Our previous progress report on Leicester City’s opening to the season left the reader with one resounding message – if Leicester continue as they started, they would survive relegation from the Premier League. However, after strong draws against Everton and Arsenal and a thrilling 5-3 encounter with Manchester United, Leicester have gone on to take just a solitary point from their last six Premier League games. Though hitting an in form Newcastle and Southampton has proven unfortunate, there has been a clear lull in the play of the East Midlanders.
Star players have also seen their performance levels drop in recent weeks. The Foxes broke the bank on Leonardo Ulloa in the summer, signing the Argentine for £8m from Brighton, but the forward has been part of a team that has failed to find the net in five of their last six outings. After scoring five goals in the opening five fixtures of this season’s Premier League, he has failed to find the net since September. Similar dips in form have been experienced throughout the team, and scoring five past the Manchester United defense certainly feels like a very distant memory.
Though their adventurous style was praised in the opening weeks, it has perhaps been their downfall recently. Whilst their attacking line aren’t synchronised properly, their naivety at the back has been rather exposed, partly due to the personnel on pitch but also partly due to those off of it. Nigel Pearson tried a five man midfield when travelling to Newcastle, though quickly reverted back to his favored diamond when it didn’t inspire. Despite this brief fluctuation, Pearson hasn’t been able to find a balance in the side which can both allow two strikers to flourish and provide the team wide defensive attributes necessary to thrive in the top tier of English soccer. In an uninspiring game at the King Power Stadium against West Bromwich Albion, a calamitous own goal from an unfortunate Esteban Cambiasso was the difference. Though the veteran Argentine was not to blame, and has actually looked composed and apart from much of Leicester’s poor performances, Wes Morgan’s strained header was completely unnecessary and an action that would only have been taken by a player devoid of confidence. It was a moment of disappointment and awful luck for the Foxes, but one that really established their current fortunes.
What needs to be addressed in the transfer window?
Looking forward to January, one can easily see the need for a top quality striker at the club. This was a popular opinion in the summer, but Ulloa and Vardy’s opening form took most by surprise. Alongside Nugent, they have perhaps fitted expectations more in the past few games – all strikers with qualities, but none that can really lead the line of a Premier League team. In January, then struggling Hull City objectively overpaid for two proven strikers in Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long, but it ensured their survival and spurred on an FA Cup run. Perhaps Leicester needs a similar move. Furthermore, defensive assurance is also necessary. It’s easy to scream for the oft wanted ‘Premier League experience’, but frankly Leicester need more than that. Experienced Paul Konchesky was dropped against Southampton, Matthew Upson has no appearances as of yet and one only need to look at Queens Park Rangers to see that just gaining defensive experience isn’t enough to succeed. Leicester need the savvy nature of a top level defender and a leader at the heart of their back line, which is a tough task on a relatively small budget.
De Laet, Moore, Morgan, Konchesky
Drinkwater, Cambiasso, King, Schlupp
Rating (out of 5 stars): 1
It was a difficult month for the Foxes as the top-flight began to take its toll on the newly promoted outfit. Sitting in the relegation zone after a very promising start the side endured a reality check. Qualities of grit and determination must be showcased if Pearson’s men are to drag themselves out of a dogfight.
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