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How Leicester City Came to Face Relegation
By: Jake Lofgren
If there is one overarching theme that sports teach us, it is that life comes at you fast. And when I say fast, I mean really, really fast. Just ask Newcastle fans. After their financial takeover, it is possible they qualify for European football in the same decade where they played in the Championship. If they had told their fans during the "Ashley Out" era that they would sign Alexander Isak in a few seasons, they would have called you nuts.
And now, after all the success that little old Leicester City enjoyed over seven years, they could be relegated to the Championship this season. The Foxes have started the season with one draw and five losses in the first six games. And despite still having 30+ premier league games to potentially turn this season around, the current squad does not seem willing or capable of what it takes to achieve that turnaround.
Leicester's last seven finishes in the Premier League: 1st, 12th, 9th, 9th, 5th, 5th, 8th. So how does a club that won the FA Cup two seasons ago and has only missed out on the top half of the table once in the last seven seasons get relegated? The answers are actually pretty obvious.
Status of the League
The talent that the Premier League has on offer is at an unbelievable all-time high. To compete at a high level, you have to spend at a high level. There aren't many exceptions anymore. The saying, "If you don't get better, you get worse," absolutely applies to the modern Premier League. West Ham spent 200 million this transfer window, signing some highly touted players such as Lucas Paqueta and Gianluca Scamacca. Wolves spent 150 million and managed to pick up Liverpool target Matheus Nunes, who already looks like he could get a bigger move soon. Newly promoted Nottingham Forest bought an entirely new roster (no, like they actually kinda did) by spending 178 million. Bringing in some proven Premier League talent like Jesse Lingard and Dean Henderson, followed by plenty of more lowkey names coming from other leagues. We live in an era where Everton are yearly relegation candidates now. It is a cruel, cruel league.
Poor Transfer Record
The only clubs that ended the transfer window with a positive net spend were Manchester City, Brighton & Hove Albion, and then, of course, Leicester. Manchester City and Brighton can get away with it because both clubs have a clear direction and talented managers to steer them in the right direction. Manchester City has already invested the money and has so much talent that they can afford to sell off some of their "deadwood." While Brighton has the humility to realize they should sell off players like Marc Cucurella while their value is at an all-time high and then replace him with Pervis Estupinan for cheap. Geniuses. Wish I could say that about Leicester, but I can't.
The mean amount spent by a Premier League club this summer was 123 million. Leicester spent 18 million.
Most of Leicester's money to make signings comes from selling one of their own for a considerable profit. When they sold Harry Maguire for a record fee to Manchester United, they bought Tielemans, Ayoze Perez, Dennis Praet, and James Justin. Then the following year, they sold Ben Chilwell, allowing them to sign Fofana, Castagne, and Under. Last year they had no big sale but still signed Daka, Vestergaard, and Soumare. This summer, they attempted to replicate the model and reported needing to generate some money in order to spend. Sadly, they waited far too long to sell Wesley Fofana to Chelsea for 80 million. They did make two signings in Wout Faes, A center back from Stade Reims for 18 million. Then Alex Smithies, a goalkeeper on a free transfer to be a backup to their former backup Danny Ward, who now has to take over for club legend Kasper Schmeichel's departure.
Brendan Rodgers has been quite open about his frustrations with the club. Saying, "I've never been a manager who likes to stand still. I'm no good at just maintaining. I need to be building and creating." Rodgers even went on to say that there are plenty of players at the club that "may have achieved everything they can" at the club. Hearing your coach say that some of the players are out of their depth is not really a great morale boost. Rodgers also voiced how unhappy he is at the club's inability to sign Ademola Lookman, who has now joined Atalanta and is excelling. Losing Wesley Fofana without a quality replacement, allowing club legend Kasper Schmeichel to leave, and now seeing Ricardo Pereira go down with injury for six months. The squad really took a hit this summer.
Kasper Schmeichel was the club's captain and is well known for his leadership abilities. Replacing that will never be easy. The new captain, John Evans, came out himself and said that he thought some new signings would give the club a boost. Wesley Fofana's departure was anything but beautiful that involved sitting out of training and cryptic messages. Youri Tielemans and James Maddison have been linked with moves away for multiple transfer windows and seem to be decreasing in value and morale at the club. Soumare and Soyuncu wanted to leave the club in the summer, and Leicester failed to get that done. The players and managers aren't the only ones frustrated. The fans have shown no hesitation in booing at results following the final whistle.
It wouldn't be a surprise to see Brendan Rodgers get sacked well before the end of the year. Perhaps a new coach can get the best out of what is still a talented group. But for now, Rodgers is still the coach, and getting the best out of a group he has heavily criticized publicly could be very hard. Not to mention that Vardy may no longer be the double-digit scorer that Leicester always banked on him being. I think it is Leicester City's time to go. No matter what happens, the streets will never forget what happened in 2016.
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