Leicester City are not a happy club with mounting debts and uninterested, expensive players. Might it be best for Brendan Rodgers to sack them off?
It had been a little while, but last Saturday we witnessed what Leicester City are capable of when they actually pull their fingers out. Recent form had suggested that their home match against Brighton would likely be an away win, but the Foxes recovered from falling behind to lead 2-1 and it took a late equaliser from Evan Ferguson to dig a point out for Brighton.
The draw was much-needed, but it didn’t much relieve the pressure on manager Brendan Rodgers. Leicester’s season has been a game of three thirds. After drawing with Brentford on the opening day of the season they went on to lose six games in a row and were bottom of the table by the end of August, staying in the bottom two until the third week in October and conceding four goals against Arsenal, five against Spurs, and six against Brighton in the process.
But flickerings of life were already evident by then. A 4-0 win against Nottingham Forest had been a breath of fresh air at the start of October, and successive wins against Leeds and Wolves lifted them out of the bottom three. The second third of Leicester’s season was underway as the team finally started to find its feet, climbing to 13th place in the table by the time they won 2-0 at West Ham to head into the World Cup break.
Leicester have the worst record in the Premier League since returning. The draw against Brighton ended a run of four straight defeats and while the first two of these came against Newcastle United and Liverpool – matches that they might not have expected to take much from – the second two came against Fulham and Nottingham Forest.
Obviously Fulham have been in fine form and are high in the league table, but losing to them was a reminder of not only their surprising climb but Leicester’s recent decline. Losing 2-0 in their return match against Forest, against whom they’d kickstarted that successful second third of the season in October, felt like a sign of how much Forest have improved while Leicester seem to have regressed back to the grumpy frame of mind they seemed to be in throughout the early weeks of the season.
Their only win since coming back, 1-0 away to League Two Gillingham in the third round of the FA Cup, didn’t really tear anything up either. The final third of their campaign thus far began on Boxing Day, and we don’t know whether it ended with that draw against Brighton or not just yet. We will certainly have a better idea following their next match. They travel to Aston Villa on February 3, and Villa have been in spectacular form since Unai Emery replaced Steven Gerrard, having won five of their seven league games since he took charge.
Leicester City don’t seem to be a very happy club. They clearly have talented players, but few of them seem to want to play for Leicester very much at the moment. Banners against both the manager and the owners of the club were flown from the away end during that recent defeat at Nottingham Forest, but when a group of players who number among their rank such talents as James Maddison, Youri Tielemans and Harvey Barnes are finding themselves enmeshed in a scrap to avoid relegation, perhaps it’s time to start asking a few questions about the performance levels of the players themselves.
After all, professional footballers who earn three times or more the annual national salary every week might be expected to be a little less passive than Leicester have so many times this season. Brighton may have needed a late equaliser to get that point, but those weren’t the first points Leicester have dropped late on. The bottom line is that if you’ve just lost four games in a row and lead a decent team with two minutes to play, you simply cannot afford to be conceding that goal, especially not through clumsily losing possession and then putting in three half-hearted challenges to get the ball back.
Leicester may be 14th in the league table, but they’re only three points off the bottom. They have 18 points from 20 games, which equates to them being on target for 34 over the course of the season. Last campaign, Burnley were relegated on 35. Even with the number of points required to stay up having reduced over the years, that number is right on the line of what might keep them safe and what might not. In other words, to ensure Premier League survival, they need to improve.
And Leicester’s problems extend far beyond the pitch. The club has been leaking money for some time. They lost £67m in the year to June 2021 and reducing these losses to £33m for the year to June 2022 should be tempered by remembering that Europa League football brought an extra £63m in broadcasting money that year. Leicester’s annual accounts should drop in the next few weeks, and that Europa League money will not be there.
In addition to this, the club’s hands are further tied by a number of loans that are understood to have been taken out, secured against Premier League revenue to the end of the 2024/25 season.
That frustration should have boiled over into protests directed at the Srivaddhanaprabha family are certainly a sign of the times. The 2016 Premier League title already feels like a long time ago, in that and many other respects. But while the club was quieter in the transfer market than supporters would have liked last year, it’s hardly as though investment isn’t being made: £100m has been committed to building a new, state-of-the-art training facility.
At which point, you have to rewind back to the start of all of this. Considering the litany of issues surrounding Leicester City, from players playing below themselves to debts building up and loans secured against future revenues – and what does happen to those if Leicester aren’t in the Premier League by the 2024/25 season? – rather than worrying about whether they sack Rodgers, we should be worrying more about whether he will sack them.
Rodgers is a talented manager. After all, he won the FA Cup with Leicester City. But while there will always be criticism of the manager when a team is underperforming on the pitch (come at me with your detailed critiques of his specific tactical set-ups), sometimes when things are going wrong it might not be the manager’s fault. If he is considering an exit, now might be a good time for all parties.