Following a successful return to the Premier League, the first in ten years for The Foxes, how did Leicester City’s players fare in a rollercoaster season against England’s elite?
Kasper Schmeichel – 8
This was Schmeichel’s first full season in the Premier League, despite making a handful appearances for first club Manchester City in 2007. The Dane made a relatively eventless start to the campaign before being side-lined for four months in December with a broken metatarsal. Since his return against Tottenham on March 21st, Schmeichel played a vital role in securing City’s Premier League status making numerous vital saves and contributions in the incredible run of form which saw Leicester win seven of their last nine games.
Ben Hamer – 6
Arrived on a free transfer from Charlton in the summer, Hamer made eight league appearances this season, the majority of which coming whilst first choice goalkeeper Schmeichel was injured. Hamer kept two clean sheets in the league and one in the FA Cup and looked assured in goal whenever called upon by boss Nigel Pearson.
Mark Schwarzer – 4
The veteran goalkeeper was also brought to Leicester on a free transfer from eventual champions Chelsea in January. Originally thought to be used as cover, Schwarzer’s influence on the team on the training ground could be seen as something which helped Leicester adapt to the harsh environment of being bottom for so long. A coaching role could be an option in the future, however Schwarzer’s performances on the field were, in short, dreadful. Blunders against Everton, Aston Villa and a soft Silva goal at Manchester City highlighted the 42-year old’s vulnerabilities. Schmeichel’s return to fitness made even more vital.
Ritchie De Laet – 6
With twenty-six league appearances to his name this season, Ritchie De Laet was deployed in a variety of positions. Starting out at right-back where he started the season, earning a place in the first eleven, De Laet found himself playing at wing-back and increasingly towards the end of the season as a substitute centre-half. The Belgian’s performances were of little note during the opening exchanges but as Pearson changed his formation to a more fluid 3-5-2, De Laet’s substitute appearances on the right side of the three centre halves were more assured. Perhaps like many others in a relatively inexperienced squad with top flight football, he just needed time and the right formation to settle in.
Paul Konchesky – 3
An established full-back of Premier League calibre and an international cap to his name, you could be forgiven for thinking Konchesky would thrive back in England’s top flight. However, at the tender age of 34 it is clear that his playing days at the top are surely coming to a close as he struggled to cope with any sort of pace and trickery thrown his way from opposition wingers. As has been the case with Konchesky for the past four seasons, his positioning is still of a high order, but never blessed with pace it appears he closely resembles the acceleration speed and agility of a double-decker bus. Leicester’s 3-1 defeat at home to Chelsea in April highlighted the vulnerability of having Konchesky in a Premier League team as faced with the pace and skill of Chelsea’s Brazilian winger Willian, you almost felt sorry him.
A poorly timed tackle at Burnley resulting in THAT penalty miss and Vardy breakaway goal was one of the clumsiest of the season. On multiple occasions his temperament also let him down this season with a mindless red-card in the closing stages of a tight 1-0 win away at Hull in December being the pick of the bunch, his goal against Aston Villa will still remain a highlight. Konchesky has been a great servant to Leicester City and despite a poor season, he will always be respected by the City faithful.
Wes Morgan – 7
Captain and centre-half supreme Wes Morgan had a good season for Leicester. Appearing in all but one of the Foxes’ Premier League games, Morgan was a vital ingredient in retaining their Premier League status for another season. Bagging two goals along the way, against Southampton and Tottenham, he played a captain’s role in the heart of the defence. In the opening months of the season, Morgan came under fire and struggled when dealing with the pace of opposition strikers in a 4-4-2 system, but like many others in the squad he benefitted from the change in system to 3-5-2 helping him rack up the most blocks of any player in the Premier League this season.
Robert Huth – 10
Barely putting a foot wrong since his loan move from Premier League rivals Stoke City in January, the big German centre-half has been a revelation at the King Power Stadium. His introduction to the back three is one of the best pieces of business from any club in the league this season and his performances have merited that. Scoring a crucial goal away at West Bromwich Albion in a win which kick started Leicester’s revival, Huth’s ten rating is thoroughly deserved.
Matthew Upson – 5
A free signing in the summer, Upson struggled with fitness throughout the season for Leicester. The England international had a great season at Brighton last year but racking up just five appearances in the league this term, he failed to impress on many occasions, perhaps due to lack of fitness rather than ability alone. His experience at the top of the game would have undoubtedly added to the squad’s desire to fight for survival however, and he played solidly in two away games against Arsenal and Manchester City.
