In Focus: Struggling Foxes still hunting for their old spark
Hopes were high at the King Power Stadium this summer — but this season is rapidly turning into a disastrous campaign for Leicester.
Last weekend’s tame 3-0 home defeat to Chelsea means the Foxes are now winless in a month across all competitions and any hopes of a top-four tilt already appear to have faded.
We take a closer look at how one of the top flight’s most reliable sides of recent years have ended up in such an almighty slump.
Though there is no shame in being comprehensively beaten by Thomas Tuchel’s title contenders, it was a case of familiar issues rearing their head last weekend for the hosts.
Antonio Rudiger nodding in his side’s opener was perhaps the least surprising moment of all — it marked the 15th goal Leicester have conceded directly from a corner since the start of last season.
That tally is a league high and serves as a strong indicator of a team struggling with the defensive fundamentals.
Only Norwich (128) and Burnley (138) have conceded more shots inside the box this term than Leicester’s 123, while their 122 lost challenges also rank among the division’s worst offenders.
Unquestionably, the long-term absences of centre-half Wesley Fofana (broken leg) and right-back James Justin (anterior cruciate ligament) have had a seismic impact — but the problems seem to run deeper.
Blunt in attack
Having conceded 91 goals across their last two full seasons and still secured back-to-back fifth-place finishes, Brendan Rodgers’ side have never been reliant on an airtight backline.
The Foxes bagged 68 times at a ratio of 1.79 goals per game last term, with only league winners Manchester City (2.18) and runners-up Manchester United (1.92) proving more prolific.
This time around, however, 16 goals from 12 games equates to a ratio of only 1.33 goals a match, while an average of 11.25 shots per contest is the fourth-worst output in the Premier League.
In some ways, regression should not be surprising. Leicester only created the ninth-most big chances last term and outperformed their expected goals by a total of 10.
They also scored seven headers and converted 10 penalties last season but are yet to profit from either of those routes to goal in the current edition.
Changing it up
Widely accepted as one of the league’s best tacticians, Rodgers has made several tactical tweaks in recent weeks in an attempt to resolve things.
In the last three months, the Foxes have trialled 3-5-2, 3-4-3, 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 with varying levels of success — though ultimately none of those set-ups have brought the desired consistent improvement.
And even when his side have managed results, it has generally come through moments of individual brilliance from Harvey Barnes, Jamie Vardy or Youri Tielemans.
After last month’s 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace, Rodgers admitted: "The lads are giving everything but we just aren't playing to our level at the moment.
"It might be different this season compared to the last two when we have started on fire and dropped off a little bit.
"Hopefully this can be the season where we can build and finish the second part of the season really strong."
The Northern Irishman has been keen not to use injuries or bad luck as an excuse for recent struggles — but there is another elephant in the room which may have been impacting performances.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s struggles at Manchester United, resulting in his eventual sacking last weekend, have frequently seen Rodgers linked with a switch to Old Trafford.
The persistence of such rumours suggests that the 48-year-old has at least featured on the shortlist of United’s hierarchy, though his history with old rivals Liverpool may make him an unpopular choice among Red Devils fans.
Rodgers himself had been coy on the speculation until after Saturday’s Chelsea loss, where he confessed to have discussed the links with his playing squad.
He said: "I spoke to the leadership group about it this week. It stabilises everything.
"You [the media] know how this gossip arises, and normally I don’t even think about it, but I understand that it may have a bearing for other people.
"It was a case of stabilising that by speaking to our senior guys. They know my commitment to them, they know my commitment to the club, and also to us becoming a better team."
Turning things around
With those rumours seemingly now put to bed, both Rodgers and his players can focus on belatedly kickstarting their campaign.
A crucial Europa League clash at home to Legia Warsaw comes first on Thursday before improving Watford visit the King Power Stadium on Sunday.
With their next four league fixtures coming against sides from the bottom half of the table, the coming weeks present an opportunity to clamber back into the top-six race.
Adding in potential qualification for the Europa League’s knockout stages and an EFL Cup quarter-final with Liverpool next month, this season still has the potential to be remembered for the right reasons.
But whichever way results go, it feels like crunch time has finally arrived for Leicester.