Sorry Leicester, dreams don’t last forever

They rightly say, that when you’ve successfully climbed a mountain after fighting all odds and beating the willingness to quit it, the only way forward is down.

After all, what goes up, has to come down some day.

As the Chelsea faithful celebrated minutes after the last blast of the whistle was heard throughout Stamford Bridge, Leicester players trotted back to the tunnel, heads hung in disappointment.

If not disappointment, what else could it have been?

An embarrassing 3- 0 thrashing for a side that was ruling and mesmerizing the division would always act as an indicator for how much the Champions have keeled over to since lifting silverware back in May.

 

But for most, the loss at the hands of Antonio Conte’s side wasn’t a surprise. Two 4-1 losses away to Liverpool and Manchester United respectively had told the world that, much like a mountaineer who has reached the peak, they’ve got no way to go but down the table.

And the fact that the Foxes have lost one more game than they did for the entirety of last season proves that maybe, the achievement was a fluke.

A fluke that was a product of extraordinary amount of determination and willingness to win.

No one expected Leicester to do as well as they did last season, or replicate the exploits of the great Nottingham Forest side of the late 1970s.

And ever since their season kicked off away to Hull, they showed glaring signs of slipping away.

The 2-1 defeat to the newly promoted outfit was indicative of how much Leicester missed N’Golo Kante, whose exit to Chelsea had forced the Foxes into losing someone who covered every blade of grass of the pitch and eventually forcing the likes of Riyad Mahrez, Danny Drinkwater and Jamie Vardy to cover more ground than they did last season.

Losses away to Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea came a reality check for them and brought to the fore certain weaknesses that the side now has, unlike last season.

One of the biggest issues has been a shaky defense. Last season’s successes were founded on the defensive capabilities of Robert Huth and Wes Morgan, who oozed determination and were committed to defending everything that came their way.

This season, the introduction of Luis Hernandez to the side, after his capture from Sporting Gijon has complicated things at the back.

And in the very first game of the season, the lack of communication and co-ordination between Hernandez and Morgan came as a death-knell for Leicester, who have looked really disappointing defensively ever since.

They’ve conceded 15 goals already in the Premier League and the amount of sloppy errors is, to say the least, concerning for a side that won the league last season.

The amount of shuffling and reshuffling they’ve done at the back to keep the players in the side fit for the European ties has eroded some of the values that Leicester were based on – playing the same line-up every week.

Claudio Ranieri’s has, due to this, struggled to find his first team and make sure which players can start for him regularly.

This is in stark contrast to last season, when every person at King Power knew as to who would start and who most likely wouldn’t.

There’s hardly any assurance of performances due to it and although a good bit of business was done in the summer, as the old adage goes, a warrior fights better with weapons that he knows the most about.

Ahmed Musa and Islam Slimani quite clearly are players who tend to fit into the Leicester style of playing on the break, but its again a case of using a different approach to success and hoping that it would come off. It adds to the team’s depth, but the tiredness of European commitments is quite evident when Leicester play.

The usual routine of hoofing the ball up field and running at opposition defenders when they are in possession was something we were accustomed to seeing them do.

It’s not happening with enough success this season and the man who was a key in making this style successful, Jamie Vardy, looks jaded.

He played at Euro 2016 for England, featured in around 36 games for his club last season and has made 13 appearances already this season.

Expecting him to repeat the achievements of the past campaign again this season heaps a tremendous amount of burden on him to replicate what is almost impossible for most Premier League players.

And this stands true for some other players in the team too, say Morgan, Huth and especially Drinkwater, who made 35 appearances last season.

Rotating these players makes sense and seemingly, Ranieri is caught in this paradoxical situation which he’s struggling to come out of.

Who to keep on the bench and who to play in which competition is an issue Ranieri has got to solve before getting his season back on track.

Kante, who starred in Chelsea’s trouncing of the Foxes, made 4.7 tackles per game last season and the influence he had on the side allowed the likes of Vardy, Mahrez and Mark Albrighton to play with more freedom than they are playing with this season.

He also made 4.2 interceptions in every game and not just that, it was distribution after recovering the ball in the heart of the park that was a remarkable contribution to the side.

Ranieri roped in Nampalys Mendy from Claude Puel’s former side Nice to replace Kante, but the move hasn’t gone according to plan.

The Frenchman sustained an injury against Arsenal, ruling him out of action for over a month and despite being fit the midfielder hasn’t featured yet.

Daniel Amartey is being deployed in alongside Drinkwater and the lung-bursting stamina in the midfield that Leicester possessed is clearly missing.

This has forced others to cover more ground than they did last season and with European commitments now coming their way, this is and will take a toll on the players.

So, directly and indirectly, Kante’s departure has changed the dynamic of Leicester’s play and approach to winning games.

And it’s not just been a case of lacking and thing going wrong on paper, there are also some tactical areas of the game that teams have deciphered.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that teams have now got the sense and idea of picking Leicester off tactically.

Since their counter-attacking style was a vital part of their armory last season, teams are happy to hand Leicester possession and see what they can do with it.

Liverpool afforded them possession and tore them to shreds by pressing them high up the pitch and winning balls in areas close to goal.

The absence of Kante cost them a lot against Manchester United, who ran the show through Paul Pogba in the heart of the park.

Against Chelsea, Antonio Conte’s men disallowed the Leicester back four to thump the ball up field for Musa and Vardy to chase it by closing them down as soon as they lost the ball in the final third, isolating the two forwards in the 4-4-2.

 

These tactics seem to stifle Leicester from doing what they did to great effect last season. But all in all, it seems as if this season is mirroring what Leicester are.

We’re now seeing the Leicester we would have seen last season if they hadn’t put on a show that consisted of impeccable determination, nous and ability to defy the odds.

The side looks like a mere shadow of itself, much like their performances and it isn’t a surprise for many too.

Like every dream which floats past us once we wake up, the unfathomable achievement too is something that will be used to hark back upon for inspiration.

And it’s all there for Leicester to use, because this is the side that registered its name into the annals of time as being the accomplisher of the ‘Greatest Achievement in Sports History’.

They know what they are capable of, if they perform to their maximum potential. But sadly enough, its time to face the reality. And wake up to a rather harsh one indeed.

Author Details

Kaustubh Pandey

20, Football Writer, CalcioMercato, ThePeoplesPerson, EPLIndex, VAVEL, InsideFutbol. Aspiring Football Journalist. The game's not about life and death, it's something much more than that.

2 thoughts on “Sorry Leicester, dreams don’t last forever

  1. There’s zero insight that hasn’t already been said before in this very poor article, written two days after Leicester went three victories in a row in their debut Champions League campaign.
    You’d have thought members of the press would cut Leicester some slack after their once in a lifetime achievement last season, and said Champions league efforts, but no, pessimism runs deep in the British press.
    The players know they aren’t performing in the premier league, they’ve come out and said so, so how about a glass half full article instead of glass half empty. Ask to Women in your life about timing, because you’re way off with this one Buddy.

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