As Leicester City prepare to take on Liverpool tonight at the King Power stadium, one can’t help but think back at the last time this fixture was held early last year. A different time, different atmosphere…plus Ranieri was in charge.
Leicester City were top of the league and were pushing towards an incredible title win while Liverpool were still adjusting to Jurgen Klopp. Vardy was a record breaker while Mahrez seemed like a Ballon D’Or winner every time he stepped on to the pitch. The surprise leaders had produced incredible results before facing Liverpool but I think this game truly took their season to a new level.
What I will always remember from that game is watching Mahrez having the ball in midfield and launching the usual long pass forward for Vardy to chase. As usual, Vardy finds a way to get on the end it. Liverpool defenders are with him and he is some way out of the 18-yard area. Surely he can’t outrun them and get a shot away…can he? Well, he doesn’t try to outrun them but the audacity of what he did next will always live in my mind…literally forever.
He can’t get a shot…can he?….OHHHH IT’S A TERRIFIC GOAL!!!
While the ball is still bouncing, Vardy takes a shot from far out. It loops up and drops into the Liverpool net like it was a basketball dunk. Brilliant goal. Perhaps the best goal Vardy will ever score. Certainly one of the EPL’s great goals. For me, that game took Leicester to the title.
Within a year, we’re back. Vardy is back with Mahrez, but Leicester have a different mission this time; to stay in the league. Star players are now hopelessly strolling through games, Vardy can’t score to save his life, Mahrez looks like he’s working with the wrong OS, and goals keep passing through the defense like water through pipe. It’s a mess right now.
Many point to the squad tinkering and rotation employed by Ranieri as a reason for the poor performances. Others say Kante leaving put the nail in their coffin. I think the issue with Leicester City is that they couldn’t handle being the team to beat.
Last season, everyone whose favourite club could NOT win the league title backed them up (so you’re talking fans of Chelsea, Liverpool, Man United and at some point Man City). Now, they have a bullseye on their backs. People want a piece of them, including Chelsea, Liverpool, Man United and Man City.
Ranieri did not prepare the players for this. Rather, he let them stay in dreamland, where everything is perfect. When things went wrong, he didn’t show any form of frustration towards the players and his team selections showed he was too loyal to some of the under performing stars. He should been more forceful with the players and demanded more from them. In the end, his reward? A dead dream.
We may not see that famous night repeat itself today at the King Power stadium but we will never forget the significance of that game as well. I hope Leicester players remember that game and use it as an inspiration to save their season. It’s the least they can do for the man who made them legends.