather than sitting at the base of midfield as he did with Lille. Of the three, the midfielder has adapted best to his new environment, although Rodgers has called on the 22-year-old to start getting on the scoresheet.
The new signings have not been afforded a lot of time to settle, with Leicester’s injury crisis forcing Rodgers into playing the trio, but more is to come from the new arrivals.
Psychological effects of failed top four attempts
It is the elephant in the room that Rodgers will vehemently deny, but a key factor that cannot be overlooked.
After Leicester’s FA Cup triumph, the 48-year-old reflected on his ambition to ‘disrupt’ the established teams in English football.
‘It was the big challenge I wanted to take coming to Leicester,’ he said. ‘Could I go to a club outside of the top six and challenge and disrupt that higher up the league?
‘We’ll always be a way behind in terms of a financial perspective but can we compete, can we perform and fight to challenge and on days like today, when you have opportunity to create history, can you do it? Thankfully we’ve been able to do that.’
The psychological effects of missing out on top four in consecutive seasons may be at play
While the FA Cup victory was just reward for Leicester’s incredible performances in recent seasons, their failure to achieve top four finishes in successive seasons has haunted supporters.
Twice the Foxes have been in a strong position to secure Champions League football and twice it has slipped through their clutches.
Every campaign is a slog and the mental hurdle of having to try a third time, in a season where all of Leicester’s big rivals have splashed the cash, may be an obstacle too great this time around.
In football, taking your chance when you are on top is critical. It would be completely understandable for Leicester’s failed attempts to be lingering in the back of the players’ minds.
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