Leicester City: What has changed? Plus vote on whether will they go down-NewsCO.com.au

February 10, 2017

Jamie Vardy has three times as many bookings as goals in his past 24 Leicester appearances in all competitions

Eight months after celebrating a Premier League title win that ranks among the greatest of all sporting achievements, Leicester find themselves firmly mired in a relegation battle.

Manager Claudio Ranieri this week received a vote of confidence, the club insisting he retains their “unwavering support”.

But Leicester’s fall has been a dramatic one, leaving them one point and two places above the bottom three.

So what has changed for the champions, and why are things going wrong for a manager who only two months ago was named coach of the year at the Best Fifa Football Awards?

The vote closes at 17:00 GMT and results will be available on this page shortly afterwards.

How bad have Leicester been?

It is 79 years since the top-flight title winners have dropped into the second tier 12 months after winning the league, but that is the prospect facing Leicester after the worst title defence ever seen.

The Foxes have yet to win away in the league all season and have started 2017 with a run of five league games without a goal. No other top-flight team has endured such a miserable run since Tottenham, 31 years ago.

It is a staggering contrast to their results in 2015-16, when they lost only three league matches throughout the campaign. In fact, at the start of this season, they had lost only three times in their previous 47 Premier League games.

And don’t forget – they did not just win the league last season, they ended up walking it by 10 points.

But since August things have unravelled fast and they have lost 13 out of 24 matches, winning just five times.

What has happened to Jamie Vardy?

Vardy has had different strike partners this season, whereas last year he was predominantly up front alongside Shinji Okazaki

Would you be surprised to find out Jamie Vardy’s conversion rate is actually better this season than it was during the title campaign?

Vardy scored 24 Premier League goals in 2015-16, form that saw him named Football Writers’ Footballer of the Year and shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or and Fifa’s own player of the year award.

This season he has only five league goals, three of which came in one game against Manchester City, and has scored in only one league game since 10 September – a run of 17 matches.

But he is actually more clinical this year.

2015-16 2016-17
Excludes penalties
Chance conversion rate (%) 22 24
Big chance conversion rate (%) 42 44

The problem, it seems, is he is simply not getting the chances. This season, on average, he gets one opportunity every two matches, whereas last season it was more than one per game.

Vardy after 24 games of last season and this season
2015-16 2016-17
Goals 18 (ranked 1st in PL) 5 (21st)
Shots (inc blocks) 78 (3rd) 28 (23rd)
Shots on target 37 (2nd) 9 (32nd)
Chances created (inc assists) 30 (5th) 18 (16th)

While the evidence points to the lack of a supply line (fewer shots, fewer chances), there has also been the suggestion Vardy is not making the runs that proved so successful last season.

Ian Stringer, who covers the Foxes for BBC Radio Leicester, said: “Jamie Vardy haring around is a sight to behold, but it seems rare this season.

“I think that’s due to his chances being few and far between; he can’t run in behind if he’s not being slotted in.”

The stats actually show that Vardy is working as hard as last season – covering exactly the same average distance per game – and he is even making more sprints than last year. The ball is simply not finding him when he does. And certainly not in dangerous areas.

2015-16 2016-17
Distance covered per 90 mins (average) 10.1km 10.1km
Sprints per 90 min (average) 54.1 57.8

And what about Riyad Mahrez?

Riyad Mahrez’s attacking excellence in 2015-16 earned him the PFA Player of the Year award, as well as seeing him named BBC African Footballer of the Year.

That recognition came after a season in which he scored 17 goals and provided assists for a further 11.

This year, his return from 22 matches is three goals – all penalties – and two assists.

So what is he doing differently?

Last season, many of his goals and assists came from trickery and mazy dribbling. This season, he is simply not showing those same skills.

2015-16 2016-17
Mins per big chance created 153 338
Dribble success rate 51% 42%
Mins per dribble 12 14
Mins per pass into final third 17.6 19.7

And, of course, there is the collapse of his previously lethal link-up play with Vardy, a combination that led to seven goals last season (ie one player directly assisting the other).

In October, the pair famously went on a run of eight game in which they passed to each other only twice.

That has improved since then – but to no great effect.

In the six Premier League games they have played together since the start of December, Mahrez has found Vardy 16 times (including five times against Manchester United on Sunday).

But it is not leading to goals and, remarkably, the pair have combined for just one goal in the past 12 months.

The Kante factor

It always seemed likely Leicester would lose one, two or maybe all of their three star performers last season.

They kept hold of Vardy after he turned down the chance to move to Arsenal, but the Foxes were powerless to prevent N’Golo Kante leaving for Chelsea for around £30m, as he reportedly