Leicester City 2017 Review: Rollercoaster ride as Foxes turn from heroes to villains

After winning the Premier League crown in 2016, it would have been somewhat ridiculous to predict another rollercoaster year for Leicester City.

2017 though has only served to produce headlines even more unpredictable than the last. Relegation battles, Champions League ties and multiple managers have been a regular feature for the Foxes over the past 12 months. VAVEL.com takes a trip back in time for what has been another unforgettable year for Leicester City.


Timid and terrific in the top flight

The old saying goes: ‘results are everything’, and nothing has ever been more apparent than at Leicester City. The year began with a six-match winless run in the Premier League and the shocking sacking of title-winning manager Claudio Ranieri in February. A 3-1 victory over Liverpool at the King Power Stadium though lifted the reigning champions out of the relegation zone.

Four further victories under interim manager Craig Shakespeare lifted the Foxes further away from danger before a 3-0 thumping of Watford secured their survival in the Premier League in May. A 6-1 defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur took the shine off of an excellent few months as the 2016/17 campaign concluded with the Foxes in 12th.

The following campaign started in eye-catching fashion with a 4-3 defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. Then, a 2-0 victory over newly-promoted Brighton & Hove Albion gave the Foxes their first win of the new season the following week.

A six-match winless run though saw Shakespeare also dismissed in October before the arrival of former Southampton boss Claude Puel. The Frenchman has so far enjoyed a mixed bag of results including a four-match winning run, one of those being an impressive 2-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur, and a wonderful 2-2 draw with Manchester United.

The year ended with a 2-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield. Following the loss to the Reds on Saturday afternoon, the East-Midlanders end the year with a negative record having won 14 of their 40 games during the year, with 17 losses. As a result, the Foxes concluded 2017 sitting eighth in the Premier League table.

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Cup capers

In comparison to their Premier League form, it has been a relatively profitable year for the Foxes in domestic cup competitions. They kicked off their 2016/17 FA Cup campaign with an excellent 2-0 victory over Everton in January with Ahmed Musa bagging a brace.

East-Midland rivals Derby County were then dismissed. A 3-1 victory in the replay following a 2-2 draw at Pride Park secured the Foxes' progression. Then League One outfit Millwall shocked Leicester though with a 1-0 win at the New Den to knock the reigning Premier League champions out of the competition.

Claude Puel’s troops also went on a positive run in the Carabao Cup during the current season. Starting with a 4-1 victory over Sheffield United, they built on that with a 2-0 win over Liverpool at the King Power Stadium. A 3-1 success over Championship outfit Leeds United ensured Leicester’s progression to the quarter-finals.

A last-minute penalty netted by Jamie Vardy made sure the Foxes took Premier League leaders Manchester City to extra-time. Failure in the penalty shoot-out though made sure Claude Puel’s men were not to feature in the final-four.

High moment - European ecstasy

One of the rare highs of Leicester City’s 2017 was surely their progression to the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Progressing top of their group, the Foxes met Sevilla in the last-eight, who had previously won three consecutive Europa League titles.

A 2-1 defeat at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium looked to have halted the East-Midlanders fairytale run. However, they roared back on home soil winning 2-0, securing a 3-2 aggregate victory. Wes Morgan opened the scoring by bundling the ball home, before Marc Albrighton sent the King Power Stadium into pandemonium with an excellent strike to double the advantage. Kasper Schmeichel saved a late Steven N’Zonzi penalty to secure the victory.

The East-Midlanders travelled to Spain in the following round as they clashed with Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. A 1-1 draw at the King Power Stadium was not enough to overturn a 1-0 defeat at the Vincente Calderon as the Foxes bowed out admirably.

Best player - The Vardy party rolls on

In a year of thoroughly below-par performances at the King Power Stadium, striker Jamie Vardy continued to play a stellar role throughout the year. The England international netted 20 times throughout 2017, far and away the most throughout the whole Foxes’ squad.

Embarking on his first ever Champions League campaign, the England international managed to find the net against both Sevilla and Atletico Madrid.

Impressively, the former Fleetwood Town forward also notched a historic strike. Slotting the ball past David de Gea in the recent 2-2 draw with Manchester United, Vardy scored his 50th goal in the Premier League.

Throughout the year, he has also rocketed himself into the top-20 all-time Leicester City scorers and could potentially find himself surpassing the great Frank Worthington come the end of the current campaign.

Most disappointing player - What’s wrong with Kelechi?

Whilst Vardy has continued to perpetuate his menacing, prolific reputation, summer signing Kelechi Iheanacho has only harmed his since his move to the King Power Stadium. Joining the club in August in a big-money from Manchester City, exciting things were expected of the 21-year-old Nigerian.

Arriving with considerable pedigree and one of the best minute-to-goal ratios in Premier League history, Iheanacho was expected to take the Foxes to the next level. It has not quite panned out that way however. The striker has only made nine Premier League appearances so far, only starting to games. He has not played a single minute since a 2-0 defeat to his former club back in mid-November.

His only goal came against Leeds United in the League Cup, encapsulating his poor start to life in the Midlands. Iheanacho will need to improve hugely if he is to become a success in 2018.

Worst Moment - Goodbye Claudio

Even before Iheanacho had arrived at Leicester, the fall from grace of one once enamoured had already occurred. Surely the Foxes lowest moment of the year, the sacking of Claudio Ranieri sent as many shockwaves around the footballing world as the East-Midlanders lifting the Premier League crown did nine months prior.

The Italian was relieved of his duties at the King Power Stadium following a terrible run of form that had the reigning champions placed in the relegation zone. Whilst the firing allowed the team to charge to survival, Leicester fans happy with the dismissal were a rarity.

Ranieri had written one of the stories of a lifetime in the East-Midlands, giving Foxes’ fans a fairytale season. The sadness around the King Power Stadium was palpable during the following clash with Liverpool.

Previously everyone’s second team in the Premier League, the Foxes were now the villains of world football. Pundits raged and conspiracy theories spread like wildfire as Leicester City looked to life after surely one of their greatest managers in their history.

What to expect in 2018

It could be fair to say that Foxes fans will be hoping for a more settled year following the dramatics of the previous year. A solid finish in the Premier League could be a welcome and achievable feat under Claude Puel.

There could however be numerous players exiting the club. The likes of Ahmed Musa, Islam Slimani, Yohan Benalouane and Leonardo Ulloa are all reportedly close to the exit door so it could again be time for seasonal change in the East-Midlands. Their business in the January transfer window could be crucial then.

An extended run in the FA Cup could also be tangible with a clash with Fleetwood Town coming up in mid-January. Also, with Adrien Silva finally cleared to make his debut for the Foxes, their ranks will be swelled and could be in a fantastic position to make 2018 an extremely enjoyable year.