MOTD2 analysis: What has gone wrong at Leicester?

Match of the Day 2 analysis

On his previous appearance on MOTD2 in April, Watford striker Troy Deeney explained why Leicester were so hard to beat as the Foxes closed in on the Premier League title.

That is not the case for the defending champions so far this season, however.

Claudio Ranieri’s side were beaten only three times in the whole of 2015-16, but Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Sunderland means they have lost seven of their 14 league games in 2016-17, and are only two points above the relegation zone.

What is going wrong for the Foxes? Deeney, who helped Watford beat Leicester 2-1 on 19 November, compares playing them now with what it was like during their fairytale campaign.

‘You can get through them a bit easier now’


Kante left Leicester in the summer to join Chelsea for £30m

N’Golo Kante made 175 tackles and 156 interceptions for Leicester last season, more than any other player in either category. Since his move to Chelsea, he has made 44 tackles and 39 interceptions in 2016-17. Only Everton’s Idrissa Gueye has made more in total.

Deeney: “Probably the biggest factor that has changed for opposition teams against Leicester this season has been in the middle of the park.

“You can get through their midfield and get at their back four a little bit easier now.

“Whenever we broke on them last season, I always had the fear factor that N’Golo Kante was coming back and I knew we didn’t have much time before he got there.

“Even if I actually did have time, I always thought he might be there, so I would rush things a bit.

“Now that element of playing Leicester has gone, and there seems to be a bit more freedom in midfield when you play them.

“It is inevitable really, unless they were to play with two dedicated defensive midfielders instead.

“I always felt Kante did the work of two players, so without him it is very hard to get the same sort of balance they had with him and Danny Drinkwater playing together.

“Kante was everywhere for them. He is still the same player now of course, getting up and down the pitch, but it is for Chelsea instead.”

‘Teams have got used to playing against them’


Vardy’s last Leicester goal came in their 4-1 defeat by Liverpool on 10 September

Jamie Vardy scored 24 goals for Leicester last season but has not found the net for 18 games in all competitions for the Foxes. In the Premier League alone, Vardy has had six shots in his past 10 matches, with none on target.

Deeney: “Leicester’s gameplan last season was based on hitting sides on the counter-attack.

“They are not doing anything too differently now – against us they were still going out wide to Riyad Mahrez for him to work his magic.

“I just think teams have got used to playing against them, and I mean that in the most respectful way.

“I looked at their team before we played them and I knew Jamie Vardy would be up front, and I also knew he would be trying to run in behind our defence.

“Last season, it surprised a few teams to begin with when he did that, and then it got to the point where he and the other Leicester players were playing so well, it did not matter if teams adjusted.

“They did not care if the opposition dropped off, because they were confident they could score in other ways – look at the long-range volley Vardy scored against Liverpool in February, for example.

“Now teams are defending deep against them from the start, to deal with the threat of Vardy’s pace, and letting Leicester have possession.

“That does not seem to suit the players Leicester have got, especially with confidence levels the way they are at the moment.”

‘We beat them by going at them’


Deeney challenges Robert Huth during Watford’s 2-1 win over Leicester in November. His flick from Roberto Pereyra’s cross set up Etienne Capoue to score the Hornets’ first goal

Leicester have taken only one point from a possible 21 on the road in the Premier League this season. They have lost six out of seven away games, with their only draw coming at Tottenham. In 2015-16, the Foxes won 11 of their 19 away games, losing only two.

Deeney: “Because they became the team to beat, a lot of sides have changed their approach when they play Leicester, thinking they will keep hold of the 0-0 for as long as possible and then try to nick it.

“When we played them, in November, we did things a bit differently and decided to start by going at them.

“It was our first game since losing 6-1 to Liverpool, so our approach was a bit of a ploy to try to get our fans back onside straight away.

“We set our stall out to put them under pressure straight away. We started fast and scored after 33 seconds, and part of the reason it worked was because it was so early in the game.

“What Leicester’s back four were doing last season was sinking deep, with all four of their defenders inside their area, inviting crosses and sort of saying ‘go on then, try to beat us’. It was very effective.

“This time, we nicked the ball off them and counter-attacked them so it was very difficult for them to get back into position and be ready for it.”

‘You have to get in line when you join the champions’


Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri has made twice the number of line-up changes this season compared to this stage of 2015-16. In the whole of last season, Ranieri made 33 changes, the fewest in the top flight.

Deeney: “It is partly down to injuries, like the one to goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, and partly down to Leicester being in the Champions League too, but Claudio Ranieri has made far more changes to his team this season.

“When their team stayed the same, I always got the sense everyone knew what everyone else was doing off the ball. That is no longer the case.

“I think they spent a lot of money in the summer on players who were a bit different to what they had already got.

“Firstly, it was always going to be hard for all those signings to quickly slot into a team that has a definitive way of playing. It would be the same at any club.

“Another problem Leicester had is they are the champions. By that, I mean the people who are coming in have to drop their ego and behave a bit differently to the way they would if they were big-money signings at other clubs.

“I am not saying anyone at Leicester is not doing that but I was linked with a move there myself in the summer and that was one of the things I thought about straight away.

“If that move had happened, I knew it would not be about me being the big fish there.

“To succeed, I would have had to have got in line with everyone else and adopted the culture that brought them success in the first place.

“It is something that Claudio Ranieri has spoken about – he knows it is going to take a little while.

“There is an adjustment stage when players sign for any club, let alone the champions.”

‘Nobody is too good to go down’

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After 14 games last season, Leicester had lost once and were second in the table with 29 points, behind Manchester City on goal difference. This season, they are 16 points worse off.

Deeney: “Part of Leicester’s problem in the Premier League is definitely that they have got the Champions League to think about as well.

“I would not say their players have switched focus but obviously there is a lot of excitement around them being in Europe and mentally it must be hard for them to be at the same level for every game they play.

“In the space of 18 months, a lot of their squad have gone from fighting relegation to winning the league and then reaching the knockout stages of the Champions League.

“Now their manager has come out after Saturday’s defeat against Sunderland and said they are in a battle at the bottom.


“Looking at the table, that is the way it is. To get out of it, a lot is going to come down to their attitude and how they approach their Premier League games.

“It shows how standards have risen so much in recent seasons that not even the defending champions are safe.

“At Watford we are buying players from Juventus now – for me, that sums up how much more of a level playing field the Premier League has become.

“Last year, Newcastle and Aston Villa spent a lot of money but got relegated, and I don’t think you can say anyone is too good to go down.

“You have to be on your mettle every game you play. If you are not, then you get found out – whoever you are.”

Troy Deeney was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.