End Of Season Review 2017-18 Part Seven

Our series of articles continues from our match reporting team, today Chris Griffin provides his thoughts on last season and start planning for the next.
Before the season started what were your hopes on what we could achieve?
About mid-table: it was difficult to have been more optimistic. The end of the previous season saw us avoid a drop that had looked probable in February. Despite this we looked very weak in the home game to Spurs when we were humiliated. So given it wasn’t possible to be sure which Leicester would turn up it was hard to be optimistic about getting above mid table. This was confirmed after the very first game. Leading Arsenal but unable to manage the end of the game successfully and ending up with nothing.
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?
4/10 – despite the fact they finished in my expected mid-table position. There were occasions when the team played really well but inconsistency led to the players not doing as well as they ought. It was a season of underachievement.
The question posed sums up the roller coaster nature of the season. Claude Puel’s arrival saw us trying to play a more controlled passing game and it looked very good on occasions – the first half at West Ham for example – but even so we still could not see out the game for three points. Defensively we were poor over the season, conceding more goals than relegated Swansea and Baggies. Overall we had only nine clean sheets – less than a quarter of the matches. Going forward was better – we scored the highest number of goals for sides outside the top six.
A major concern was form at home as illustrated by the following outcomes against teams considerably beneath us in the table when we played them:
Crystal Palace dropped 3 points
Swansea dropped 2
Stoke dropped 2
Bournemouth dropped 2
Newcastle dropped 3
Southampton dropped 2
WHU  dropped 3
We managed 4 points from a possible 21 from these extremely winnable fixtures: no matter how we cut it that is a very poor sequence. Consequently we blew the chance to finish 6th and gain European football – which would have been a magnet when recruiting this summer.
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?
Maguire deserves recognition for playing all minutes in all games, putting in some really good performances and getting the late equalizer v Manchester United. Ndidi’s table-topping 138 tackles also merit acknowledgement. But I would have chosen Vardy. To score the quantity and quality of goals he did on a starvation diet as far as service and support were concerned was a remarkable performance. He is a top, top player.
What were your views on the signings made during last season?
I really liked Dragovic. Like many I was puzzled as to why he did not feature more. Iborra has a lovely touch and sees a through ball but sometimes seemed outpaced by the intensity of the EPL. Silva, if played in his proper holding midfield position, could be a major player for us. Really good reader of the game; very good passer; looks to play the ball forward – he has lots to offer. Saw too little of Jakupovic to form an opinion. Diabate is one for the future.
Which player do you think made the most progress last season and why?
It is hard to say any one player made outstanding progress. Chilwell showed potential in left wing back position when going forward. Iheanacho looks a natural goal scorer and playing him further up front near the end of the season seemed to give him more scoring opportunities. It also meant Vardy received some support.  Choudhury’s late season run of games probably impressed me the most. Some good tackles, interceptions, energy and passing.
Which player did you think underperformed the most last season and why?
The team’s ability to defend consistently was the most significant underperformance. That isn’t just down to one player but is a collective responsibility for all players on the pitch. Defending set pieces was a notable concern whether we used a zonal or man-marking system. Improved defending would have made the difference between the mediocre season we had and the successful season we could have had.
What was your personal highlight of the season?
Assuming Mahrez is leaving then his excellent farewell  goal against Arsenal left us with a memory of a typical class Riyad moment. Maguire’s late equalizer against Manchester United was a memorable and exciting moment. But Jamie Vardy offered two outstanding finishes – home against Tottenham and away to West Bromwich. It is a close call but I go for his West Bromwich effort.
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?
Writing in the last week of May makes one realise how speculative the answer to this question is.  The owners may make a change before the season starts. However, at this time, they do not seem minded to change. Ricardo Pereira’s willingness to sign will have been based on many things but accounts suggest Puel was a magnet. So that could suggest the manager is staying. Ultimately it gives him a chance to bring in players who can play the way he wants instead of relying on what was in essence someone else’s squad. The success or otherwise of his rebuilding will determine the ultimate judgements made about him.
What changes do you think are necessary to improve on this year’s squad?
This depends on who leaves. If (or should that be when?) Mahrez goes there is no ready-made replacement in the squad. That will need sorting. Maguire is one good World Cup away from triggering a host of would be buyers. Some already have started the queue if media accounts are to be believed. Fuchs has one year left on his contract so planning for his departure would make sense. And if we are going to send high crosses into opponents’ penalty area then we need to have a tall, aggressive target man with a good touch to aim for. The purchase of Evans is welcome. M. Puel certainly seems want to change the personnel in defence.
I wonder if he will make some radical changes to systems. A personal preference would be three at the back with two holding in front of them. The full backs told to really bomb forward to support the front three – a front three who play closer to each other and support each other.  It worked pretty well for Liverpool: why not us?
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?
I am less concerned about the loan players returning than seeing opportunities given to those already here, especially the youngsters. It was a pity that George Thomas and Sam Hughes were not given opportunities in the final games. As I write Ryan Giggs has just described Thomas as “magnificent” in his 26 minute Welsh debut v Mexico. Why don’t we give him a chance? Of those who have been at other clubs defender Elliot Moore seems to have had a successful time in Belgium.
If you had a chance for a word in the owners’ ears, which player(s) would you be advising to sign?
There will be a host of players in Europe that I will not know about so it is hard to answer. Dragovic signed permanently should certainly be a consideration. How about Atletico Madrid’s Oblak: an outstanding goalkeeper. Maybe Iborra could tell him how fulfilling life in the East Midlands is. James Maddison might fit the bill: he had an excellent Championship season.
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