With recent performances being disappointing, lifelong Leicester City fan, James Baker has set about discussing the causes. James has an analytical background, currently on furlough and therefore has found himself with time on his hands to analyse the performance of the Foxes!
In the first two Premier League games back after the 100 day break; Leicester have looked anything but a team fighting for Champions League football. The play has been slow and Jamie Vardy has barely touched the ball, let alone had half a chance on goal.
Many people are putting this down to the enforced break, arguing that it will take some time for the players to get back to their pre-lockdown performance. But the graph below, which shows Leicester’s average points per game, doesn’t depict a pretty picture; highlighting that the Foxes were struggling even before the lockdown.
Leicester City Average Points per Game
Ever since the Aston Villa away game in December, Leicester’s average points have been in a steady decline with only the odd upward blip caused by positive results against the likes of West Ham (home and away), Newcastle (home) and Aston Villa (home). At their peak, Leicester were picking up an average of 2.4 points per game; now it’s as low as 1.8 – back to where it was prior to the good run of fixtures from game weeks 9 to 16.
If Leicester continue to only pick up an average of 1.8 points a game, they will finish the season with around 67 points. The good news for Leicester is that if Manchester United and Wolves win all their remaining games, they could only finish on a maximum of 70 points. So, Leicester just need to slightly improve their points total between now and the end of the season in order to secure Champions League football for next season, but at the moment it’s hard to see where the next win is going to come from.
But what is the reason for this steady decline in points? Has Brendan Rodgers lost his magic
As the shots on target graph shows, it would appear that some teams have sussed out how to defend against the Foxes. Perhaps more worrying is that it’s not just the “big” teams that look to have Leicester’s number, as bottom of the table Norwich have picked up 4 points against the Foxes, and in the last two games Leicester have only managed 2 shots on target against two of the teams fighting against relegation. It’s not as if these two teams have caused Leicester problems this season either, as the Foxes managed to beat both of these teams 2-0 in the reverse fixture.
This still doesn’t answer why there has been a decline in points, as the average shots on target have been increasing, and Leicester have still won the odd game with a low number of shots on target, for example Burnley at home with 3 shots on target and Sheffield United away with just 2. So, what else could it be?
It could be the number of changes Brendan Rodgers makes to the team after each game. Since the winter break, these changes have become more frequent and have coincided with Leicester’s poor run of form. During Leicester's purple patch, winning 8 games in a row, there was a run of 5 games in which the Foxes went unchanged. As well as this, at the start of the season Leicester had only made 17 changes in 16 games, whereas in this 2nd half of the season, Leicester have made a staggering 44 changes in just 15 games! This constant chopping and changing seems to have unsettled the team, bringing with it a lack of consistency, and appears to have stopped their progress in its tracks.
This isn’t the only piece of the jigsaw that points to Brendan's changes affecting the recent form. In the first half of the season, Leicester’s substitutions helped them pick up 17 points in 16 games, while in the next 15, substitutions have been ineffective and failed to change the result in a positive manner, in some cases even losing points as a result! One conclusion perhaps is that at the beginning of the season, Brendan knew exactly how to read and change the outcome, whereas now he is struggling to work out his best team, and unable to make efficient substitutions as a result.
Having said all this, it’s not quite panic stations for Brendan, yet, but he certainly needs to man the battle stations. The Foxes still have the possibility of a Champions League place, but Rodgers needs to find his best team quickly and get them all singing off the same hymn sheet. He also needs to make sure that, with his substitutes, he has another game plan to break down teams, as it all seems too easy at the moment for the opposition just to sit back and park the bus. The Everton game is now looking like a must win and if Rodgers comes away empty handed it might well and truly be the start of the end of Leicester’s hopes for Champions League football this season – the Foxes have all the power, and talent to turn the season around – how they make the best of this is in their hands.