Typically, on a regular week, we would use this space to provide a quick recap of the latest performance for the Foxes, followed by some items of discussion that caught my eye. Maybe it would be tactics, a stunning goal, or even a kit combination (can you blame me? We have some good potential here). All this would usually end in setting the stage for what we would be heading into for the upcoming weekend.
This will not be that kind of week. Instead, today is a moment of reflection. Why, you ask?
Simply put - it is a weird world for the Foxes right now.
Leicester City live in an odd corner of the football universe, one in which they are the reigning champions of the Premier League, but are facing relegation (one point above the relegation zone). It has been a rough title defense for the Foxes to say the least – including having found no wins away from the King Power Stadium thus far this season.
Couple all this with that fact that the clubs around the Foxes in the lower section of the table have been finding some form, and you see just how urgent the matter is becoming. Leads one to ask – how have we gotten here?
Several years back, Home Box Office (HBO) ran a program created and produced by Aaron Sorkin titled The Newsroom, which followed a fictitious news network and their evolution of how they would cover the news.
In the first episode, the main character and news anchor Will McAvoy (played by Jeff Daniels) is at a Q&A session at a university, where a student ask why the United States is the greatest country in the World. After some struggle, McAvoy jumps into a monologue disagreeing with the statement on America’s greatness, but towards the end of this speech there is a quote that has stuck with me of late. McAvoy states, “The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one”.
I think we can all see where this is headed. Time to admit there is a problem.
I do not propose that no one has pointed out the Foxes struggles. Quite the contrary, I think we have all documented a variety - formation changes, struggling defense, away form, and so on. We can list plenty of quantitative metrics to document the issues in the side’s form. However, that is not the problem that I think needs to be recognized.
Last weekend, I got together with a good of mine to watch the match. He happens to be a Manchester United supporter, so we each had a vested interest in the match. As we sat at a local restaurant, eating breakfast and watching the events on the pitch unfold, we began discussing each sides issues. Eventually, while discussing the Foxes, he said. “you know, you still have a good side here, just have not had the same luck as last year”.
He is right. There are some great players on this squad. We have virtually the same squad as we did last season. So, where is the problem?
Sitting and watching Leicester City, something just seems different. Sure, passes may not be as crisp. Yes, there may seem to be more space for the opposition in the center of the pitch. That is still not what I am getting at. From where I sit, tactics or execution, rather mentality.
I am no sports psychologist. Let me just set the record straight there before I start. That being said, this seems to be where we can find a problem that seems to keep asserting itself. Last season, when the Foxes went down or faced strong opposition, there was no backing down. They went right at the opponent, often finding ways to generate a positive result.
That has been absent this season.
When the Foxes have gone down this season, there has been a lack of attack. The side looks as if they have been completely caught off guard. Once this happens, they look as if they are unsure of how to get back at the opposition to equalize, which often equates to random balls sent over the top, making runs that end up going nowhere and becoming captivated by trying to get calls to go their way, rather than finding the ball in the back of the net. It is a perplexing occurrence. They seem to have lost their aggressive, will not back down spirit and composure.
You could see this yesterday. Derby County drew level in the 61st minute, and after that moment, you could tell the Foxes seemed a bit nervous. Luckily, they locked themselves in and played out the remainder of the half – only to put the game away in extra time thanks to Wilfred Ndidi and Demarai Gray. Two brilliant moment form those young players. They seemed to bring that spirit back a bit.
No one individual can be attributed to being the root of the cause for the current situation. After all, a team holds a collective psyche. What this team needs are some good moments to happen on the pitch. Moment that can reignite that belief and confidence that they so beautifully utilized last season. Moments that can reignite that spark for that #ForeverFearless spirit. Moments that can remind them that anything is possible.
Who would know that lesson better than Leicester City?
There are plenty of silver linings in this squad. They have virtually the same squad that won the league last year, and it is filled with talented young players to experienced, valuable veteran players for the side. They have qualified for the Round of 16 in the Champions League in their first performance in the competition. They have clawed their way to the fifth round of the FA Cup after playing rival Derby County not once, but twice. They are a side that have seen the top of the mountain in winning the Premier League, while also being a side that has had to pull the great escape to avoid relegation. They really have seen it all.
However, we do have to admit that the current mentality of the side is puzzle in the equation of what has been casing the team to struggle. The team needs some time for reflection into themselves as a side in addition to their work on the training ground. Only then can they overcome this hurdle.
There is still plenty to be hopeful about, and being the optimist that I am, I think it is important to keep that in mind. Believe in the Foxes. Support the Foxes. Every ounce of support is going to be crucial as the side cruises into the final stretch of the season. Any change to this team’s current mentality will need that unwavering passion on their side.
It is currently a weird world right now for the Foxes, filled with the highest highs and the lowest lows. Do I know what will come next? No. What I do know is this – it is going to be one hell of a ride.
Up Next: The Foxes have an important clash with fellow relegation battling side Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday.