For Leicester City to lose a top four place and spot in the Champions League on the final day of the season once may be regarded as a misfortune, but for it to happen in consecutive campaigns looks like carelessness.
Lightning striking the Foxes down twice took some of the gloss off their triumph in the FA Cup final with Brendan Rodgers bringing the first piece of silverware to the King Power Stadium since Claudio Ranieri’s Premier League title miracle.
What makes history repeating itself so frustrating for fans is that, once again, it was in Leicester’s own hands. There was no praying that other teams slipped up so they could sneak into the Champions League places. The Foxes occupied such a berth for 242 days, more than any other Premier League club. Alas, it is not about how long you hold onto your spot for, only if you finish the campaign in it.
An Unwelcome Pattern Building
Rodgers was obviously disappointed that Leicester missed out on Champions League football once again, but there is, unfortunately, a familiar pattern when you examine the run-in of the last two seasons closely. In both campaigns, the Foxes lost three of their final four Premier League fixtures and only took nine and 10 points respectively from the last 27 available.
Football is sometimes a game of fine margins🤏
Leicester City and Napoli began the day in the running for champions league football but missed out narrowly by a single point each. pic.twitter.com/VvioaokrPV
— SuperSport 🏆 (@SuperSportTV) May 23, 2021
Leicester haven’t finished off recent seasons well, then. Tottenham Hotspur are also something of a nemesis for the Foxes with comprehensive victories over them home and away late in both campaigns. It’s not usually how you do against fellow Premier League heavyweights that determines your destiny, but the performances against the mid-table teams and strugglers.
There are a couple of notably disappointing results at the business end which Leicester players may look back on with some regret. In 2019-20, they were held at relegated Watford despite scoring in the 90th minute. The Hornets left the Foxes stung by a stoppage-time equaliser. Rodgers also saw Bournemouth, another side that went down, come from behind and win 4-1 as poor away form cost his side with two wins in the last nine matches coming in the East Midlands.
Defensive ill-discipline also reared its ugly head with red cards for centre backs Caglar Soyuncu and Jonny Evans in the final four fixtures of the campaign. Add that all together and it’s easy to see why Leicester lost out on Champions League football and finished fifth.
Rodgers and his roster of players vowed to do better this past season yet succumbed to a similarly poor end to proceedings.
Missing Out Affects More Than Morale
The knock-on outcomes of missing out on Europe’s elite cup competition are many and varied. The primary example of this will undoubtedly be the financial health of the club and its ability to battle rivals in the transfer market. A side in the group stages of the Champions League is guaranteed around £13 million in prize money – that almost matches what City received for their last-32 run in the Europa League.
And then beyond the obvious effects repeated poor season endings will have within the game, when a team like Leicester gets a reputation for finishing seasons like that, this can affect how people perceive them from a betting perspective. Professional tipsters who follow trends and stats closely will be wary of backing a team with notoriety when it comes to closing out a campaign. For example, amongst the comparison of betting sites and free bet offers, SBO.net explains in its football tips that stats and form are key to a successful strategy, so looking to trends across seasons will form a major part of this.
And looking to form, this past season the Foxes were outscored in three of their last four matches, conceding four goals in both of their final two home games. They twice led against Spurs at 1-0 and 2-1 but a late Gareth Bale brace consigned them to another fifth-place finish in the Premier League. Again, there were results from earlier in the run-in that Rodgers was left ruing. Mid-table Newcastle United ran riot at the King Power with Leicester only avoiding total embarrassment with two goals in the last 10 minutes.
Prior to that, they struggled to break down a Southampton side hammered 9-0 on their previous visit to St Mary’s. The Foxes’ task was even made easier by an earlier sending off, but the beleaguered hosts perhaps motivated by adversity and a determination to not capitulate as they had before, held them to a 1-1. Points dropped to another mid-table club where a win could have made all the difference in that bid for a return to the Champions League.
A generous interpretation of Leicester’s shortcomings is that they have excuses. The end of the 2019-20 season was delayed and they were far from the only club adversely affected by that. With this past campaign, the last couple of league games came after the Lord Mayor’s Show so to speak and followed the FA Cup final win over Chelsea. Rodgers will hope no such complacency is in evidence and that the Foxes can make it third time lucky with their Champions League ambitions come the new season.