Leicester City shocked the world last season by winning an unlikely Premier League title. This season, they are in a relegation battle and many see this as them under-achieving. However, maybe they’re not under-achieving this season and just massively over-achieved last term.
The Foxes are currently only one point outside the relegation zone in sixteenth and on a run of four consecutive defeats. They haven’t scored a league goal in their five games of 2017 so far and have only found the net once in their last seven. They are basically clinging to their place in the top-flight and face a tough battle to avoid the drop.
So, are Leicester under-achieving?
Whilst not taking anything away from what was a monumental achievement, you have to put their title win into perspective.
- The title has only been won with a lower points total once in the last fifteen seasons
- Leicester are the lowest scoring Premier League champions in the last seven seasons
- They won less matches than the previous two seasons’ runners-up
Also, Jamie Vardy netted twenty-four of their sixty-eight goals. Take those away and Leicester would have scored the same amount as relegated Newcastle United.
This season isn’t an under-achievement but more a return to what’s expected of them. Looking at their recent history proves they aren’t exactly a team you expect to see at the top of the Premier League season after season.
In 2008/09 they won the League One title and promotion to the Championship. Then, for the next five seasons, they toiled away in the Championship. They finally secured promotion back to the top-flight by winning the Championship title in 2013/14.
They defied the odds to avoid relegation in their first season back in the Premier League. Despite the fact they occupied the bottom spot for a large chunk of the 2014/15 season, they ended up six points clear of the bottom three in 14th place.
They may have won the title last season but one excellent campaign doesn’t automatically create a world-class team. In fact, everyone needs to work harder to maintain success. The team needs to be kept together, weaker positions strengthened and new tactics worked on.
Unfortunately for Leicester, pretty much everything stayed the same except for one of their key players leaving. N’Golo Kante was a driving force behind their title victory. He hasn’t been replaced since joining Chelsea, who are currently storming their way to the title, and is sorely missed
The last time a team surprised everyone as much as Leicester did last season was when Ipswich Town finished fifth in 2000/01. They were a team who had spent several seasons in the second-tier of English football, before earning their place amongst the big boys with promotion to the Premier League. They exceeded expectations, finishing fifth and qualifying for Europe. However, they were a one-season wonder and relegation followed a year later.
The similarities don’t end there.
Ipswich’s leading scorer in their top-six season was Marcus Stewart, an English-born striker who had come from the lower echelons of English football. He was pushing thirty-years-old when he finally got the chance to play in the Premier League. It was a chance he took, by netting twenty-one goals to fire his team into Europe. However, his form deserted him the following season and he only managed ten goals as his side finished in the bottom three.
Jamie Vardy is another striker who was pushing thirty before getting his chance in the top flight. He finished last season with twenty-four goals and helped them win the title. This season, he has only managed five, and three of those came in the same match. His lack of goals is a big worry for his side and one of the reasons they are struggling at the wrong end of the table.
They may be two different cases of a team over-achieving, but Ipswich are proof that it’s easy for a team to drop back down to where they were before. One success doesn’t guarantee anything except one huge celebration. If a team is a relatively small one with average players, they will struggle despite where they finished in the table the previous season.
Leicester may well stay up this season and go back to challenging at the top in the next campaign. However, for now, they are where people would have expected them to be last season. They are fighting a relegation battle and they need to turn things around quickly.
They need to forget last season, because that glory won’t keep them in the Premier League. What will, is the grit and determination that got them to the top flight in the first place and kept them up against the odds the season before last.
Peter Reynolds, Pundit Arena