Leicester City and last of the Mohicans from championship year Vardy in major relegation trouble
The Premier League is in its decisive phase with two rounds of play remaining. Behind Manchester City, which can prolong the national title on Sunday, and Arsenal are still fighting for a Champions League ticket. But at least as exciting is the bottom. After all, in addition to already relegated Southampton, two more teams will have to descend to the Championship.
One of the possible victims is Leicester City. Indeed, according to many, there is no stopping the number nineteen ranked team. Gracenote, a media company specializing in data and statistics, estimates the probability of ‘The Foxes’ being relegated at a whopping 83 percent.
Leeds United must also fear for survival with 72 percent, while Everton (29 percent) and Nottingham Forest (17) can probably breathe a sigh of relief at the end.
That prognosis has a lot to do with the remaining schedule, which Leicester is estimated to be considerably tougher than its rivals. Especially next Monday’s visit to ambitious Newcastle United could be the final blow for the club that last season cut off PSV’s pass to the semifinals of the Conference League.
And this would then end nine seasons at the highest level, which by no means passed silently. In particular, the second year after promotion entered the annals with golden letters. Leicester City, still in the lower regions the season before, actually managed to compete with the recognized top clubs in England.
And it didn’t stop there. While all “soccer experts” were waiting for the blue shirts to collapse, the team of Italian manager Claudio Ranieri stoically kept taking their points – even in the top games – and the bottom-door became champions of England for the first time in club history. Marked even: with ten points ahead of number two Arsenal.
That the club had lived somewhat beyond its means was evident just one season later with the 12th spot in the final rankings. Leicester City, which had to cope with the accidental death of owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in October 2018, disappeared into the drab middle ground. Until February 2019, when Brendan Rodgers, who had strung together successes at Celtic, took the helm at The Foxes.
The Northern Irishman brought the team back to the sub-top, but could not prevent both 2020 and 2021 from losing a spot in the Champions League on the final day of the competition due to a home defeat against Manchester United (0-2) and Tottenham Hotspur (2-4), respectively.
That may have been matched by a first FA Cup in 2021 – after four previous finals lost, Chelsea were beaten 1-0 at Wembley – but missing out on the Champions League millions might have weighed more heavily for the future.
The fact remains that it has hardly been possible to invest in fresh (top) forces and that is paying off this season especially defensively. For example, Leicester City has failed to keep the zero for 21 games in a row. Partly as a result, the team experienced a nine-game period in which it earned just one point and rapidly slipped from a safe-looking thirteenth place to the dangerous nineteenth position.
Perhaps the personification of Leicester City’s decline is Jamie Vardy, since the departure of goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel last summer a kind of last of the Mohicans: the only one of the championship team still to be admired at the King Power Stadium.
The now 36-year-old striker accounted for 24 goals in the championship year, drew a line under the record held by Ruud van Nistelrooij by scoring in 11 consecutive league matches and was also named Player of the Year in the Premier League.
This season, the 26-time England international, who regularly has to make do with substitutions, has only scored three goals. He scored his last early this month in the relegation battle against Everton, a game at home that Leicester will remember. Leading 2-1, Vardy hit the crossbar and James Maddison missed a penalty kick. The match ended 2-2.
Rodgers was already no longer there. He had to leave the field in early April and was replaced by Dean Smith. It is up to him to lead Leicester City past Newcastle United and West Ham United (May 28). And then keep your fingers crossed that the competition drops enough points.