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Leicester City: A tale of two seasons

Tuesday 24th January 2017
After winning the Premier League title just eight months ago, Leicester City are struggling to recapture their imperious form. It was a near impossible task to equal last season's success, but the reigning champions should be higher in the table. What is going wrong at the King Power?
Claudio Ranieri's appointment as Leicester manager was initially met with uncertainty. The Italian was considered a likeable character but viewed as a managerial journeyman, one who had achieved little during his long career at 13 different teams. This led to the Foxes being installed as pre-season favourites for relegation, with odds of 5,000/1 available if anyone had the temerity to believe Ranieri's side could get their hands on the Premier League trophy.

However, we all know what happened over the next ten months. By combining a strong player mentality, an impenetrable defence - with Kasper Schmeichel, Wes Morgan and Robert Huth playing key roles, and forming a devastating attack - spearheaded by Jamie Vardy and complimented by the magic of Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City produced one of the biggest ever sporting upsets to finish at the summit of English football and secure the Premier League crown.

Leicester's remarkable 2015-16 campaign has quickly turned into domestic disappointment during the first six months of this season. An opening day defeat to newly promoted Hull City set the tone for the misery ahead. After 14 games, Ranieri's side had picked up just three victories; a 4-2 win over Manchester City threatened to change the club's fortunes, but the road to recovery never materialised. After their most recent defeat, 3-0 at the hands of Southampton, Leicester have been left in a precarious position: 15th in the table and just 5 points above the relegation places.
The Foxes are suffering problems at both ends of the pitch. Defensively, Leicester possessed the joint-third best record in the league last season, behind Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, having conceded just 36 times in 38 games. However, this campaign the reigning champions have already been breached on 37 occasions, which puts them 14th on the list when compared with their counterparts. While in attack, it's a similar story.

Leicester managed to find the net an impressive 68 times on their way to Premier League glory, which was only surpassed by two teams: Manchester City and Spurs; however, Ranieri's side have hit just 24 goals this campaign and sit joint 15th on the goal scoring charts. This is the story of Leicester City's season so far - defensive lapses and lack of cutting edge up front. The question is, why has it occurred?

It's difficult for the players to overcome the emotions of becoming champions, especially as the success came unexpectedly, and more time is still needed to adjust to their new-found status in the game. The summer departure of N'Golo Kante, an irreplaceable machine of a player, has also had a big impact at the King Power. The France international has developed into one of the most formidable defensive midfielders in world football, and Leicester are noticeably feeling the effect of his absence in the team.

Add to that, Leicester's two biggest attacking threats have lost their spark; both were linked with moves away from the club this summer and that looks to have affected their performances: Vardy hit 24 goals in his side's title triumph, but he has just 5 this campaign, in 17 appearances; while Mahrez is also struggling to recapture his top form, having scored 17 times last season in the league and being crowned PFA Player of the Year, the Algerian has struck just 3 times up to now.
Despite their disappointing position in the table and the huge contrast to times not so long ago, Ranieri's side have redeemed themselves with their performances in Europe. Leicester have saved their best displays this season for the Champions League and after winning four group matches, the club progressed to the last 16 in their first ever appearance in the competition. A difficult tie against high-flying La Liga side, Sevilla, is less than a month away.

Many reasons have contributed to Leicester's slip down the pecking order in the English top flight, and although the Champions League journey has somewhat made amends, the Foxes must start picking up points in the Premier League - but there is no need to panic, just yet, as the club possesses quality players with the ability to climb the table over the coming months. What Leicester's recent demise has proven, if it needed emphasising, is that the club's feat last season was beyond the realms of imagination.
Danny Glendenning

Passions include reading, sport, and nights out with friends. A football fanatic whose writing career began in May 2016. Now 30 years old, lives in South Yorkshire - local team is Doncaster Rovers, although heart lies with Arsenal. Contributing editor for It's Round And It's White. Current claim to fame is an interview with Ron Atkinson. Always looking for work, either editing or writing. Contact via email: Dannysg1988@outlook.com. Or Twitter: @DannySG1988.



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