Leicester City

West Ham defeat showed Leicester City did not learn lessons from last season

Matt O'Connor-Simpson
Rodgers was not a happy man
Rodgers was not a happy man / Michael Regan/Getty Images

There have been an eerily high number of instances of history repeating itself at the King Power Stadium in recent seasons. 

Whether that be Leicester City dropping out of the Champions League spots on the final day two years in a row, a centre-back selection crisis plaguing them at the start of this campaign as it did at the beginning of the last, or the same players being linked with the same clubs over the past two summers. 

The Foxes faithful would have also felt a dejecting sense of deja vu leaving the London Stadium on Monday night. West Ham were the only team to beat Leicester home and away in the Premier League last season. 

Neither of their victories last season were as humiliating at the one inflicted on Monday evening, though. Ayoze Perez’s reckless red card may have left Leicester in the lurch, but even before he was dismissed midway through the first half his side’s performance had been turgid. 

Caglar Soyuncu and Daniel Amartey seemed to be engaging in their own personal game of keep ball, with the Foxes centre-backs taking an eternity to progress the ball into midfield. Wilfred Ndidi and Youri Tielemans must shoulder some of the blame for this. 

Usually the pair are among the Premier League’s best at creating space to receive the ball. On Monday, a lack of energy and guile left their defence scrambling for ideas. 

When they did eventually break the lines, it was not long before West Ham’s well-organised and aggressive mid-block forced Leicester into a sloppy error or aimless punt up to Jamie Vardy. The Hammers’ first goal in their 4-1 win summed up the futility of Leicester’s approach perfectly. 

After an eternity of sterile possession, Soyuncu finally managed to arrow a ball into Vardy but his touch was atrocious which allowed Declan Rice to knick the ball away. Rice then moved it on to Jarrod Bowen and four touches later Pablo Fornals had swept the ball past Kasper Schmeichel. 

West Ham’s counter-attack was terrific and they were equally ruthless for goal number two, wasting no time to punish Soyuncu’s no-look, hospital ball. Michail Antonio then put on an exhibition of centre-forward mastery to ensure the defeat crossed the threshold of a humiliation. 

It was one of the worst displays of the Rodgers era. And what was most frustrating was that Leicester appeared to have not learned a single lesson from their unsuccessful duels with the Hammers last season. 

In the first game - a 3-0 defeat at the King Power Stadium - Leicester enjoyed 69% possession. However, just like on Monday, the vast majority of it was of the stale variety with Leicester posting an xG value of just 0.4. 

The goals they conceded were equally avoidable as the ones on Monday too; the first an Antonio header, the second a long ball over the top finished by Fornals and the third an incisive counter-attack.

Further similarities can be found when analysing the return game, a 3-2 defeat only made to look respectable by a stoppage time goal from Kelechi Iheanacho. Again, Leicester dominated possession but did not move the ball with enough pace or purpose to unlock the Hammers’ defence.

They were punished by a clinical West Ham, who outperformed their xG by 1.9. When analysing the three goals, defensive errors and a frightening inability to defend their opponents’ transitional threat stand out like a sore thumb, as does a lack of chance creation - Leicester registered an xG  of just 0.9 that afternoon. 

James Maddison
James Maddison did not get much service / Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images

So, if Rodgers knew the problems Leicester could encounter against the Hammers - a lack of creativity in midfield and the threat of the counter-attacks - why did he seemingly do nothing about it?

It would seem that Monday night might have been the perfect time to introduce Boubakary Soumare, who is brilliant at taking the ball in deep areas and finding that killer pass. Then again, Leicester’s problems were not just in the personnel they fielded. Kasper Schmeichel aside, each Leicester player exhibited fuzzy thinking and seriously lacked ideas.

It was an out-of-sorts and naive display and Rodgers’ charges - as well as the manager himself - should be expected to offer far better when West Ham return to the King Power Stadium on 12 February next year.