[This series will break down each positional group and review its performance on a player-by-player basis. Second is the defenders. Previous reviews: goalkeepers]
Leicester City’s title-winning campaign featured a stalwart defensive unit that kept opponents in check. Led by Captain Wes Morgan, the Leicester backline was always tough to beat.
Let’s take a look at the performances of Leicester’s defensive gurus from this past season.
The Leicester captain became the first Fox to lift the Premier League trophy in club history, and deservedly so. Starting all 38 matches for Leicester City, Morgan was an instrumental member of a backline that was tough to beat.
Morgan was physical and disciplined. He was often counted on to mark the opposing team’s best striker; a job he at which he excelled. The most eye-catching statistic of all is Morgan’s three yellow cards and paltry 27 fouls committed.
The Jamaican international found a way to defend the ball without being reckless or wild. Arguably his best performance came against Southampton in April. Scoring the game’s only goal, he attempted three shots in total, committed no fouls, and helped keep a clean sheet against a dangerous Saints team.
Best Moment: After falling behind 1-0 at Old Trafford, it was Wes Morgan who would provide the equalizer for his second goal of the season. Making a barnstorming run to the back post, Morgan connected with a header that beat David de Gea, preserving a valuable point for Leicester City.
Season Grade: A
2016-17 Outlook: Approaching age 33, Morgan shows no signs of slowing down. Pending a healthy Copa America with his native Jamaica, Morgan will be back next season to lead Leicester City. In the locker room, Morgan’s presence will keep the Foxes calm despite the pressures of being defending champions. On the field, his strength at center-back will be crucial for Leicester as they challenge for the Premier League and UEFA Champions League crowns.
After signing from Schalke last summer, the Austrian defender turned some heads in the Premier League. Receiving only four yellow cards in league play, Fuchs exhibited a disciplined style of football.
His defensive play was remarkable and he was one of the best left backs in the Premier League. Fuchs was a threat both on the ground and in the air, making it difficult for opponents to build up opportunities.
Fuchs was also able to create offense himself, providing four assists last season. Overall, the 2015-16 campaign for Fuchs was a solid one, as he assimilated himself to a new league rather easily.
Best Moment: With time winding down at White Hart Lane, Fuchs provided excellent service from a corner that found fellow defender Robert Huth, who finished a brilliant header to win it for Leicester.
Season Grade: A-
2016-17 Outlook: Fuchs provides stability at left back for Leicester and worked well alongside Huth and Morgan in defense. His experience and defensive prowess will only become more valuable next season. Fuchs will likely be an underrated playmaker who will change a game instantly on both ends of the pitch.
Huth joined Leicester after switching from Stoke City in the summer of 2015 after spending the second half of the previous season on loan with the Foxes. His arrival on loan sparked Leicester City’s run of seven wins in nine matches to stay in the Premier League.
Winning the title this season, Huth became just the seventh player in Premier League history to win with two different teams (Chelsea, 2005). His injection into the Leicester defensive core was arguably one of the biggest reasons behind Leicester’s success.
Offensively, Huth provided an aerial threat and the ability to create chances. On defense, the German was resolute, making life difficult for opposing strikers while
Best Moment: In desperate need of a victory at the Etihad Stadium, Robert Huth scored a brace against Manchester City, giving Leicester a 3-1 victory on the road.
Season Grade: A-
2016-17 Outlook: Huth is seemingly the catalyst to Leicester’s winning ways, and has two years remaining on his contract. His role will expand next season, as Huth will become one of Leicester’s leaders and go-to defenders as they look to reign supreme once more.
Making 30 appearances last season at right back, Danny Simpson arguably had one of the best years of his career. However, out of the four starting defenders, Simpson was by far the worst one.
