Holders Leicester City dumped out of FA Cup
The magic of the FA Cup left Leicester City dazzled at the weekend, as the holders exited the Cup at the hands of Championship side Nottingham Forest.
The Foxes’ season has gone from bad to worse after the reigning FA Cup champions were thrashed by Nottingham Forest in the Fourth Round.
Forest claimed an impressive 4-1 win over Brendan Rodgers’ side at City Ground on Sunday, after previously disposing of Arsenal – the most successful team in FA Cup history – in the Third Round.
In December, Leicester were demoted from the UEFA Europa League and also knocked out of the League Cup, leaving their only remaining hopes of achieving silverware this season with the inaugural Europa Conference League.
Leicester lost out to Liverpool in the League Cup quarter-finals after the visiting Foxes twice threw away a two-goal lead, pushing the tie at Anfield to penalties. Luke Thomas and Ryan Bertrand both had their spot-kicks saved by Caoimhin Kelleher, before Diogo Jota fired home to send Liverpool to the semis at the expense of ex-Reds boss Rodgers.
With more than half of the 2021/22 Premier League campaign now behind us, Leicester sit in 10th position having taken just 26 points from 20 games. Despite having games in hand over all but one of the nine teams above them, the Foxes are currently closer to the relegation zone (11 points) than they are to the top four (12 points).
Leicester have suffered four defeats on the road this league season, already more away losses than during all of last campaign (3).
The Leicester faithful appear to be running short on patience, with the club twice narrowly missing out on a top-four finish in addition to their dreadful exit from the Europa League on Rodgers' watch.
Prior to their mystifying Premier League coup in 2016, Leicester City’s biggest achievement had been two League Cup successes in 1997 and 2000. In the early-to-mid 2000s Leicester dipped in and out of the Premiership and were relegated to the third-tier in 2008, although the Foxes played Championship football for the majority of the first decade this century.
Leicester spent a single season in League One, gaining automatic promotion to the Championship under Nigel Pearson. The Foxes floated around the second-tier for another five seasons before gaining promotion to the top-flight in 2014, for the first time in a decade, with Pearson's troops winning the Championship in the manager's second stint in charge.
Leicester finished 14th in the 14/15 Premier League, surviving relegation by six points, but the club parted ways with Pearson for a second time.
The club hierarchy appointed Claudio Ranieri as the new manager with the 64-year-old Italian returning to English football after 11 years away, during which time he enjoyed spells in Spain, Italy and France as well as with the Greece national team.
Ranieri was previously manager at Chelsea, but was shown the door by Roman Abramovich one year after the Russian billionaire bought the London club.
Abramovich replaced Ranieri with José Mourinho who went on to guide the Blues to back-to-back league titles and an FA Cup success in the Portuguese manager's first three seasons at Stamford Bridge.
Against all the odds (5000/1 to be precise) a truly unforeseeable chapter was embedded into football folklore six years ago, as Ranieri and Leicester City clinched the club's maiden top-flight league title.
In the 2015/16 title-winning campaign, Leicester won 17 points of a possible 36 against the top 6 from the previous season (Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd, Tottenham).
The Foxes took four points from each of Chelsea, Man City and Spurs, as well as three points from Liverpool and two from Man Utd. Leicester only lost thrice in the league in 15/16 – away to Liverpool, and both home and away to Arsenal.
Playing together with Europe's best in the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League, Leicester felt the pressure and sunk right into it. The Foxes advanced as winners of Group G and went on to eliminate Sevilla (3-2 agg.) in the Round of 16, but were knocked out by Atlético Madrid in the quarter-finals.
Leicester were also struggling domestically, sitting one point above the drop zone after 25 league games. With the Foxes 32 points worse off than at the same stage the previous season, Ranieri was sacked in February 2017 with Craig Shakespeare (assistant to both Pearson and Ranieri during their respective stays at the King Power) named caretaker manager until the end of the 16/17 season.
Under Shakespeare, Leicester survived relegation and finished 12th, ten points above the bottom three. Claude Puel was the next long-term manager through the doors and he saw the Foxes finish 9th in 2017/18.
Puel fell out of favour with some of Leicester's key players as well as supporters, and with the club in 12th place the Frenchman was relieved of his duties, exactly two years after Ranieri's dismissal.
Brendan Rodgers was almost immediately appointed as Puel’s successor in February 2019, with the Northern Irishman ending his three-year tenure as Celtic boss to take over the reigns in the Midlands. Rodgers brought along his trusted assistant, Kolo Touré, who he had also managed at Liverpool and Celtic.
Leicester ended 2018/19 in 9th, before finishing 5th in 19/20 and again in 20/21. After twice being denied a top-four place, the Foxes defeated Chelsea in the 2021 FA Cup Final and later overcame Man City in the Community Shield.
Leicester's first-team moved into a new – and simply magnificent – training ground on Christmas Eve 2020 after 56 years of the club's training base at Belvoir Drive.
The 185-acre facility in Seagrave, north Leicestershire plays home to the club's state-of-the-art, all-inclusive amenities which is a solid representation of tangible progress since the current ownership took over in 2010. At Leicester's beck and call are an indoor arena, 14 outdoor training pitches, a swimming pool for recovery, as well as a nine-hole golf course and individual hotel rooms for players.
In August 2010, the Asia Football Investments consortium bought the East Midlands club, with Thai business magnate Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha leading the takeover and serving as Leicester's owner and chairman, and his son Aiyawatt vice-chairman.
Khun Vichai founded King Power in 1989, and the brand has one and truly become Leicester City’s image. Not only has the duty-free retail group sponsored the club's stadium since the takeover, but King Power also featured as the main kit sponsor up until May 2021, when Leicester agreed a deal with global online trading company FBS to become the club's principal partner which includes kit sponsorship rights.
The late Khun Vichai was hugely popular amongst the Leicester faithful, particularly due to his tireless commitment to the club, and not to mention his magnanimous gestures on matchdays where the owner would famously gift match-going supporters with beer, doughnuts, as well as jerseys and other merchandise.
Following his father's untimely passing in October 2018, Aiyawatt assumed control of the club and was named chairman of the board as well as president. Aiyawatt also became the new CEO of King Power. Both father and son are recognised for their devoted philanthropy aimed towards promoting football in Thailand.
Leicester’s ownership has undoubtedly been the single-most contributing factor towards the club's unwavering success in such a small time frame, and the club have showcased an exemplary business model in the transfer market – making huge profits on players who signed at the King Power Stadium for minimal fees.
Jon Rudkin has held the position of sporting director at Leicester since December 2014, and the club have consistently conducted shrewd business in player recruitment and sales during Rudkin’s time in his current role.
Riyad Mahrez and Danny Drinkwater were already Leicester players when the club rose into the top-flight in 2014, with the Algerian winger and English midfielder signed for little over £1m, combined. Chelsea signed Drinkwater for £35m on deadline day 2017, while Mahrez left for Man City the following year, costing £60m.
N'Golo Kanté was bought for £7,5m ahead of the 2015/16 title-winning campaign, but he was on the move again 12 months after signing a four-year deal at the King Power Stadium, as Leicester recouped more than 400 per cent profit with Chelsea paying £32m to land the French midfielder in 2016.
Ben Chilwell developed through the club's academy and broke into the first-team in the 2016/17 season. Chilwell became a mainstay in the Leicester XI for three years before the left-back moved to Chelsea in 2020, for a sum of £50m.
Harry Maguire joined Leicester from Sheffield United for £11m and was sold two years later to Man United for £80m.
The best part to Leicester's recruitment strategy would perhaps point to the low-cost replacements bought in place of the departed mega stars. With Kanté and Drinkwater both shipped off to Chelsea in successive years, Leicester acquired Nigerian midfielder Wilfred Ndidi from Genk in 2017 for £15m.
The Foxes paid Norwich City £20m for James Maddison in July 2018, and a year later forked out £40m to Monaco for Belgian midfielder Youri Tielemans, one of the club's more pricier signings.
Leicester’s strongest current midfield trio of Tielemans, Ndidi and Maddison would undoubtedly fetch eye-watering transfer fees should either player be prised away from the Foxes this year.
Tielemans, 24, has less than 18 months on his deal at the King Power Stadium, while Ndidi and Maddison (both 25) are under contract until June 2024.
In summer 2020, Leicester moved for young French defender Wesley Fofana, for whom Saint-Ettienne demanded £30m. Fofana endured a promising debut campaign but the 21-year-old has been ruled out of action since picking up a knee injury during pre-season six months ago.
Besides for the more established senior players, Leicester also have a host of up-and-coming youth prospects frequently moving up through the ranks. Harvey Barnes has been a first-team regular since 2019 while Hamza Choudhury, James Justin and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall have gradually become members of the senior squad in more recent times.
With Leicester losing most of its most prized assets over the last five years, only a small number of players remain from the club's league success in 2016. Kasper Schmeichel, Jamie Vardy and Marc Albrighton are the last remaining members of Ranieri's Premier League-winning team.
In the last eight years since securing promotion back into the Premier League, Leicester City have staked their claim as a true force within the English game. In 2016 the club achieved its first-ever top-flight honours, and more recently the Foxes completed the FA Cup-Community Shield double.
Over the course of six seasons – from the start of the 2015/16 Premier League campaign until the conclusion of 2020/21 – Leicester have taken a total 352 points from 228 games, averaging 1,54 points per game and 58 points per season. The Foxes place 7th in points across those six seasons, behind only the revered ‘Big Six’.
Premier League (2015/16 - 2020/21):
Points Avg. pts/season
Man City 509 84
Liverpool 476 79
Tottenham 425 70
Man Utd 422 70
Chelsea 418 69
Arsenal 396 66
Leicester 352 58
Everton 319 53
West Ham 305 50