When the Premier League started in August 2015, the odds on Leicester City being crowned champions were 5000-1. 

But on May 2,  2016, Tottenham drew at Chelsea. The result meant Leicester City would have an unassailable lead at the top of the Premier League table to be crowned champions of England for the first time in their history. Their coach Claudio Ranieri had made history. It was one of the greatest achievements in sport. 

b’Claudio Ranieri. AFP’

Now, nine months since the party at striker Jamie Vardy’s house which went viral; after giving the sporting world the belief that anything can be achieved; Ranieri has been sacked. His side are a point away from relegation – in 17th place- and in genuine danger of losing their Premier League status.

So what went wrong at Leicester? How did they go from champions to fighting to stay in the top league? Here are some reasons: 

No Support From The Dressing Room

Last season, Leicester lost only thrice. This season, they have already lost 14 times. After 26 games last year they were on top with 53 points, two ahead of Spurs. This season they are 17th after 25 games, with only 21 points. They’ve leaked 43 goals this year: that’s 7 more than what they let in the entire 2015-16 season. 

If last season defied logic, so did this one – and it is the worst title defence in the Premier League’s history. Their run last season was explained only by phenomenal belief among the group. N’Golo Kante, Vardy, Wes Morgan, Kasper Schmeichel, Danny Drinkwater and Riyad Mahrez believed in themselves last year. This time, after suffering loss after loss, that belief is gone. It has turned into doubt and it reflects in their performances.

Losing N’golo Kante

It’s not for no reason that Leicester’s recruitment in-charge last season (Steve Walsh) said that having Kante in the side was like playing with an extra man. 

“We play Drinkwater in midfield with Kante on either side,” he had said. 

The midfielder ended up making 175 tackles in the Premier League (31 more than any other player) and 156 interceptions (15 more than any other player).

b’Kante – the best box to box midfielder in the league, is now with Chelsea. Reuters’

But Kante left the Foxes for Chelsea and suddenly, Leicester were being overrun in midfield. 

Gone was the high-pressing and winning the ball back, gone were the counter-attacks and gone was his omnipresence. The fuel that powered them is now doing the same at Chelsea, who are top of the table. Wherever Kante goes, he clearly wins. 

Other Teams Figured Them Out

b’Gone is the belief and thrill from last season. Reuters’

Ranieri earned the nickname ‘Tinkerman’ early in his career because of an urge to chop and change his starting XIs. He would keep managers guessing – but that didn’t often work for his side. 

So he ditched that system and went for a settled XI last season. A formula of thrilling counter-attacking football that worked.

And then, other teams sat back, realised what Leicester did, and found a way to nullify them. 

There was suddenly no space for last season’s 24-goal hero Vardy. Mahrez has managed only three goals so far, with no creative support from the midfield. Last season, teams attacked Leicester and fell into a trap. This season, teams sat back and invited Leicester to attack them – but the champions have looked clueless about what to do.

Transfer Policy 

Leicester didn’t buy well. In Ahmed Musa, Islam Slimani, Nampalys Mendy and Bartosz Kapustka, they bought unknowns. And you can’t win a title every season with unknowns. 

The center-backs are still the same, the strikers are the same and the midfield is devoid of Kante. It was a bad transfer market and they didn’t use January either to strengthen. Leicester were not in debt – so why didn’t they spend a bit more? Yes, they managed to keep their biggest stars, but that is never enough in the Premier League. 

No Novelty

b’Leicester City get their due for keeping cleansheets – pizza. Reuters’

Last year’s win was based on novelties – a pizza as a prize for a cleansheet, a bell that Ranieri would ring to ‘wake up’ his players and a run that defied logic. It was all new, fresh, beautiful and eccentric to get a reaction from a group of unexpectedly good players stitched together from lower leagues with nothing to lose. 

This season, it’s sad that the only thing remarkable was Ranieri’s sacking.