Friday, July 23, 2021

Premier League Season in Review: Leicester

season which saw Leicester capture the club’s first FA Cup title also saw the team fall agonizingly short of a top four finish for a second consecutive year. The Foxes defeated Chelsea in the FA Cup final only to fall to the same Chelsea team just days later in league competition to fall from the top four. A final day home loss, to a beleaguered Tottenham Hotspur side playing under interim manager Ryan Mason, sealed Leicester’s fifth place finish and failure to qualify for the Champions League. The late stumble detracted from what had been an impressive league season which saw Leicester improve on its point total from 2019/20 and occupy third place in the Premier League for 15 consecutive weeks before the loss to Chelsea in the penultimate league match. Manager Brendan Rogers has built a consistent top four contender which may lack the depth of key competitors. An injury to center back Jonny Evans was particularly crippling to the Foxes in the fateful run in. An injury sustained earlier in the season to young striker Harvey Barnes, however, provided the opportunity for one of the season’s more positive developments. Kelechi Iheanacho stepped forward to deliver on the potential hoped for when he was acquired from Manchester City four years earlier.
Iheanacho scored all twelve of his league goals from February through season’s end while collaborating seamlessly with club legend Jamie Vardy. The 34-year-old Vardy, meanwhile, continued to defy time by leading the Foxes with 15 goals and contributing a team high nine assists. Before his injury, the 23-year-old Barnes delivered nine goals in his 25 appearances. Barnes, midfielder Youri Tielemans and defender Wesley Fofana are three rising young stars for the Foxes. Tielemans, the Belgian international, scored the winner in the FA Cup on a stunning strike against a vaunted Chelsea defense. Young midfielder James Maddison disappointed after signing a new contract entering the season and engaged in a breach of COVID protocols. Leicester’s fifth place finish provides another opportunity for Europa League success after the Foxes suffered a home defeat to Slavia Prague in being eliminated from this past season’s competition. Poor performances at King Power Stadium were a problem all season as the final day loss to Spurs marked nine home losses in the league. Only the three relegated teams lost more home matches than Leicester. Despite their poor home performance, Leicester finished with an improved point total, a second consecutive fifth place finish, and a historic FA Cup victory as Manager Brendan Rogers continued his successful run in the East Midlands.

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