Shakiness was the best way to describe Simpson last season. He made some costly giveaways and risky fouls when there was no need to do so. His most costly mistake came at the Emirates Stadium on Valentines’ Day, as Simpson picked up a second yellow reducing the Foxes to 10 men. Arsenal scored a late winner in an area where Simpson would have been occupying, costing the Foxes a valuable three points.
There were bright moments, though, as Simpson displayed speed and agility in defense. He kept up with some of the Premier League’s fastest strikers, won loose balls at vital times, and sacrificed the body to prevent goals. At times he was a tad unreliable, but Simpson got the job done.
Best Moment: Against Southampton on April 3, a defensive lapse at center back left Sadio Mane in alone on goal. Simpson recovered for his defense by catching up with Mane and blocking his effort on goal to keep the game scoreless.
Season Grade: B
2016-17 Outlook: Simpson was shaky at right back, despite some heroics. With Claudio Ranieri expected to introduce fresh faces to the Leicester lineup, Simpson will have to compete for his job at right back with a newcomer, a job he will likely lose in the end.
RITCHIE DE LAET
Spending much of the season on loan, de Laet helped Middlesbrough earn promotion to the Premier League next season through stellar defending at left back. In his time with Leicester, de Laet provided depth for the Foxes on defense.
He made 12 appearances in the first half of the season for Leicester, starting seven times. He eventually lost out to Simpson in the competition for right back, and was subsequently loaned away.
Best Moment: Down 2-0 late to Aston Villa, de Laet changed the momentum of the match by pulling a goal back for Leicester to spark a 3-2 comeback victory.
Season Grade: B-
2016-17 Outlook: de Laet’s contract is set to expire at the end of June, and it doesn’t appear Leicester is looking to resign the defender. It is likely he will stay in the Premier League next season and sign with Middlesbrough.
The seldom-used, former Polish international made the majority of his appearances in Leicester’s failed domestic cup runs. He played a few matches in the league in a reserve role, filling in for injured or suspended defenders.
Best Moment: Wasilewski headed a Demarai Gray corner home to equalize in Leicester’s 2-2, FA Cup draw with Tottenham. Leicester would lose the replay, 2-0.
Season Grade: B-
2016-17 Outlook: With his contract set to expire at the end of June, don’t expect to see the 35-year old Polish man back with Leicester next season. His experience was valuable, but there is simply no room for Wasilewski on the squad.
The Ghanaian defender signed from Copenhagen in January, and filled a depth role with Leicester for much of the season. He dressed for every match from the end of February until the end of the season, starting once against Norwich and making four substitute appearances.
When needed, Amartey could be used in any capacity, but was primarily valued for his defensive ability. He filled in remarkably when called upon and is still very young.
2016-17 Outlook: Amartey is a versatile player who will be a valuable asset to Leicester’s squad next season. His ability to defend and advance the play is already years beyond his age, and he will likely see his role expand next season.
The Tunisian defender featured in a few matches early in the season as a substitute, but the highly-touted, former Atalanta man showed little to be desired in his short stint with Leicester at the beginning of the season. He was soon loaned out to Fiorentina where he failed to crack into the first team, ending his season
2016-17 Outlook: Benalouane will challenge Ben Chilwell for a reserve role. If he is unable to win the battle for backup, he will likely be loaned out again or sold in the January window.
Chilwell was recalled to Leicester in January after an uneventful loan spell with Huddersfield that saw him play quite a bit. He started in both FA Cup matches against Tottenham and was an unused substitute for the final three months of the season.
2016-17 Outlook: Chilwell is a promising teenage prospect who is only going to improve. He’s already getting first team minutes, and could even see his role extended next season to substitute given the likely departure of Wasilewski.
Moore was on loan with Bristol City for much of the season, receiving a fair share of playing time in the first half of the season. His loan appearance with Leicester came in an August match against Bury in the Capital One Cup, playing the full 90 minutes.
2016-17 Outlook: Moore is only 23 and looks to be developing rapidly. Another season on loan next year may be enough to get him ready for first team action with Leicester.