Going back looking at that fantastic season, that dream season, those fantastic games and the great thrill of winning Premier League with 10 points. So why couldn’t Leicester City build on that fantastic win and why did everyone fail so dramatically in the next season.
Questions are many, and the big strange scenario was that Leicester City couldn’t continue to play the way they did, and many of the players were constantly linked away to the better deals, bigger clubs and it looked as if suddenly all those in demand wanted to leave.
Jamie Vardy stayed after he was given a new and very lucrative contract, avoiding a move to Arsenal that looked almost done. Chelsea wanted N’Golo Kantè and he slipped as Claudio Ranieri had to see his most important player leave.
The dream of a fantastic new season and a chance to win the Champions League were probably ruined the day N’Golo Kantè left and the gap after him has never been filled despite Claudio finding a replacement in Wilfred Ndidi who indeed has grown into a well working Premier League player.
Leicester City had a well established team of grown players. A team that had been put together with a number of new signings in front of that great season, adding Christian Fuchs, N’Golo Kantè and Shinji Okazaki. A few months earlier Robert Huth. Marc Albrighton and Danny Simpson had arrived.
The counter attacking style, the grim use of Jamie Vardy and using his skills as fantastic as no one had done before, and giving Riyad Mahrez the freedom he needed, with N’Golo Kantè covering so much space in midfield that you could give Riyad that freedom.
Everything fitted so well in a jigsaw so perfect you would look at it as master work in the class of Albert Einstein. Claudio Ranieri put it all together, adding his own little pieces to a group of players build on the idea of Nigel Pearson, Craig Shakespeare and Steve Walsh.
The strange belief of Claudio Ranieri, that he had to change, might have come with the uncertainty appearing when Kantè left. Despite the Kantè departure, Leicester City managed to fly in Europe, being the best English team, reaching the quarter finals and losing to Atletico Madrid after some great performances both home and away.
Despite that run of great games in the Champions League, fans never believed it was possible to be able to get back up to the top of the ladder in the Premier League, and we all could see what happened. The owners decided to sack Claudio, who had in himself changed too much and he never really thought in his own mind that winning the League trophy again was possible. What a shame, what a strange way to build on a great triumph.
As we all know Claudio left, and has since had three new jobs, been in charge of Nantes, Fulham and Roma, leaving the Italians in the summer and who knows what his next job will be. Leicester City has also had three other managers since the move of Claudio with Craig Shakespeare, Claude Puel and Brendan Rodgers doing the work. Brendan looks promising and TCF hopes that Rodgers can bring Leicester City more happiness.
Going back and look at what happened in the summer of 2016, it was that classical mistake done by so many before. Instead of staying calm and taking things into consideration, money was splashed out on players, not really seen as straight away first team regulars, and then you start to work on some very bad ideas. Signing big name players and giving them false hope of a future, without really believing that you straight away would replace the best players with the new signings.
Kasper Schmeichel was again challenged by a new goalkeeper, Ron-Robert Zieler. Why sign Zieler, when you had Ben Hamer, who had a role and could have covered for Kasper when he was sidelined and the German was given the chance. Today Kasper is still Leicester City’s number one and hopefully will carry on in that role for a number of seasons, a legend and one to trust. Zieler is gone, telling a story of lost opportunities and not really getting much out of his move to Leicester City.
Danny Simpson was the preferred choice to the right in the defense and he did well, especially defensively. More or less the first player to be seen as “not good enough” by Claudio, dropping him, and introducing Luis Hernandez. Hernandez was not ideal and the position became a problem, switching and turning, Simpson back after a while, Hernandaz left for Malaga after just a few months at the club.
Robert Huth and Wes Morgan build a fantastic relationship as the central defense duo, with Yohan Benalouane and Daniel Amartey as possible alternatives. Huth struggled with injuries and never managed to come back after that fantastic 2015/16 season and a gap was left to find a good replacement. Neither Amartey or Benalouane had the quality to fill that position. A rusty Marcin Wasilewski had been given a new year extension to his contract, but he was not seen as a first team cover at all.
Danny Drinkwater continued in midfield together with Riyad Mahrez and Marc Albrighton, without finding a player in the summer that could fill the gap after N’Golo Kantè. Mendy, King and Amartey were all part of a juggle experiment. The signing of Wilfred Ndidi in January solved the puzzle, and he did well, bringing that defensive calmness into the team again.
Up front it was no doubt about Jamie Vardy, but Claudio decided that the vital work done by Shinji Okazaki the season before and the sub qualities of Leo Ulloa was not seen as “part of future plans” with the introduction of Ahmed Musa and Islam Slimani, who had no clear role either in a team, with a manager who had no clear vision on where to go, by bringing in the likes of Musa and Slimani.
Claudio introduced Ben Chilwell and Harvey Barnes, and he also gave Demarai Gray a chance to play a part, without really giving fans and media a clear idea of what he would like to do with this Leicester City team.
Everything became a bit of a mess with new players not really knowing what their role was. Established players doing great the season before, suddenly finding out that they no longer were part of a future that looked so bright just weeks before.
Then when Claudio left, Craig Shakespeare was given the job. First as a caretaker and then in the summer given the job permanent. In real Craig just rolled the tape back and started to play the way they did in the 2015/16 season, rescued the team from relegation and the team started to perform well again, just neglecting those new signings. Musa, Slimani and Mendy all more or less vanished under Shakespeare’s leadership.
Sadly Claudio Ranieri used more than £60million on new players that never really contributed for Leicester City and today must be seen as bad money spent, and without a doubt players that were not needed to take the club forward. But you never know in the business of football, with other signings done under the time of Claudio that all are today seen as well money spent.
To look back is always easy and to tell what should have been done or what should not have been done can be told with the knowledge in your hand, but you can always learn and hopefully Leicester City owners have learned a bit over the years.
To see Claudio leave after such a short term in charge was a big blow for TCF, something died inside with him leaving and again as a Leicester City fan you have to build yourself up again, and today feeling ok, with Brendan Rodgers as manager, but he does not have that “glory” as Claudio had, but again, if you have to find a replacement, Brendan Rodgers is a good one.
Christian Fuchs, Marc Albrigthon, Ben Chilwell, Harvey Barnes, Wes Morgan, Kasper Schmeichel, Andy King, Matty James, Daniel Amartey, Demarai Gray and Jamie Vardy are all still at the club, three years after that great happening, but we might have to wave goodbye to a few over the summer, seeing King and James probably no longer part of the future under Brendan Rodgers.
N’Golo Kantè and Riyad Mahrez are both players sold by Leicester City building on that great triumph, being now at Chelsea and Man City and winning some remarkable trophies since their days with Leicester City.
Mahrez winning The Treble with Man City this season (never been done by a club in England before), Kantè winning the World Cup, Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League while at Chelsea.
To finish of this article we would like to hope that Leicester City once again can challenge the top six, with a team of many young players and under Brendan Rodgers be able to combine possession with fast counter attacks and be able to penetrate in a way that Jamie Vardy again can be of full use as a center forward.
Jamie Vardy ended this season on 18 goals in the Premier League, and he has so far scored 100 league goals in 239 games for the club, hopefully we will see him add to this tally in the future seasons to come.