Marcin Wasilewski – 7
Like Morgan, Wasilewski complimented the back three towards the end of the season very well. His reputation as a fan favourite undoubtedly helps that fire in his belly that the big Pole fiercely possesses. Prone to the occasional rush of blood to the head and silly tackle, he can prove to be a fragility too. A needless tackle against Tottenham at home in December saw Christian Eriksen fire home from range and Wasilewski has contributed to more goals conceded this season too. However, the amount of goals he saved this season you can’t count on two hands, and a big performance in Leicester’s defeat at home to Liverpool saw him terrorise Raheem Sterling beyond recognition. One thing’s for sure, you’d rather have Wasilewski on your team, than have him against you.
Liam Moore – 5
The young England Under-21 defender and Leicester City academy graduate has had somewhat of a mixed season with the Foxes. Starting out a first-team regular, Moore drifted his way out of the team before being replaced when injured by the more experienced Wasilewski. Moore didn’t struggle, he looked OK in a back four but you cannot help but think that in a back three of centre-halves which Leicester played later on in the season, Moore would have been more comfortable. Instead, he was loaned out to Championship contenders Brentford where he also struggled for confidence. Next season, with Wasilewski approaching his latter thirties, Moore will undoubtedly appear more often.
Jeffrey Schlupp – 8
Schlupp has a brilliant season this year, his first in the Premier League and one which he emerged as one of the stars of the squad in. A versatile player who can play at left-back, left-midfield or striker, Schlupp has more often than not appeared at left-wing back this season. When given the freedom to attack, he tormented defences, most notably away at West Brom in April, and Everton in February. With each game Schlupp grows in confidence and with more experience to his name his ability can only increase.
Marc Albrighton – 7
A midfielder with an impressive Premier League pedigree, Albrighton had to work his way into Nigel Pearson’s plans this season. Signed in the summer on a free transfer from Aston Villa, the 25-year old barely got a look in before Christmas. However, as Pearson’s formation changed so did his selection policy and Albrighton found himself playing at right-wing back for the majority of the second-half of the season. A position not originally attributed to Albrighton, his performances have shown and his introduction to the team breathed a new lease of life into a squad fighting for its’ Premier League life. A match-spinning display away in the FA Cup against Tottenham in January was the first real sign that he could become the difference and when he was introduced regularly, his two goals against Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers bolster a CV which attributes assists, forward runs and dangerous crosses to go with. His defensive work has been vital to Leicester’s survival and early questions about his fitness were put to bed by the incredible work rate Albrighton achieves on the right flank.
Danny Drinkwater – 6
Last season’s player of the year, Drinkwater has struggled to make his mark on the Premier League this term. Deployed primarily as a substitute rather than a first-team regular, he hasn’t let his club down, nor has he set the pitch ablaze with brilliance. The occasional long range pass shows off his tremendous field of vision and reach, clearly learning off the great Esteban Cambiasso on the training field, and glimpses of Drinkwater’s quality can be seen when he opts to shoot from distance on the rare occasion. However, he has failed to force his way into the first team line-up due to some outstanding performances from Cambiasso and Matty James so next term he will be aiming to put in some match-winning performances of his own.
Dean Hammond – 6
A fringe player last season, Hammond found himself thrown into the deep end of Premier League life from the outset at the start of the season. With injuries to Drinkwater and Cambiasso fighting to get fit, Hammond started the first five games of the season, including Leicester’s trip to Stamford Bridge where they lost 2-0 to Chelsea. Hammond was prominent in the Foxes 2-2 draws with Everton and Arsenal as well as their 5-3 win over Manchester United in September, but he found his first-team opportunities restricted as the season progressed with the return to fitness of Pearson’s first choice midfielders. Still, Hammond’s overall performances were impressive and despite not being the first player to spring to mind when dealing with Angel Di Maria, Wayne Rooney, Mesut Ozil and Oscar, the veteran Englishman did a thoroughly professional job.
Matty James – 8
The former Manchester United academy graduate impressed this season for Nigel Pearson’s men. Forming a strong midfield bond with illustrious Argentine Esteban Cambiasso, James ran the most miles of any Leicester City player and conducted all the work that consistently in football goes unnoticed. Whilst Cambiasso gained the appraisal, James is happy to let him do that. James is an old-school centre-midfielder; hard-working, strong, surprisingly fast and his passing range is also fairly impressive. His sending-off in Leicester’s 1-0 win at home to Aston Villa is unlike his character, and despite how it looked on the television, didn’t appear to merit a red-card anyhow. Unfortunately the injury James picked up in City’s 2-0 win at home to Southampton is a serious one and will rule him out until December at least. But, in saying that, If Cambiasso sticks around for another season, Matty James will be the first person to benefit from it.
Esteban Cambiasso – 10
Magic. Need I say more? Goals, leadership, passing range, vision, tackling, work rate, damn he even played physiotherapist at one stage against Swansea in April. Cambiasso has the lot. His equaliser against Manchester United will never be forgotten, his goal against Everton as vital as they get, his opener against West Ham an absolute pearler, and THAT blind pass to Ulloa against Chelsea was a dream to behold. All there is left to say, Cambiasso we want you to stay.
