Leicester City are one of those teams who, on their day, seem able to beat anyone.
With a great goalkeeper, solid defence, talented midfielders and the utterly rapid Jamie Vardy leading the line, stopping the Foxes is often a Herculean task. It takes fantastic talent and focus to beat them.
So why, then, did they just lose to Fulham?
True enough, Fulham are not a squad devoid of talent but the Cottagers had just four points all season before Monday night’s clash. They were a battling side but had nowhere near the kind of talent and firepower Leicester boast.
Well the truth is they won simply because Leicester didn’t play well at all. Of their 16 shots, only three hit the target. They just didn’t look like the lethal side that we all know they are capable of being.
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This is the problem Leicester seem to have developed under Brendan Rodgers. For all of their superb, incisive football and for all that you would always give them a chance in any one individual match, they struggle to pick themselves up off the floor after taking a punch.
It’s ironic that for a side built exclusively on absorbing opponents attacks and countering, collectively they don’t have a chin.
Yes, within games Leicester can withstand punishment and respond with rip-roaring counter-attacks, but over the course of a season it’s a different matter. The loss to Fulham (and disappointing performance against Braga in the Europa League) was bad, but seemed to stem from Liverpool slapping them around a week before.
Now, losing to Liverpool is no great shame. Even with their injuries, the Reds are a formidable and battle-hardened side that just know how to get wins. But they didn’t just lose to Liverpool. They then drew, and lost the next game after that.
Three matches without a win isn’t a disaster but Braga and Fulham were excellent chances to get back to winning ways and both times Leicester just seemed to lack something. They didn’t quite have it like they normally do.
Again, this isn’t new. Look further back to the start of the season and Leicester lost three home games in a four game stretch, first being beaten at home by Arsenal then later West Ham and Aston Villa. Sure, in between there they had that historic 2-5 win at Manchester City, but the emphatic result is kind of misleading given City out-shot Leicester 16-7 in that game. Every time the Foxes produced a shot at goal it hit the target, and all five times it went in. They were also awarded and scored three penalties in a single game.
- Age: 33
- Club: Leicester
- Position: Striker
- Football Index value: £1.04 (Sell) – £1.13 (Buy)
- 2020/21 Premier League stats: | Goals: 8 (highest at the club) | Shots on target: 15 (highest) | Big chance scored: 8 (highest) | Non-penalty expected goals: 3.63 (highest)
So they did win it, but even then this huge result against City was unable to rouse them, with those losses to West Ham and Villa coming after. They managed just four shots against the Irons, none of which found the target.
They fared better against Aston Villa, with 11 shots, and the team found their groove again. But during this spell they had a non-penalty expected goals total of 1.67.
Of course they got back on track, beating Zorya in the Europa League. Then they dispatched of Arsenal, Leeds and Wolves in consecutive league wins and were well and truly back in the saddle, in their element. During this period their non-penalty expected goal total was 3.17, a dramatic uptick from their dry spell.
Here we come to the issue: Leicester are prone to these bumpy spells. Consider the end of 2019/20, where they threw away a colossal points advantage and went from tussling with Manchester City for second to eventually missing out on the top four altogether after a final day home loss to Manchester United.
Things went bad for them and no matter what they tried, they couldn’t get back on track. Leicester won just twice in the 10 games played after English football returned from its hiatus. And five of those 10 were defeats.
When things go wrong for Rodgers’ side, he doesn’t seem capable of fixing them in a timely fashion. What separates Leicester from the big clubs they so want to emulate is that when the big sides suffer a defeat, the next game they’re usually back at it with a win. They rarely slump, they rarely allow a sense of failure to overcome them. Leicester do.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Leicester’s next game is away to Zorya, the team who helped them get back on track after their last winless run. And then they face Sheffield United, the worst team in the league at present. So the good news for Foxes fans is that they’re about to get back to winning ways. The bad news is that another winless run is likely just around the corner and, given the sheer number of teams vying for top-four places, those error-strewn spells could cost them a place in the Champions League yet again.