Injuries and James Maddison’s woes DAMAGE Leicester’s attempt to build on Cup glory
As Burnley forward Matej Vydra turned the Leicester defense this way, a man who would have stopped him with little fuss from the West Stand at King Power Stadium patiently signed autographs and posed for selfies.
Say what you love about the wobble of the FA Cup winners early in the season, the impact of Wesley Fofana’s absence cannot be overstated.
Fofana, signed for £32 million in the summer of 2020, broke his fibula and damaged ankle ligaments in a pre-season exhibition game against Villarreal and will not play a significant role in this campaign.
The impact of Wesley Fofana’s absence on Leicester this season cannot be overstated
Had Fofana stayed fit and progressed at the same pace as last season, Leicester would likely have been offered more for him next summer than the £80million Manchester United paid for Harry Maguire two years ago.
Taking into account the injuries suffered by Jonny Evans, who has an ongoing foot problem, and James Justin, who injured the cruciate ligament of the knee last February, it’s easy to see why Leicester have scored 12 goals in the league this season. Only Leeds, Newcastle and Norwich have let in more.
If Vydra (nine goals in 90 league games) can cause Leicester problems, what could Cristiano Ronaldo do when Manchester United arrive on Friday?
Boss Brendan Rodgers has built one of the best teams in Leicester history since taking charge from Claude Puel in February 2019. They won the FA Cup for the first time last season, finishing fifth in both of the manager’s two full seasons, and also won the Community Shield. this year.
James Justin (left) and Jonny Evans (right) also suffer their own injuries
Jannik Vestergaard (left), a £15m summer signing from Southampton, is struggling – his lack of pace is exposed by counter-attacking teams
Still, sorting the defense is a priority for Rodgers. After Leicester squandered a two-goal lead to get a 2-2 draw at Crystal Palace, it was instructive to hear Rodgers say he was little confident they would keep their lead.
Alternating between a back three and a back four, the Foxes haven’t held a zero in the league since their 1-0 win over Wolves on the opening day of the season.
Jannik Vestergaard, a £15million summer signing from Southampton, is struggling – his lack of pace is exposed by opposing teams – and Caglar Soyuncu is out of form. And there will be no Wilfred Ndidi against United because the tenacious midfielder has a hamstring injury.
Rodgers hopes Evans will be available soon, although Northern Ireland coach Ian Baraclough caused concern when he said the 33-year-old should “think not only of his foot for the rest of his career, but also after football”.
The next move could be to turn Timothy Castagne into a back three, with Ricardo Pereira on the right wing and, given Ryan Bertrand’s problems after contracting Covid-19 on the eve of the season, Luke Thomas on the left.
Leicester’s new £100m training ground is a key selling point in attracting new players
However, on the 185 acre property in Seagrave there is necessarily greater separation between the various departments and some feel it will take time to recreate the spirit of their old home
In addition to the defensive concerns, it is worth highlighting a number of other issues. Leicester’s new £100 million training ground is spectacular and a key selling point in attracting new players. Rodgers rightly emphasizes its importance in the Foxes’ quest to reach the highest table and stay there.
Still, Sportsmail understands that some employees miss the more homely feel of Belvoir Drive, the smaller base in the heart of the city where players and staff at all levels were thrown together. On the 185 acre property in Seagrave there is necessarily greater separation between the different departments and some feel it will take time to recreate the spirit of their old home.
There was also the embarrassment of Kelechi Iheanacho being sent back by Polish border guards ahead of Legia Warsaw’s 1-0 defeat last month because his documents were out of order. It felt like an avoidable mistake.
Wembley match winner Youri Tielemans has not regained last season’s superb form and still has not signed a new contract, with his current contract set to expire next season. Harvey Barnes has yet to score in the league and appears to be missing his productive relationship on the left with Thomas, who has generally played second fiddle to Bertrand. Of the new signings, only the loaned Ademola Lookman has settled quickly, with Vestergaard, Bertrand, Boubakary Soumare and Patson Daka all fighting for form.
And then there’s James Maddison.
Once a linchpin of Rodgers’ team, Maddison now struggles to get into it. The club were willing to listen to offers in the summer, although Arsenal, who were interested, were unwilling to match the starting price of £60million.
James Maddison (above) was once a linchpin of Rodgers’ team and now struggles to get into it
Thank goodness for Jamie Vardy. As spicy as ever, Vardy flies, with six goals already
Shortly after recovering from a hip problem, Maddison was left out of the cup final lineup. It is believed that he made his disappointment apparent to Rodgers during pre-season, after which Rodgers publicly discussed the player’s fitness levels shortly after.
There have been suggestions – denied by Maddison’s camp – that the 24-year-old still suffers from the hip, which has flared up twice in the past 16 months.
Thank goodness for Jamie Vardy. Spicy as ever, Vardy is flying, with six goals already, and is back in tandem with Iheanacho, who has improved a lot under Rodgers. Both have scored at Palace, meaning Leicester have scored 29 goals in the 15 games the duo have started together since March.
If only everything were that simple for Leicester. Shortly after the opening of the new training ground, the club’s owners made ambitious plans for the stadium and its surroundings, which would increase the capacity to 40,000 and include seven new buildings.
While Leicester’s foundations remain strong, repair work is needed and that should become apparent on Friday.