By Drew Farmer
No one ever said it would be easy for Leicester City to repeat as English Premier League champions. With the traditional top Premier League clubs strengthening in the offseason, it is downright impossible to think the Foxes can do it again.
Saturday’s 2-1 loss to newly promoted Hull City was a perfect lesson in how difficult the new season will be, as the Foxes were undone by a team using very Leicester-like tactics to spoil opening day for the reigning champions.
Hull sat back during the 90 minutes, inviting Leicester to attack them, something teams didn’t do last season. Leicester held slightly more possession during the match at 50.3%, which isn’t exceptional, but Hull did outdo the Foxes in areas they would have won last term. Tackles, headers and interceptions were all topped by Hull in Saturday’s affair. Proving Leicester will need to evolve as a side to finish near the top of the Premier League in 2016/17.
It wasn’t that Leicester didn’t have chances to score. In fact, the club had dominated the opening half, and if wasn’t for Hull’s back to the wall defending, coupled with Eldin Jakupovic’s goalkeeping, Leicester would have been up 2-0 by the break. However, Leicester continually failed to bring last season’s top goal scorer Jamie Vardy into the game. Vardy finished with just two shots, both coming in the first half. In addition, Vardy’s 20 touches were the fewest of any Leicester starter, as he was unable to get the service he needed to score.
Adama Diomande’s first half stoppage-time goal was the result of Leicester’s poor defending on back-to-back corners. Uncharacteristically, a lack of concentration resulted in the team shutting off mentally, and allowed Hull the lead.
Leicester didn’t go quietly, however, as the team won a penalty to start the second half. Tom Huddlestone clumsily came down on the back of Demarai Gray’s Achilles, though it looked to have happened just outside the penalty area, Gray’s momentum took him into the 18-yard box. Riyad Mahrez stepped up and smash his penalty into Hull’s net, putting Leicester on terms. Yet, it wouldn’t last long.
Once again Leicester’s defence, which had been so good last season, was all over the place. It allowed Robert Snodgrass to pick up a poor clearance and rifle it into Leicester’s goal.
The sound of the Hull fans nearly drowned out the bubble bursting on Leicester’s fairy tale. The club not only has to dust itself off now, but it will begin its Champions League campaign in mid-September. By then, the club could be well out of top four contention, and with the added pressure of the Champions League, may be fighting an uphill battle to finish in the Premier League’s top half.
Of course, the doomsayers will profess Leicester’s title in 2015/16 as a fluke. However, it isn’t getting to the top of the mountain that is the most difficult in sports. It is staying on top for an extended period of time. Leicester City, right now, doesn’t look like it will be staying long.