But then, lockdown and the subsequent pause of the league season occurred- seeing the Foxes’ top-four hopes come to a crashing halt.
Upon their return, Leicester looked burned out and uncharacteristically lethargic going forward; two problems which ultimately put an end to their top-four chances.
This season is different, however. Summer investment looks to have proven key with Leicester’s newly-found squad depth becoming a prominent feature to their superb season.
The arrival of Wesley Fofana, Cengiz Under, and Timothy Castagne alongside the emergence of James Justin has allowed Brendan Rodgers to cope with extensive injury problems and even mount a title charge.
Last season, they lacked this squad depth, and ultimately paid the price. This season, their Champions League ambitions look as likely a target as ever at the King Power Stadium.
Squad Depth the Key Difference for Leicester This Season in Champions League Pursuit
Wesley Fofana: Stepping up in the Absence of Caglar Soyuncu
When a team loses their player of the season from the previous campaign, they usually struggle to maintain form.
Leicester, in contrasting fashion, have excelled even without Caglar Soyuncu this season. The central defender has missed 12 games so far, but Leicester’s summer recruitment has proved vital in his absence.
Last season, when an injury in the backline occurred, the Foxes had no option but to turn to the ageing Wes Morgan– a defender no longer capable of mounting a top-four charge.
So, as the summer arrived, so did Wesley Fofana from Saint Etienne for £36.5 million. The 20-year-old was meant to be a player for the future but was forced to step up as Soyuncu suffered an injury.
Since then, the Frenchman has been a revelation at the back- combining with the experienced Jonny Evans to form a Leicester partnership worthy of Champions League qualification.
18 games in, many of which without Soyuncu, Leicester sit second after defeating Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Southampton side in a game which saw Fofana impress once more.
James Justin’s Versatility Also Key to Leicester and Champions League Hopes
Following Ricardo Pereira’s lengthy injury, Leicester were forced to turn to another youngster in former Luton Town man James Justin. The versatile defender, who can play both left-back and right-back, has filled in exceptionally- leading to many calling for an England appearance.
Again, last season, the Foxes eventually burnt out due to the lengthy season, and lack of squad depth. This campaign is a complete contrast. With those injured now making their returns, too, the Foxes will only grow stronger as the season progresses.
Justin, 22-years-old, has the fourth-highest tackle success rate in the league at 81%. Like Fofana, the young defender has been a revelation when forced to step up in the face of injuries.
Jamie Vardy: Not the Only Match Winner in the Side Anymore
Like the side as a whole lasts season, Jamie Vardy didn’t enjoy the best of post-lockdown returns, going from a free-scoring forward to a striker struggling for service and struggling to find the back of the net as a result. And, because of that, the Foxes failed to find goals.
At the end of the day, the Englishman was their only consistent goalscoring outlet last season, and as soon as his form dipped, so did Leicester’s hopes of top four.
Again, this campaign is different; more players have stepped up in front of goal- especially Harvey Barnes. The 23-year-old netted his 10th goal of the season to seal victory over the Saints and is improving with every week as Leicester look towards the Champions League.
James Maddison, too, is becoming a greater goalscoring threat- scoring in back to back games for the first time since 2019 last night. With Gareth Southgate watching on, the two Englishman- vying for a place in the side- picked the perfect time to impress the on-watching manager.
In their entirety, Leicester City, thanks to the addition of adequate squad depth, look likelier than ever to continue their charge towards Champions League football and maybe even a repeat of the 15/16 title-winning campaign.
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