Andy King – 7
An academy graduate so beloved by the Leicester fans, Andy King, unknown to him three months ago, was to play a vital role in Leicester’s Premier League revival. Two winning goals against West Ham and Swansea kick started the Foxes’ run of seven wins in nine games and the common denominator was King. He has a habit of disappearing in games, virtually non-existent for most of the season and not deserving of a first team place up until April, however when given the chance King seized it with both hands. From fringe player to vital in a matter of weeks, epitomised by the elegantly timed runs he has made his entire career, reminds me of the type Lampard did to such great effect, and for that reason, he’ll always be an integral member of Leicester City, be it squad player or first name on the team sheet.
Riyad Mahrez – 9
Riyad Mahrez’ debut season in the Premier League could not have gone better. The Algerian international has produced some truly memorable performances this season, two goals against Southampton, the winner against Hull in December, tormenting defences up and down the league. His performances have drawn attention from other clubs with Tottenham reportedly sniffing around at a £7million deal, but if Leicester are to progress up the league they must fight off all competition for his signature. The boy has talent and if given the chance to flourish in a team he knows and a manager so open to giving him the freedom to express himself, he could become a star.
Anthony Knockaert – 4
On the other hand to Mahrez there is Anthony Knockaert. A man whose debut Premier League season was as disastrous as Mahrez’ was emphatic. Barely given a chance to show his worth this season it is a shame, I am sure any Leicester City fan will agree to see him leave at the expiry of his contract in June. From a central figure in City’s promotion to the Premier League last season, scoring the goal that perhaps clinched promotion against Sheffield Wednesday, demanding a hefty price tag on his name, to nine league appearances, six of which as a substitute and a free transfer, his fall from grace has been a painful one. His talent is undoubted, and every City fan will remember him fondly for what he gave the club, and I am sure Knockaert will the same. But it seems whatever chance he did get in the Premier League he didn’t make good on it, never impressing when coming on or starting a game, and perhaps the interview he gave to a French newspaper allegedly calling Leicester City a “springboard club” for his career, has come back to see him ousted. Au revoir Mon frère.
Leonardo Ulloa – 8
Another man who made his Premier League debut this season is Argentine Leonardo Ulloa. The former Brighton hitman’s thirteen goals this term made him Leicester’s top goal scorer in all competitions and his performances have been of a similar high quality to match. Surprisingly hard-working for a big man possessing a tremendous first touch and eye for goal, his playing style supplements the tenacious Jamie Vardy perfectly. Ulloa featured in all but one of the thirty eight games Leicester played in the league this season, an impressive figure considering the options Nigel Pearson possesses in the final third of the field.
Jamie Vardy – 8
Following a terrific season in the Championship in 2013/14, Jamie Vardy announced himself on the national stage this term. Despite only bagging five goals over the course of the season, Vardy’s work rate and pace has helped contribute nine assists for the Foxes and adds a whole lot more to the team than just statistics. His form played a central role in reviving City’s season during the final two months of the Premier League campaign and his importance was noted by England manager Roy Hodgson who has called the 28-year old up for the full England squad for the first time to face the Republic of Ireland and Slovenia in early June. Keeping Vardy in the East Midlands will be key to Leicester’s progression next term.
David Nugent – 6
Alongside strike partner Vardy, David Nugent had a brilliant season last term, bagging twenty goals in the league to become the first Leicester player to do so in the top two divisions since Gary Lineker. Nugent has struggled to repeat that scoring form this season netting just five times in all competitions. However, Nugent added a different dimension to Leicester’s forward play when involved with the first eleven, scoring a wonderful long range volley at Anfield in City’s 2-2 draw on Merseyside on New Year’s Day to clinch goal of the season. His tap-in finish on the blue side of the Mersey against boyhood club Everton was equally as crucial and as such his seven rating takes into account the important work Nugent added to Leicester’s results amidst difficult times.
Andrej Kramaric – 6
The exciting 23-year old Croatian arrived at the King Power Stadium for a reported £7.5million in January. The Foxes fought off interest from Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea to ensure his signature and as yet hasn’t quite hit the heights expected of him. It appears this is down to acclimatisation rather than quality alone as Kramaric has shown flashes of his brilliance over the past five months. Six goals in all competitions is an impressive return for a player who has made more substitute appearances than he has started. A tremendous finish away at the Emirates in February the pick of the bunch, along with a powerful header in Leicester’s 2-1 defeat in the FA Cup to runners-up Aston Villa and an instinctive finish against QPR at the end of the season. Kramaric then has a lot to prove and given the chance it is clear he has the ability to do just that. Should he stay at Leicester next term he will get more first-team opportunities and it would be a surprise if he didn’t force his way into the starting eleven at some stage in the foreseeable future.
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