The “r word” is being mentioned a lot around the reigning Premier League champions.
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Rightly so, relegation is on the minds of everyone involved with Leicester City with 14 games of the Premier League season to go.
Leicester were blown away by Manchester United 3-0 on Sunday, leaving Claudio Ranieri‘s side just two points off the bottom of the table after four-straight defeats which has seen them concede 10 goals and score zero.
Speaking to Sky Sports following their humbling defeat against United, goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel admitted Leicester is in freefall.
“We’re the reigning champions but quite frankly it’s been terrible,” Schmeichel said. “Every player is hurting. It’s not a situation that is comfortable. It’s time for everyone to stand up and be counted because if we don’t we’re going to end up getting relegated.”
Let’s break this down. What the heck is going on?
- Leicester’s defense suddenly looks porous with Danny Simpson, Wes Morgan, Robert Huth, Christian Fuchs not looking anywhere near their levels of last season as they recorded shutout after shutout. They conceded 36 goals last season in 38 PL games. They’ve already conceded 41 in 24 games this season
- They sold N'Golo Kante to Chelsea. His absence in midfield can’t be understated. Simple
- Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have scored eight PL goals between them in the PL so far and are severely out of form. They had 41 PL goals between them last season
- Prioritizing the UEFA Champions League over PL in the early months of the season was acceptable but those dropped points are now catching up with them
- They have yet to win a Premier League game away from home this season
- Distractions of the FA Cup and UCL Round of 16 are coming up in February, which will cause more rotation to the team and complicate the situation further
So, the main thing here is that there is plenty of reasons why the reigning champs are hurtling towards relegation at a rapid rate.
Ranieri has also had to deal with player unrest as Leonardo Ulloa was denied a move away on Deadline Day despite saying he wouldn’t play for the club again, and there are rumblings that he’s started to lose the dressing room less than 12 months after delivering one of the greatest title victories in sporting history. Ranieri is under pressure and defeat at Swansea in their next game, plus a first leg defeat to Sevilla in the UCL, will surely seal his fate.
Football is fickle, but results talk.
Leicester’s manager admitted recently that the chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was unhappy and demanded they get to 40 points as soon as possible. How on earth are Leicester going to do that?
Their next six PL games will define not only their season but also their foreseeable future. An away trip to in-form Swansea is next up, followed by hosting Liverpool and Hull City, then they travel to Arsenal and West Ham before hosting Stoke on Apr. 1.
By April Fools Day we will see if the reigning champs have been turned into fools and are embroiled in a relegation battle for the final six weeks of the 2016-17 season. If Leicester do go down then they’ll also face a huge financial crisis as they dished out massive contracts to players in the title-winning squad. Vardy and Mahrez are both on over $130,000 per week, while many more are close to the $100,000 mark.
Leicester won’t want to think about those implications right now but reality may have hit home: they pulled off an incredible feat when the perennial giants of English soccer had a down year last season, but when you look at their squad they’re probably where they should be. Midtable at best. That’s the harsh reality.
On the day Leicester lifted the PL trophy last season against Everton in May, I spoke to many Leicester fans in and around the King Power Stadium who said they didn’t care if the Foxes were relegated next season.
I wonder what they think now…