With the season in the books, we’re taking a look back at how each of the players performed, starting with the defenders.
We certainly tested the depth and flexibility of our defensive players this year. We had 3s, 4s and 5s at the back, with a rotating cast that saw fullbacks, wingbacks and Wilf all fill in at CB at one time or another. Still, I saw this group mainly falling into 3 sets.
Leicester City have three excellent CBs, we know that for sure. When they were all on the pitch together, things looked rosy, but we didn’t see it often enough.
Jonny Evans was the true lynchpin of the group. Though his spectacular moments were fewer, he held the defence together no matter who he was asked to partner and in his absence that effect became particularly clear.
I’ve learned a lot from Jonny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu as they both have so much experience in the Premier League. They talk to me a lot and always give me plenty of advice. When I’m on the pitch, it really helps to have them around me - Young Player of the Year Wesley Fofana
Wesley Fofana was absolute unexpected delight to watch in his first season of Premier League football, while Caglar Soyuncu provided almost exactly what we’ve come to expect. For both, that meant moments of truly outstanding play, with and without the ball, but also some inconsistency, especially when asked to play without Evans’ steadying influence.
The real problem was that we struggled to consistently keep two of them on the pitch together, let alone three. Behind them, an ageing Wes Morgan was the only true CB, leading to a string of fill ins who will be talked about below. Some investment is still required this summer.
It was a season of highs and lows out wide, exemplified by new man Timothy Castagne, who burst into the team with a goal and two assists within a month of signing. Unfortunately, his surging runs down the right were interrupted by injury and stints on the left and at CB, where he never looked as comfortable.
For Ricardo Pereira, the real high was just seeing him on the pitch again, after a set back in his recovery from a nasty injury. Unfortunately, he never managed to look like his old self, and could probably do with a thorough preseason. Like Castagne, he wasn’t at home on the left.
In fact, the only left footer to get any serious minutes other than Iheanacho was academy graduate Luke Thomas. The young fullback looked every bit the 19 year old at times, like when he was pulled off at halftime at Arsenal, but balanced it out with some fantastic games, not least in the FA Cup final. We sure can make leftbacks.
Vontae Daley-Campbell also made his first team debut and looked very capable, but has a long way to go to get ahead of his international quality teammates on the right.
If James Justin had stayed healthy, he would have taken a clean sweep of the team’s end of season awards. He probably should have anyway. For the first 2⁄3 of the season he was an ever present on the teamsheet, with the only question being where he’d end up on the pitch.
Fullback, wingback (either side) or CB, JJ covered the whole defensive half and did so impeccably. He played his way from versatile fill-in to undroppable and would be headed to the Euros (and the Champions League) if not for injury.
I know he's missed the business end of the season due to injury but it's worth taking a moment to acknowledge the breakthrough season James Justin has had at #LCFC (2000+ Prem & 450+ Europa mins)— Luton Town Analytics (@LutonAnalytics) May 18, 2021
Here's his 2020/21 Per 90 Percentile Rank Chart Other Prem Defenders pic.twitter.com/AAGSzHRmrX
He wasn’t the only player asked to move around, as I mentioned above with Castagne, but he was the only one to look good everywhere. The other two I have here, Christian Fuchs and Daniel Amartey, were only “utility” because no one seemed quite sure where they should be playing.
Fuchs filled in calmly anywhere from LCB to LWB, but lacks the physicality for any of the them these days. Never quite a DM, never quite a RB, Amartey finally seemed to find an appropriate home at RCB in a three, but once his struggles when pressed were exposed, he dropped behind even Castagne and Ndidi to end the season.
10 - James Justin
8.5 - Jonny Evans
8 - Wesley Fofana
7.5 - Timothy Castagne
7 - Caglar Soyuncu
6.5 - Luke Thomas
6 - Ricardo Pereira
5 - Daniel Amartey
Departing Hero - Wes Morgan and Christian Fuchs