With Brendan Rodgers taking charge of his first full season at Leicester City following his mid-season arrival from Celtic, there was optimism that the Northern-Irishman could be the man to push the Foxes forward.
The East-Midlanders had enjoyed a promising conclusion to last season and that momentum continued with the club racking up a club record eight-match winning run in the Premier League which included the frankly stunning 9-0 victory against Southampton at St Mary’s.
For a long time, they looked to be the only challenge to Liverpool for the title but a dramatic collapse throughout the second half of the season, as well as heartbreaking defeats to Chelsea and Aston Villa in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup, respectively saw them finish outside of the top four but with a return to Europe guaranteed.
It was an extremely busy window at the King Power Stadium ahead of the 2019/20 season. As in campaigns before, there was plenty of attention surrounding a significant outgoing. Centre-back Harry Maguire was the subject of considerable interest from Manchester United and he eventually moved to Old Trafford in what was a world-record deal for a defender.
The Foxes reinvested that considerable fee shortly after as Youri Tielemans, who had previously impressed on-loan in the East-Midlands, rejoined permanently. The young midfielder has been solid if unspectacular as a permanent Leicester City player, sometimes struggling to replicate his own high standards. He was shortly followed by Newcastle United forward Ayoze Perez, who signed for approximately £30m and has chipped in with a handful of goals.
Tielemans’ former Anderlecht and current Belgian teammate Dennis Praet then arrived from Serie A outfit Sampdoria, whilst James Justin was snapped up from Luton Town, with the duo providing some much-needed depth to Rodgers’ squad.
Turning point of the season
With a seemingly consistent and secure Leicester side this season, the main question to ask is how did the Foxes go from being the strongest team to challenge Liverpool for the title at Christmas, to falling short of the top four by the end of the season?
Up to the New Year, Leicester were flying whilst the main top four contenders Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United had a rocky start, giving City a solid standing in the race for Champions League football. City’s starting eleven wasn’t ruptured for the first half of the season, allowing them to work consistently as a team, building up a great spell of form. Leicester’s decline came when their formidable starting eleven started to run out of steam and the injuries began to build up.
Wilfred N’didi’s sudden knee injury saw City win just one of the seven games in which he was absent. As he returned, the team suffered another blow with the loss of the club’s 2018/19 player of the season Ricardo Pereira.
Since the restart, Leicester also lost the much talked about English stars James Maddison and Ben Chilwell to injuries, and the evident drop in Leicester’s form for these final games shows the importance of keeping hold of these players in the midst of the transfer rumours.
Player of the season: Jamie Vardy
During a campaign in which Leicester recorded their second-highest league finish in their history, many players impressed with some brilliant performances throughout the season.
Caglar Soyuncu, Harvey Barnes and Maddison excelled early on in the year and caught the eye of not just Foxes fans but many neutrals. Also, the experienced head of Jonny Evans was a key part of Rodgers’ side this season, often standing out as the leader in a young defence.
However, after becoming the oldest ever winner of the Premier League’s Golden Boot at the age of 33, Jamie Vardy has been the stand-out player. The talisman’s 23 goals led Leicester to a place in next season’s Europa League and he joined many huge names in reaching the outstanding milestone of 100 Premier League goals.
Despite his age, the striker still obtains the same threat with his blistering pace and clinical finishing making him one of the most dangerous goal-scorers in the league. Leicester owe a lot of their success to Vardy and after another superb season, he has further cemented his place as a club legend.
Most improved player since project restart: Youri Tielemans
As a collective, the Foxes’ team performances during project restart were nothing to shout about, but one player who seemed to return to form was Tielemans.
After a difficult first half of the season, the young Belgian caught the eye in the middle of the park, showing signs of the form that persuaded Rodgers and Leicester to break their transfer record to sign him after his scintillating displays during his six-month loan spell the previous season.
Playing in a deeper role alongside N’didi, Tielemans has been able to control the play and in Maddison’s absence towards the end of the campaign, was the dictator of the Foxes’ attacking play. Still only 23, despite making over 300 appearances at club level, there is a maturity about Tielemans’ play and his previous experiences of taking the captain’s armband as a teenager when at Anderlecht are highlighted on the pitch, barking orders at his older, more experienced teammates.
Although some would argue that he still has more to give, the signs are very encouraging for both Leicester fans and Tielemans himself ahead of an important season coming up as the East Midlanders contend with the Europa League, as well as battling amongst the elite once more for another spot in the top six.
By Daniel Orme, Lois George, Jack Johnson and Callum Boyle