From champions to the Championship? Table-toppers to the unthinkable? Leicester City are staring relegation in the face.
Eight months ago we all marvelled at the most astonishing sporting achievement in modern memory. Claudio Ranieri’s charges clutched the Premier League title at the King Power Stadium, eyes wide with disbelief as even the players themselves tried to comprehend the scale of the achievement. Those present or those glued to TV screens dared not pinch themselves in case they would be hurled back to reality. This was a fleeting moment normally reserved for the elite few.
Now Leicester are a shadow of their former selves. We all predicted a harsh come-down from the heady heights of such an unexpected achievement. Few envisioned a relegation battle. All that character and dynamism has been replaced by a side who, at times, barely look like they know one another. Ranieri has been given the dreaded vote of confidence and it is not inconceivable to suggest that continued struggles will see him handed his P45.
Where has it all gone wrong? Leicester, after all, kept a hold of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy, the stars of last season, but critically lost N’Golo Kante to Chelsea. While the diminutive Frenchman looks odds on to help his new side to the title this season, Leicester have struggled mightily without their former unsung hero. While he marshals a Chelsea midfield that look unbeatable, his former employers have struggled to move on without him. Nampalys Mendy, his intended replacement, has struggled to stay off the treatment table.
Without the balance that Kante provided, acting as the catalyst for their flare players to tear up the league, they look disjointed and devoid of creativity. An absence of stability, both defensively and in terms of the front two, has seen Vardy manage just five goals this season – three of them coming in one game. Leicester were always going to find adapting a struggle. But while their European escapades should be lauded, their domestic form has them lodged in a relegation battle.
The nature of the Premier League means that Leicester may just squeeze themselves the right side of the relegation trap door. Upturns in fortune though for Hull, Swansea and Sunderland in recent weeks will have them sweating over their top-flight futures. They say a week is a long time in football. How about eight months? A brutal reality check for a side who, not long ago, enthralled the footballing world.
Image courtesy of Ungry Young Man @flickr