Leicester City’s Premier League campaign has been far from convincing, and the Midlands side have failed to find form consistently. Is Brendan Rodgers solely to blame, or is there something behind the scenes that could explain the Foxes’ tumultuous season?
The Foxes waved goodbye to club stalwart Kasper Schemeichel in the summer, as he left for the French Riviera – joining OGC Nice in a deal worth a reported €1m. Star defender Wesley Fofana made the switch to Premier League rivals Chelsea, with the London club paying an estimated £70m for the Frenchman.
Despite the disappointment that followed the sale of two of the club’s most influential players, fans were glad to have kept hold of James Maddison and Youri Tielemans – who had both been linked with moves to Arsenal.
Leicester’s purchases weren’t so popular, however. Alex Smithies was signed on a free transfer from Cardiff City to provide backup for Danny Ward, who would go on to become the first-choice goalkeeper. To replace Fofana, Leicester opted to sign Wout Faes from Stade de Reims for a reported £15m. The 24-year-old Belgian’s signing was met with cautious optimism.
Leicester’s season opened with a game against Brentford at the King Power, in what would go on to be a closely contested fixture. Goals from Castagne and Dewsbury-Hall were ruled out by strikes from Ivan Toney and Josh Dasilva, with the match ending in a 2-2 draw. A convincing first-half performance should have seen the Foxes cruise to a comfortable victory, but a poor second period that cost them the game would set the tone for the season.
Next up for the Foxes was a trip to North London, where they faced title contenders Arsenal. In all honesty, Rodgers’ side didn’t stand a chance against a well-organised unit, and despite the best effort of the team, they headed back home empty-handed having suffered a 4-2 defeat. This game would go on to be Wesley Fofana’s last appearance in a Leicester shirt – not the best way to end his spell at the club!
Things took a turn for the worse in the next game against Southampton. Once again, the Foxes took the lead through a superb James Maddison free-kick – only to lose the game 2-1 after two late goals from Che Adams sent the Saints ahead. Conceding late goals after taking their foot off the gas was really becoming a problem for Leicester – but it didn’t seem to be on the list of Rodgers’ priorities.
The worst performance of the season ensued against Stockport County, with their trip to Edgeley Park being taken to penalties after the hosts had held the Foxes to a 0-0 draw. With the squad that Brendan Rodgers put out, Leicester City should have won this fixture against League Two opposition with ease – yet the team performance looked incoherent and was entirely unconvincing. Thankfully, Daniel Iversen’s impressive shot-stopping ability in the shootout saved the Foxes, who progressed with a 3-1 win on penalties.
A trip to Stamford Bridge saw Brendan Rodgers’ side fall to a 2-1 defeat by a 10-man Chelsea side, who had seen Connor Gallagher dismissed within the opening 30 minutes after being shown a second yellow card. A goal either side of half-time for Raheem Sterling was followed by a strike from Harvey Barnes – though it wasn’t enough for the Foxes. It was a spirited performance, and an impressive second-half cameo from Youri Tielemans gave hope to fans as they looked forward to their upcoming clash with Manchester United at the King Power Stadium.
Late chances for Leicester in that game weren’t enough to rule out Jadon Sancho’s opener, with the hosts defeated once again – leaving them rock bottom of the Premier League, below rivals Nottingham Forest. Leicester had well and truly become the laughing stock of the top flight at this point, and things really needed to change if the team stood a chance of escaping the relegation zone.
Things didn’t change. A trip to Brighton’s Amex Stadium saw the Foxes take the lead in the first minute through Kelechi Iheanacho. An own goal from Luke Thomas and a fabulous counter-attacking move finished by Moises Caicedo saw Brighton edge ahead of their opponents – before Daka equalised to ensure the two sides were level at the break. A shambolic second-half performance, reminiscent of those earlier in the season, saw Leicester concede three unchallenged goals to the hosts, who emerged victorious in a 5-2 thriller that would once again see the Foxes head home with nothing to show for their efforts.
The next game against Villa should have given Brendan Rodgers’ side chance to kickstart their season – albeit a month later than everyone else. That game was called off due to the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, meaning that the Foxes would instead face a trip to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – the game in which summer signing Wout Faes would make his debut.
You really couldn’t write it. The Foxes found themselves ahead after six minutes thanks to a penalty converted by Youri Tielemans – but goals from Kane and Dier saw the hosts take the lead. James Maddison levelled the scores as both teams approached the interval with a sensational strike – but a second-half performance that was almost identical to that at Brighton saw the Foxes lose 6-2 in North London. Things had to change, and fast.
