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Foxes may turn out to be one-hit wonders

20 November 2016, 21:19Peter Auf Der Heyde

Johannesburg - One-hit wonders have appeared on the charts of just about every country and, last season, the English Premier League had its own version when unfashionable Leicester City grabbed worldwide attention by outgunning the big ones and winning the title.

Fans of the Foxes, of course, were hoping their club would not become a one-hit wonder, and that they would continue taking on the established teams.

On one hand, their hopes have been dashed. Leicester City had 22 points at this stage of the season last year, just three behind the then leaders, Manchester City.

A year later, they have 10 points less and are 14 behind the leaders, Liverpool. Although several Leicester City players were among the stand-out stars of the season, the club managed to hold on to them, with N’Golo Kanté being the only regular who jumped ship when he joined Chelsea.

Despite interest from many other teams, super strikers Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez committed to the club, as did all the others.

With the same squad available, fans were, of course, hoping for a similarly successful season that would see their team challenging.

Now that they are not, the pundits are looking for reasons, and one of the most common being put forward is their shaky defence.

Statistics, though, would suggest that is off the mark as the team conceded 19 goals after 11 matches last season, whereas they have conceded even a goal less this time around.

Coach Claudio Ranieri, who was rewarded with a four-year contract for his achievements and is also on the shortlist for the Fifa Coach of the Year award, believes the team is improving in all areas.

‘We are getting better. But it’s not only the defenders. The whole team is now better with the fighting spirit of the squad. We improve because it is not only the defenders, but everybody. It comes from the philosophy that when you lose the ball, you must get it back.”

Firing blanks

The biggest difference between Leicester City last year and this year is not to be found in their half of the field, but rather up front.

Although they conceded 19, they scored 23, whereas this season they have managed to find the back of the net just 13 times.

Vardy and Mahrez, who were firing on all cylinders last year (11 and seven goals, respectively, after 11 matches) have been firing blanks most of this season and have managed just three goals between them.

Ranieri, though, has some consolation for Vardy: “Jamie is a goal scorer, and all the goal scorers in the world have good periods and bad periods. It’s important for him to stay calm and, sooner or later, he will start to score again. He is still working hard for the team.”

Another factor that had resulted in a decline in the club’s fortunes was that, even though they managed to hold on to most of their players, they sold Kanté, and his role in their triumph last season was widely overlooked as the spotlight shone brightly on Mahrez and Vardy.

The other thing that is in the natural order of things, of course, is that the natural order of things is restored after it is thrown into disarray. And Leicester City is quite simply not where clubs such as Chelsea, Manchester City, United, Liverpool and Arsenal are.

All is not lost for fans, though, as Leicester have been campaigning with some success in the Champions League and need just one more point to advance to the knockout stages.

Should they again receive a favourable draw in the round of the last 16, their Champions League campaign could quite easily ensure that their fairy-tale run, which began last year, continues – albeit in a different competition.

- City Press

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