Leicester City 2017-18 season review: Missed opportunity as a chapter closes at the King Power Stadium

Leicester City went into the start of the season hopeful of shaking off the dust of the disappointing previous campaign.

The Foxes spent big but delivered little in 2017/18 as yet again, a managerial change saw them stay in the Premier League but somewhat disappointingly fall away towards the end of season.

Big summer spending

Before a ball was to be kicked at the start of this season, Foxes’ manager Craig Shakespeare was busy dipping into the transfer market for no less than six incoming players.

Harry Maguire and Vicente Iborra arrived at the King Power Stadium from Hull City and Sevilla respectively at the start of July. In August, £25million was needed to bring in Kelechi Iheanacho from Manchester City, a signing that caused much excitement across the East Midlands.

Controversy surrounded Leicester’s deadline day when the Foxes made a move for Sporting Club de Portugal’s Adrien Silva for a fee of £22million as a replacement for Danny Drinkwater, who departed for Chelsea. However, in a move that was somewhat characteristic of Leicester’s season, the paperwork was filed just 14 seconds too late meaning that the transfer was not approved by FIFA.

A tough start

Leicester were to open the fixtures for the Premier League season away at Arsenal. Despite conceding early on, the Foxes managed to earn a 3-2 lead with goals from Shinji Okazaki and a brace from Jamie Vardy. Defensive lapses allowed Arsenal to grab two late goals in the final ten minutes of the game causing heartbreak for the travelling fans, the final score 4-3 to the home side.

The first game of the season to be hosted at the King Power Stadium was a 2-0 win against Premier League newcomers Brighton & Hove Albion; Okazaki once again finding himself on the scoresheet early on. Just three days later, the Foxes were in action again in the League Cup in which Leicester easily dispatched Sheffield United 4-1 away at Bramall Lane.

Leicester’s next game was a spirited 2-0 defeat away to Manchester United, the goals coming from Red Devils' young striker Marcus Rashford and Belgian Marouane Fellaini. This match was then followed by another defeat, 2-1, at home to Premier League holders Chelsea, Vardy once again finding himself a consolation goal. Former Leicester midfielder N’Golo Kante found the net.

The Foxes then travelled to newcomers Huddersfield Town in a first-time Premier League meeting between the two clubs. The game finished 1-1 in a frustrating performance for Leicester. Vardy once again grabbing a consolation goal.



Liverpool home and away

The Third Round of the League Cup matched Leicester at home against Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool, which ironically meant that the pair would also lock horns a matter of days later at the King Power Stadium in league play.

The cup meeting saw Islam Slimani net a stunning strike following Okazaki's opener to oust the Reds.

The two sides faced-off again four days later away. The Foxes found themselves on the wrong side of a thrilling 3-2 encounter this time, where Brazilian Philippe Coutinho controlled much of the game.

The result left Leicester 16th in the table and piled more misery on under-pressure Shakespeare. Leicester ended September with a frustrating 0-0 draw away at Bournemouth.

Vive la revolution?

The Foxes, who hadn’t won in six, were back in action in the middle of October after a long awaited international break and played hosts to West Bromwich Albion.

Nacer Chadli put the visitors ahead on the 63rd minute with a fantastic free-kick from 30-yards out. It took the Algerian pair of Slimani and Riyad Mahrez to come to the rescue ten minutes from time. The striker headed a ball down into the path of Mahrez who fired the ball home.

The result left Leicester 18th in the table. Craig Shakespeare was sacked the following day and his assistant Michael Appleton was appointed caretaker manager until a permanent replacement was found.

Appleton orchestrated two wins including a 2-0 Premier League win away at Swansea City and 3-1 win at home to Championship side Leeds United in the Fourth Round of the League Cup.

The Foxes' board turned to Frenchman Claude Puel to become the next permanent Leicester manager. The former Southampton boss’ first game was to be a home fixture against fellow strugglers Everton.

Demarai Gray, who was brought back into the starting line up by Puel, caused havoc for Everton including a terrific 60-yard run into the Toffee’s defence which ended in a fantastic Vardy goal. He then doubled Leicester’s lead when a sliced effort was turned into the Everton goal.



New year, new targets

Draws against Stoke City and West Ham United either side of an unlucky 2-0 defeat to Manchester City followed.

Leicester then continued their resurgence under Puel with four straight wins against Tottenham Hotspur, Burnley, Newcastle United with an emphatic 4-1 win away at Southampton moving Leicester up to 8th in the Premier League table and into contention for a Europa League place.

Puel's troops ended 2017 in relatively poor form, spurning the opportunity to reach the League Cup semi-finals against a much-changed Manchester City side. They were eliminated on penalties following a 1-1 draw after extra-time.

The omens did not bode to well in the Premier League either, as the Foxes concluded with three defeats out of their last four games of the year; a 3-0 loss to Crystal Palace as well as 2-1 losses to Liverpool and Watford.

Their only saving grace was a late draw at home to Manchester United in which Harry Maguire netted a 94th minute equaliser.

They did get back on track throughout January however. Beginning the year with a 3-0 victory over Huddersfield, they followed that up with a fantastic 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge, as well a 2-0 success at home to Watford.

The Foxes FA Cup campaign also began in earnest as they edged past Fleetwood Town 2-0 via a replay and put five past Peterborough United to reach the fifth round of the competition, a game in which new signing Fousseni Diabate bagged a brace on his debut.



Mahrez's failed Manchester City move dominates

Puel headed into deadline day desperate to keep his star players as the East-Midlanders continued their push for European football. However, Manchester City attempted to sign Riyad Mahrez in the closing hours of the window. Whilst the Foxes resisted Pep Guardiola's overtures, the failed transfer clearly disrupted the Algerian and the whole squad.

This was evident as they fell to a 2-1 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park on the final day of the winter transfer window. The Foxes' uninspiring league form continued throughout February as 1-1 draws at home with Stoke City and Swansea came either side of a 5-1 thumping at the hands of eventual champions Manchester City.

As a result, Leicester ended the month in eighth position, albeit on a run of four wins without a victory in the Premier League.

The FA Cup was proving to be a welcome distraction however as pleasantries were renewed with Sheffield United. This time, the East-Midlanders hosted the Championship outfit and edged past them 1-0 to reach the quarter-finals thanks to a Vardy header.

Home form the hoodoo for Puel

Despite their progression in the cup, the Foxes were still struggling in the league. A third consecutive 1-1 draw, this time with Eddie Howe's Bournemouth at the beginning of March, stretched their winless run on home soil. Mahrez was again the hero as he thundered in a stunning late free-kick to secure a point.

Another inspired performance from the Algerian at the Hawthorns saw Leicester eventually claim maximum points with a 4-1 win as Jamie Vardy netted a stunning goal - his fourth in as many seasons in the West Midlands.

Just as they were beginning to find some form again, their hopes were brought crashing down to Earth, as Chelsea, their opponents in the last-eight of the FA Cup sent them out of the competition. Despite taking the Premier League champions to extra-time, a late Pedro header was enough to see Antonio Conte's men progress.

The Foxes rounded off March by sinking Brighton & Hove Albion 2-0 at the Amex Stadium.



Pressure mounts on Puel as season concludes

With the 2017/18 season drawing to a close, the Foxes let their momentum slip completely in the final few months. Kicking-off the month with a 2-1 home defeat to Newcastle United, Puel's men followed that up with another loss, this time to Europa League-bound Burnley. With the match at Turf Moor being billed make-or-break for European football, with the loss, it looked as though the Foxes' season was effectively over.

A 0-0 draw with Southampton only served to increase the speculation surrounding Puel and his position, but it was only to get dramatically worse. The Foxes travelled to Selhurst Park, only to be humbled 5-0 by the Eagles, with the Frenchman bearing the brunt of the supporters' displeasure.

West Ham United were then the next to claim points off of the former champions as they claimed a 2-0 win at the King Power Stadium.

With patience wearing thin, Puel looked destined to leave his role, especially with the challenge of Arsenal approaching. However, time was somewhat afforded with a 3-1 defeat of the ten-man Gunners. Kelechi Iheanacho, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez all found the net as Leicester broke their wretched home run in their last game of the season at the King Power Stadium.

In a match that was somewhat characteristic of the Foxes' season, their season finished with a crazy 5-4 defeat at Wembley Stadium to Tottenham Hotspur. Having been 3-1 up at half-time, Leicester let their lead slip to again fall to a loss on the final day of the campaign.



Missed opportunity?

On paper, a ninth-placed finish in the Premier League and two cup quarter-finals does not appear all to catastrophic, and in honesty it isn't. At some points, Leicester played some magnificent football but it all too much feels like an opportunity wasted.

The Foxes had the chance to get themselves back into Europe, and could well have usurped Burnley had it not been for their wretched run of form following the turn of the year.

Considering the money spent in the summer, supporters could have been justified in expecting a little more from their team in a season that has left most pondering the question: 'what if?'.