How Leicester can avoid the mistakes of last season & secure Champions League football

27 December 2020 08:45

With just under half of their Premier League games played, Leicester are well positioned in the race for European football.

Their start has not been quite as electric as last season - when they boasted an 11-point cushion over fifth place on Christmas Day - but the Foxes can still hold their heads high, particularly considering the spate of injuries they have already had to deal with.

As good as their first half of the campaign was last time out, after the festive period and particularly post-lockdown, they were absolutely diabolical. The 11 point lead they built up was slowly chipped away with Leicester eventually surrendering their place in the Champions League on the final day of the season.

The Foxes will be desperate to avoid similar heartache this time around but how exactly can they ensure lightning does not strike twice?

Do not let bad results ruin their momentum

Liverpool dealt Leicester a bitter blow last Christmas | Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Prior to their festive double header against Manchester City and then Liverpool last season, Leicester had lost just twice in all competitions.

After they had been soundly dispatched 3-1 and 4-0 respectively, the Foxes never looked the same team. They only won six of their remaining 19 Premier League games with the humbling results hurting several players on a personal level.

Young defenders Ben Chilwell and Caglar Soyuncu were taught a footballing lesson in both games and did not look comfortable for the rest of the campaign. Star performers Youri Tielemans and James Maddison also experienced a dip in form thereafter.

This time around, the Foxes are more experienced and should be better equipped to deal with any disappointing results when they come. Responding to these momentum sapping moments will be key in the race for European qualification.

Learn how to break down a low block

Leicester must learn to defeat those who worship at the altar of Dyche | Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

One of the things that killed Leicester in the second half of last season was failing to break down teams in the bottom half of the table.

Defeats to Burnley and Norwich were poor but back to back draws against Watford and Brighton were also damaging. In both of these fixtures, Leicester enjoyed close to 70% possession but carved out precious few chances, registering just two shots on target in each game. This exposed one of the Foxes' fatal flows - their inability to break down teams who use a low block.

This season, they have shown some improvement in this regard, beating the kings of this approach, Sean Dyche's Clarets 4-2 back in September but the same problems reared their head during defeats to West Ham and Fulham.

With plenty more sides likely to employ this tactic against them, Rodgers needs his charges to exhibit a similar level of penetration as they did against the Clarets for the remainder of the campaign.

Take their chances & cut out the mistakes

Harvey Barnes was one of the main offenders for missing chances last season | Pool/Getty Images

An oft forgotten fact of Leicester's post-Christmas capitulation last season is that they frequently were creating enough chances to win games - only to let themselves down with wild finishing.

In their penultimate game of the campaign against Tottenham, which they lost 3-0, the Foxes registered an xG of 1.7 and Expected Goals Allowed (xGA) of 0.5. This was one of eight occasions in which Leicester underperformed their xG by 0.5 or more during the second half of the season.

Another problem was the horrific defensive mistakes that crept into their game as time went on. The most infamous example was Soyuncu's brain malfunction during his side's 4-1 defeat to Bournemouth but there were plenty of other clumsy errors along the way.

In order to improve this time out, being clinical and limiting their lapses in concentration at the back will be key.

Wrap their key players in cotton wool

Ndidi has already spent time of the sidelines this season | Pool/Getty Images

As the 2019/2020 season drew to a close, Leicester were forced to deal with a spate of high profile absences.

James Maddison, Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell were all injured and Soyuncu was suspended. The Foxes also had to deal with an injury to Wilfred Ndidi in the winter months, a period in which they failed to win any of their five Premier League games.

Although they dealt well with their early season injury crisis this time out, keeping their squad feeling fresh and firing should be top of Rodgers' priority list in the second half of the season. Unlike their top four rivals, Leicester's squad depth is thin, so rotation and recuperation will be vital in less important fixtures.

Source: 90min