Leicester’s 3-0 defeat at home to Manchester United might seem a routine result, and in isolation it is – but compared to their form last season, things could not be much more different for the Foxes.
Success now would be to maintain their Premier League status – was 2015/16 nothing but a dream?
Leicester have won 114 fewer tackles and made 188 fewer interceptions in 2016/17 than they had at the same point last season.
Missing man. pic.twitter.com/fpPNJnja9N— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 5, 2017
A full 12 months on, and the Premier League champions are barely recognisable. Sitting just one point above the relegation zone on 21 points, Leicester have lost four league games in a row, failed to score in their last five, and have won just five games all season.
Compare that to the same stage last season: Leicester sat top, on 50 points, having earned 11 points from their previous five games. The Foxes have scored 24 goals and conceded 41 so far this campaign, compared with scoring 44 and conceding 26 at the same stage last season.
All that amounts to a swing of -29 points and -35 goal difference.
Leicester don’t need to worry about beating the big teams in the Premier League in order to survive, but the results they have endured against the league’s elite put their declining fortunes into sharp contrast.
Last year the Foxes enjoyed wins against Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool – a scrap book any top side would be proud of – as well as draws both at home AND away against Manchester United.
Fast forward to the present day, and despite a 4-2 win at home to Manchester City, Ranieri’s men have been soundly beaten by Chelsea twice (both 3-0 defeat), Manchester United twice (4-1 and 3-0) and Liverpool (4-1).
Embarrassing scorelines whether you sit atop the Premier League, or right down at the bottom.
Leicester’s success was clearly a wonderful team effort, but they were propelled into legend by the efforts of two star players: Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.
The pair have just eight Premier League goals between them so far this season, compared with 31 at the same stage last year, while Vardy went on to win the Premier League’s Player of the Season award, and Mahrez the the PFA’s Player of the Season.
While the team performances this year have dipped, neither has there been any individual inspiration.
There’s no doubt about it now, Leicester are in a relegation scrap with 14 games remaining – do they have what it takes to survive the drop?
Go back a little further, and the Foxes could do worse than to take a leaf from their own book. In 2015, Leicester’s Premier League status seemed all but done for, seven points adrift with nine games to play, before seven wins from their last nine games kept them in the division.
A similar upturn in form right about now would do them very nicely indeed.