After slumping to a 2-0 defeat to Slavia Prague, Leicester City find themselves out of the Europa League. The question that remains to be answered is whether or not it is indicative of a greater problem. Without fan favourite James Maddison, Leicester may find their season unravelling.
Leicester City Without James Maddison for an Unspecified Time
Prior Problems Without Maddison
What should concern the Foxes is that recent history shows that they struggle without James Maddison. From July 2 to September 12 (72 days) in 2020, Maddison was out with a hip injury. In the final six games of the 2019/20 Premier League season, they failed to win four of them. In these games, the symptoms were clear. General play was sluggish, and chances were hard to come by. In essence, this run was the reason why Leicester fell out of the top four.
Given that Maddison is currently out with another hip injury, Leicester may have good reason to be concerned. Brendan Rodgers’ currently sit in third place in the Premier League. To have Champions League football within your grasp only to fail two years in a row is something that no team wants to happen.
James Maddison Has Been Better Than Ever
Perhaps more concerning for Leicester is that James Maddison has been better and more directly influential than ever before.
The 2019/20 campaign saw Maddison claim a respectable six goals and three assists over 31 appearances. In comparison, the 24-year-old has got eight goals and seven assists already this season, having only played in 23 games.
Given that Leicester have previously struggled in the absence of a less impactful version of James Maddison, one can only imagine quite how much they’ll feel the absence of a new and improved version. Maddison has grown into a technical leader on the pitch this season for the Foxes. His presence demands the ball, and he is always willing to take risks to try and advance play. The problem when a player this touch-heavy is absent is that as a team, you suddenly need to make tweaks to fill in this vacuum. Either someone else has to attempt to play the role, or several players must up their involvement to cover the gap.
A True Test for Harvey Barnes
Over the last two years, Leicester have enjoyed the growth of young Harvey Barnes. The 23-year-old has provided the perfect third prong to the attacking trident of himself, James Maddison and Jamie Vardy. Barnes operates from out wide on the left, gliding inside to provide some more threat. In essence, Barnes provides a halfway house between Vardy and Maddison, adding both goal threat and creativity.
So far in the 2020/21 season, Barnes has nine goals and four assists. Of course, many of these goal contributions have come in tandem with James Maddison. What we have now is a chance for Barnes to make a difference by himself.
If any single player is likely to step up in the absence of James Maddison, it is most likely to be Harvey Barnes. The England international has the technical ability to take on the creative burden of the team. Such an idea was somewhat suggested in Brendan Rogers’ team selection for the Slavia Prague loss. Barnes was rested, with the suggestion being that the club need to make sure he stays fit for this uncertain period.
No one can ever say with certainty that a player is ready, but Harvey Barnes certainly looks well prepared.
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