Have Leicester City already bottled their chance of Champions League football? This is the question that must be floating around the King Power Stadium following a poor start to the season, by the standards of a club who have spent the overwhelming majority of the last two years in the top four. Memories of The Foxes fluffing their lines at the death of last season are still raw in the minds of many a Leicester fan, and the prospect of missing out again looms larger and earlier over this campaign. After the first six games of the season, Leicester sit in twelfth place with just seven points. Compared to their position at the same time last season when the club was in fourth, the Foxes’ chances of finally claiming a place amongst Europe’s elite again are bleak.
It appeared to have been a successful summer transfer window for Brendan Rodgers. The Midlands side retained their key players for the first time in five windows, managing to keep a hold of both the attacking midfielder James Maddison and midfield maestro Youri Tielemans. Not only that, they added firepower upfront with the signing of Patson Daka, the first Zambian international to play in the Premier League (thank me when that comes up in the pub quiz).
Daka has, however, only started one game in the league this season. Given they’ve kept just one clean sheet, and that their solidly mid-table xG implies a distinctly average attack, it’s difficult to see this side disrupting the predictable pack already outpacing the rest of the league. The instinctual conclusion is that Leicester may have strengthened their squad, but certainly not their starting XI. As unfortunate as it was to lose Wesley Fofana in pre-season, with the defensive rock being ruled out until 2022, Jannick Vestergaard has failed to find the form he displayed at Southampton, and Çağlar Söyüncü seems to resemble David Luiz on a bad day in most games he has played this season. Even if new signing Ryan Bertrand adds some experience to the side, he is hardly the missing piece in the puzzle. Jamie Vardy isn’t getting any younger, and though Kelechi Iheanacho seems to have finally found form, it is a tall order to expect him to replicate their maverick talisman as his game time eventually decreases.
The Foxes’ frailties are compounded when assessing the signings made by their top-four rivals from last season. Even without a striker, Manchester City broke records to sign Jack Grealish who needed all of 22 minutes to bag his first goal, and rivals United reinforced across the board. Chelsea and Liverpool, who both left it very late to grab a Champions League spot ahead of Leicester, added strength in their weakest positions with their respective additions of Romelu Lukaku and Ibrahima Konate.
Even West Ham, who finished one place behind Leicester last season, recruited well adding Kurt Zouma and Nikola Vlasic to a squad that humbled The Foxes 4-1 in the second game of the season.
The issues that the club faces concerning the squad are compounded by the high number of games that they will have this season, owing to their Europa League campaign which may be their most likely chance of qualifying for Europe’s premier competition next season.
Yet is it all doom and gloom? We know that this club is capable of special things, whether that be winning the Premier League or a maiden FA Cup won against a side that would go on to conquer all Europe. In Brendan Rodgers, the club still has a leader who has done remarkable things at each club he has managed, and a talented core of young players, spearheaded by the injured Fofana and left-winger Harvey Barnes who recently committed his future to his boyhood club. Their chances of finishing in the top four might look bleak this season, but the future still looks bright for the boys in blue.
Image courtesy of Vyacheslav Evdokimov via WikiMedia Commons