Thankfully, they did. Leicester’s first win of the Premier League campaign came in the form of a 4-0 victory against local rivals Nottingham Forest, who were also straggling in the relegation zone. Two first-half goals from James Maddison and a strike from Harvey Barnes saw the hosts take a 3-0 lead into the break, before adding a 4th through Patson Data to round off a convincing performance in style.
Then it was back to normal. A trip to Bournemouth saw Patson Daka fire Leicester into the lead after just ten minutes – only for two second-half goals in three minutes see the hosts emerge victorious and send Leicester home empty-handed again. At this point, calls for Brendan to be sacked were intensifying, and it really felt as if the manager was walking on a tightrope – with every defeat narrowing the line he found himself walking on.
A rather dull 0-0 draw at the King Power against Crystal Palace saw Leicester lack the finishing touch, having created plenty of chances but the forwards were unable to find the back of the net. The Foxes had won just 1 of their opening 10 league games at this point, and had a grand total of five points. For context, they had 14 points from their first ten games in the 2021/22 season.
Form began to improve after this – with the Foxes winning four of their next five games before the World Cup brought the season to a halt. Wins against Leeds, Wolves, Everton and West Ham – and a narrow defeat to Manchester City – saw Leicester progress up the league table, and even led to James Maddison being picked for the England squad that would be heading to Qatar. However, a knee injury against West Ham in the final pre-tournament game would see the attacking midfielder resigned to the bench, without playing a single minute.
The season resumed on Boxing Day, and fans were hoping that Leicester City would be able to continue their pre-World Cup form and carry the momentum into the new year. They couldn’t. Instead, the Foxes were mauled by Newcastle United in what could, quite fittingly, be perceived as a Boxing Day hunt. The visitors went 2-0 up early on, and added a third before half-time. Leicester never seemed to threaten Eddie Howe’s side, and seemed resigned to failure from the get-go.
A trip to Anfield would give Brendan Rodgers’ side an opportunity to capitalise on a weakened Liverpool attack – as both Diaz and Jota were ruled out with injury, meaning Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would start the fixture on the left-wing. In possibly the craziest game of the season so far, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall worked his way through Liverpool’s defence, slotting home to open the scoring after a mazy run. Leicester were leading at Anfield after just four minutes, and they seemed unbelievably confident.
An own goal from Wout Faes would change that – with the Belgian’s attempted clearance looping over Danny Ward and finding the top corner. If it had been at the other end, there may have been calls for it to win the Puskas award – but it wasn’t, and the hosts were level – for seven minutes.
Wout Faes scored again – in his own net, again. This time, it really felt like watching Sunday League. Nuñez’s initial effort had rebounded off the post, and it looked like Faes would arrive to clear the danger. Instead, he powered the ball straight past Danny Ward to give the hosts the lead, despite not finding the back of the net themselves. Liverpool would emerge as 2-1 winners, despite an otherwise impressive Leicester performance.
The Foxes welcomed Fulham to the King Power for their first fixture of the new year, in a game that would see Aleksandar Mitrovic give the visitors the lead in the 17th minute after his strike on the half-volley found the back of the net. Youri Tielemans attempted to bring his side back into the game in the second half, but his shots were off-target and the Foxes fell to a third consecutive defeat that saw them drop to 13th in the table.
Is Brendan Rodgers to blame, or should Khun Top accept his role in the poor performances of the season so far? I’m going to sit on the fence for this one – as I can see both men as equally responsible. Brendan Rodgers’ tactics clearly aren’t working. That’s demonstrated in the numerous games in which the Foxes have taken the lead, only to lose the game due to a lack of concentration. As much as I love the Srivaddhanaprabha family and everything they have done for this great club, Khun Top’s investment strategy is underwhelming compared to his late father’s, and Brendan Rodgers didn’t appear to receive adequate backing in the transfer window. If the club are to sell, they must ensure adequate reinforcements are introduced to the squad – else the team will struggle.
Having said that, the signing of Wout Faes has been revolutionary. Except for his debut against Spurs and the performance against Liverpool, Faes has revitalised a struggling Leicester defence and been unbelievably dependable at the back. Danny Ward had a shaky start to the season and looked nervous between the sticks for the Foxes, but he has matured and his spot as first-choice ‘keeper now looks nailed-on.
I don’t think this is the end of the road for Brendan Rodgers just yet – but personally, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the boss leave the club by the end of the season, especially if his performances do not improve drastically.
All transfer values courtesy of Transfermarkt.