The party is over and now Leicester have thudded back to reality after an unbelievable run of results that saw them lift the Premier League trophy in 2016. Players like Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, N’Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater were all pretty much nobodies on the football radar and many tipped Leicester to either wallow in the bottom third of the table or face relegation. After a season which saw Vardy break goalscoring records, Mahrez named as African footballer of the year and Kante tipped as the next big thing, Leicester were facing problems trying to retain players who made such an incredible impact on the Premier League.
Kante of course was tempted by Chelsea and joined the blues last summer, but Leicester managed to keep hold of their other star players of the season. Even though an offer was received for Vardy from Arsenal and Mahrez was linked with everyone from Real Madrid to Bayern Munich, they both decided to stay with the foxes and have another go at the Premier League and incredibly, the Champions League.
However, things haven’t gone so well this time around. Leicester have had a torrid season, unable to find the magic that ‘tinkerman’ Claudio Ranieri could summon at will last term. Despite hammering Manchester City in the league, they have been frankly terrible against opposition they would have walked over last year. After sitting in the relegation zone and failing to get wins, Ranieri was asked to leave in February, leaving Leicester without a manager as they enter the final third of the season and the knockout stages of the Champions League. The only silver lining to Leicester’s season so far is the fact that they are still in Europe. After a successful group stage which saw them beat teams like Porto, Club Brugge and Copenhagen, they are now through to the round of 16, facing Sevilla in a second leg game at home, having lost the away fixture 2-1.
Jamie Vardy, despite his incredible back story, has been disappointing this season. He has scored a few important goals, but compared to last year he hasn’t been nearly as prolific in front of goal. Pundits are mentioning that he was very dependent on good service from the likes of Kante and Mahrez and looks a bit lost playing up front without good balls that cut through defences. Many feel that he is showing his true quality, which is at a much lower standard than he managed last year. He has only managed to score 5 goals so far, compared to 24 last season.
Mahrez has been equally disappointing and has struggled to find form. Although he was superb down the wing last season, scoring an incredible 17 goals and providing 10 assists, he is now sitting on just 3 of each without much of the season left to play. It will be interesting to see if there is still as much interest from Europe’s biggest clubs this summer as there was last year.
Leicester really look like they are missing the likes of Kante this season, who is performing well for title contenders Chelsea. All eyes will be on both teams in blue as we get to the last 10 games of the season, with good odds still available on Leicester both going down and avoiding the drop, as well as Kante’s new club lifting the trophy at the end of the season. The big gamble now however is if Leicester can manage to go the distance in the Champions League…