Where it went wrong as Leicester's success gives way to relegation
Leicester were relegated from the Premier League on Sunday seven years after being crowned champions of England.
The Foxes, also FA Cup winners in 2021, beat West Ham 2-1 at home on the final day of the season but Everton’s victory over Bournemouth condemned them to the second tier for the first time since 2013-14.
Here, the PA news agency examines some of the reasons why it went wrong.
Summer of discontent
For a club that had twice finished fifth – narrowly missing out on Champions League qualification – and eighth in Brendan Rodgers’ three full seasons in charge, there was an alarming drop in expectations at the start of the camapign. Summer cutbacks meant Rodgers was unable to significantly strengthen his squad, with chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha explaining Financial Fair Play and Covid had hit them hard. Central defender Wesley Fofana went to Chelsea for £70million before Rodgers could bring in any new recruits and the departure of title-winning goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, a huge character at the club for over a decade, hurt them badly.
Leicester had appeared to be the byword for shrewd planning for so long in English football after launching the stellar careers of title winners N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez. But eight players – Caglar Soyuncu, Daniel Amartey, Jonny Evans, Nampalys Mendy, Ryan Bertrand, Tete, Youri Tielemans and Ayoze Perez, who spent the second half of the campaign on loan at Real Betis – were out of contract at the end of the season. Belgium midfielder Tielemans, scorer of the FA Cup final winner against Chelsea, was nowhere near the levels he had shown after joining from Monaco in 2019. Deals for a further eight players are to expire next year, among them England attacking midfielder James Maddison who is now set to move on.
Post-World Cup blues
After a terrible start that saw Leicester anchored to the foot of the table with one point from seven games, their form picked up before the World Cup break with five wins in eight. But Leicester’s form nose-dived again when domestic football returned in December, taking just one point from 15. Evans was not fit to marshal a leaky defence and unconvincing Wales goalkeeper Danny Ward eventually lost his place to Daniel Iversen. Foxes great Jamie Vardy became increasingly marginalised and did not score a league goal for six months as a squad deemed ‘too good to go down’ hurtled towards a relegation scrap.
Was sacking Rodgers right call?
Rodgers adopted a negative tone to Leicester’s summer strife by insisting the target was 40 points and top-flight survival. The former Liverpool and Celtic boss, more familiar with competing at the top of the table rather than the bottom, almost grew more pessimistic by the week with selection inconsistencies and injury undermining the Foxes’ cause. Rodgers was eventually sacked on April 2 after defeat at Crystal Palace had dropped Leicester into the bottom three. After Adam Sadler and Mike Stowell spent two games in caretaker charge, Dean Smith took command for the last eight – but would Leicester have been better served backing Rodgers as Nottingham Forest and West Ham did with Steve Cooper and David Moyes?