Leicester are ominously building another top-four challenge after Southampton victory… and Brendan Rodgers believes ‘development’ in tactics and mentality could avoid repeat of late crumble
Just like five years ago, nobody is talking about them. Yet just like five years ago, Leicester are there again, in the thick of the battle.
While it will be incredibly difficult to repeat the title win of 2016, Leicester’s target is to right the wrong of last season when they spent all but one week inside the top four.
Unfortunately for Brendan Rodgers, that week was the final one of the season and meant they were pipped to a Champions League place.
Leicester City’s victory over in-form Southampton pushed them right into the title race
James Maddison and Harvey Barnes scored the goals as the Foxes shot up to third in the table
There are still 20 matches to go, starting with a crucial fixture at home to Chelsea on Tuesday, but there is every reason to believe Leicester can go one better this time.
The squad is deeper, thanks to clever recruitment which brought defenders Timothy Castagne and Wesley Fofana to the club.
The young English players are improving, too: between them, James Maddison and Harvey Barnes have 17 goals in all competitions this season, while full back James Justin delivered another impressive performance in front of England manager Gareth Southgate.
Brendan Rodgers’ side are dropping hints that they’ve taken another step forward this term
The caveat, as always, is what would happen should Jamie Vardy suffer a long-term injury. Leicester’s top scorer is a doubt for the Chelsea game after another flare-up of his ongoing hip problem.
Yet Ayoze Perez impressed as a false No 9 in the FA Cup win at Stoke while Barnes’s pace and energy make him a possible deputy for Vardy.
‘The common denominator of us dropping off over the last 10 games of last season was that we were missing our best players. It’s as simple as that,’ said Rodgers.
‘If we look at the team now, a year on, I think there have been developments from a tactical perspective and mentality wise.’
Last season reached a disappointing end as the Foxes narrowly missed-out on a top-four spot
Southampton were tough opponents in an excellent game, but Maddison’s brilliant strike eight minutes before half-time opened the door and, after Leicester had wasted several chances on the break, Barnes settled the matter in stoppage time with his 10th goal of the season.
Saints will always struggle without Danny Ings, who was unavailable after his recent positive test for Covid-19, but Stuart Armstrong was outstanding in midfield and Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side will regret not scoring when they were on top in the opening 25 minutes.
‘We did our best with the options we have,’ said Hasenhuttl. ‘We have nine injured but we are fighting for everything.’