Today with continue our series of articles where our match reporters reflect on last season and start planning for the next, second up is Kate Thompson
Before the season started what were your hopes on what we could achieve ?
As I said in last season’s review, my hopes were to stay in the Premier League and win the FA Cup; we achieved the first but not the second, despite arguably our best chance for years. It was a season of lost opportunities, of which this was the most disappointing.
Given the way the season progressed from early relegation threat, to hopes of European football to then a season petering out, then throw in a couple of good cup runs, how would you rate last season overall out of 10 and why?
Despite my modest hopes at the beginning of the season, I would only rate it as 6. I was sad when Shakespeare was sacked, having been such a good servant to the club, and not very enthused at Puel’s appointment. He confounded all his critics by some excellent early results, of which the best was undoubtedly away at Southampton – one of the few matches I didn’t attend! But then the wheels fell off and it looked like we would never get another win, so that the early ‘new manager bounce’ had become more important. If we had played all season like we did at the end, we would have been relegation without a doubt. To finally win against Arsenal was very satisfying and the last match at Wembley was incredible, despite the ultimate result.
And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the missed opportunity in the FA Cup was a real downer; I don’t want to blame Schmeichel completely but the feeling persisted that Chelsea were there for the taking and yet again City missed a golden opportunity.
Harry McGuire won the Player of the Year Awards, would he have been your choice and who else do you think deserves praise for their performances?
Yes, absolutely, he has been a revelation. A close second for me was Ndidi, who followed up his first season with another good one and was the best midfielder in the league, beating the iconic Kante into third place! He just needs to learn to control his emotions, as we cannot afford to keep losing him to suspension. I also thought Choudhury played an impressive cameo role and this, and the performance of the Development Squad as a whole, gives me hope for the future.
What were your views on the signings made during last season ?
Apart from Maguire, nobody was outstanding. Iborra and Silva (when he was finally allowed to play) showed glimpses of their abilities, but not consistently enough for me. It became increasingly clear that there is a gulf between the Premier League and other countries in terms of the speed of the game. Jakupovic got little chance to show what he was made of and a serious contender to Schmeichel is a must. Iheanacho was disappointing until the end of the season, although to be fair he had limited opportunities to show what his ability; however, his performance in the last two games – and the cracking goal against Spurs – suggest that he is becoming the player we expected.
Which player do you think made the most progress last season and why?
Apart from Ndidi, the player who I think did well until he got injured again, was Matty James. I have always liked him and it appears that the managers do too, so I hope he is able to recover from his latest setback. Outside of the first team, there were some excellent performances from the Development Squad and some astute signings have been made, such as George Thomas, who must surely have a good future with the first team.
Which player did you think underperformed the most last season and why ?
To my surprise, the biggest disappointment has been Schmeichel and I wonder how much of this is due to there being no goalkeeper seriously challenging him for the no 1 spot. Also Mahrez has had another on-off season, with some wonderful moments (such as the last minute free kick against Bournemouth) but also some games where he either goes walkabout or tries to take on an entire team when there is a team-mate in a better position. Also guilty of this is Demarai Gray, who still appears to believe he is better than he is. Another player who disappointed me was Ben Chilwell; he is clearly better than Fuchs at going forward but his defending was dire at times and I hope Fuchs continues to be the first choice left back next season, until he leaves us for the States and new ventures.
What was your personal highlight of the season?
It has to be the win against Arsenal. I didn’t realise it was 24 years since we last beat them and it was worth waiting for. If I had been at the Southampton away game I might have nominated that. I would add West Brom away, if only for the cracking goal from Vardy that won goal of the season. In the FAC Cup, the away game at Peterborough was wonderful, with five great goals – including for me one of the best I have seen with a wonderful cross from Fuchs and a thunderbolt from Iheanacho. OK, it was lower level opposition but, as the cliché says, you can only beat what is in front of you.
Moving onto next season
The main question towards the end of the season was would you keep Claude Puel to carry out the re-building obviously needed over the summer and what is behind your reasoning?
I think on balance yes. Like many others I feel he comes across as colourless although I wouldn’t criticise him for his reserved manner. He is clearly a thinker and appears to know what needs putting right, so I think he deserves a chance. If we want a precedent, the name of (Saint) Martin O’Neill comes to mind; I can’t be the only one who remembers how many fans were calling for his head, and look how that turned out!
What changes do you think are necessary to improve on this year’s squad?
We have made a good start by signing Pereira, who looks just the sort of right back we are looking for. We need another centre back to partner Maguire, as Morgan was struggling at times this season; I would like to see Dragovic signed permanently. We need another goalkeeper (Butland please!) to challenge Schmeichel and, if Mahrez finally gets his wish and leaves, another tricky winger. After all they are ten a penny aren’t they! A no 10 to replace Okazaki, who I think we have seen the last of, is essential to prevent Vardy being so isolated again.
A number of players went out on loan last season, are there any of those players you would like to see involved in our first team squad for next season?
Ulloa has stated that he would like to stay at Brighton and I would let him do that (if Brighton want to keep him) with our blessing and thanks for his invaluable contribution in the title-winning season. We will never forget his coolness in taking the last-minute penalty in the West Ham home game, after Vardy had been sent off, and his other last-minute goal against Norwich at home, which registered on the Richter scale.
I don’t want to see Slimani back; he has scored some important goals and showed that he can score with his feet as well as his head, but he looks lumbering to me and nothing like an athlete. I would love to see Andy King back, although I doubt he will be anything more than a substitute now and whatever happens with him, I hope the club give him a testimonial for being such a loyal servant for so long. Musa has apparently been playing well back in Russia, but I think he would still struggle in England. I would like to see Mendy given another chance (he is on loan I think) as he was never really given an opportunity to show what he is capable of.
If you had a chance for a word in the owners’ ears, which player(s) would you be advising to sign?
As referred to above, I would love us to sign Jack Butland from Stoke, now that they have been relegated. I think Alfie Mawson from Swansea could be a good acquisition. Apart from the relegated clubs, I think we would struggle to attract players currently with other Premier League clubs, but I like to think there are some gems lower down the pecking order or playing outside England. It looks like we still have a strong scouting network and it is interesting that Walsh has been sacked by Everton, having been such an influence at Leicester.
Any other observation you would like to make
Please can we win the FA Cup?! I don’t have many years left to wait! Apart from the games, I hope the extension of the stadium can go ahead and I look forward to seeing the new training ground.
The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation