As one of our match reporting team, Stuart Dawkins gives his end of the season thoughts and looks forwards to next season…
Before the season started what were your hopes on what we could achieve?
I am a great believer that consistent runs of form towards the end of a season – good or bad – can indicate the following season’s form, so I was optimistic for Leicester. I really wanted another European Tour and felt that an improved League position was achievable.
Given how the season panned out, in terms of success how do you rate it out of 10 and why?
Pre-Christmas: 9, Christmas-to-lockdown: 6, post-lockdown:3. Overall average, about 7.
Overall how do you rate Brendan Rodgers performance?
Good. He has managed to bring together a talented, and generally young, squad who seem to enjoy playing together and who, on their day, can give a decent game to anyone. After the hesitancies following the 2015-16 season, that is impressive.
Jamie Vardy won the Player of the Year Awards, would he have been your choice and who else do you think deserves praise for their performances?
Vardy deserves it – winning the Golden Boot is a great achievement in any season. I think Söyüncü has been an improvement on Maguire as he is quicker and gets caught out of position less often (I would have written “now that he avoids the occasional rush of blood” were it not for that stupid kick-out at Bournemouth). Ricardo and Ndidi are closely matched as the best player other than Vardy – *each more important to the Club than Chilwell.
What were your views on the signings made during last season?
I was unsure about Perez, but he has added some bite to his game and pretty much always puts in a reliable performance. Justin looks a very shrewd buy.
Which player do you think made the most progress last season and why?
Tricky one. I could make a case for Barnes, Ricardo or Söyüncü. Also, Iheanacho was suddenly transformed from ‘we may never see hm play again’ to ‘decent attacker’ – which I have to admit I did not think would happen.
Which player did you think underperformed the most last season and why?
Schmeichel continues to be an enigma to me. He is capable of being one of the best ‘keepers in the world, and yet from time to time he has games where either his distribution or his positioning simply create problems for City. To say ‘under-performed’ is perhaps harsh, but I do think some decent competition for the goalkeeper’s shirt would help City. *Also, Chilwell had a less good season that previously. I would rather he stayed with City – he is a good player – but he had too many matches where faults crept in for my liking.
What was your personal highlight of the season?
I left St Mary’s in the rain a little bit disappointed that City had ‘only’ scored nine goals. I knew that the Premier League record win was 9-0 and I had really thought City could have managed ten that night. Then when we got to our car, we found that it was the biggest away win at the top level of English football ever. I then though of the literally millions of fans who had gone, through rain or shine, to away matches to watch their team and realised that I had been at (by one measure at least) the ‘best one ever’. That was the kind of moment that Leicester seem to be able to achieve from time to time.
VAR – how do you feel about its effectiveness last season and what would you change?
I am in favour of VAR. I would improve communications in the stadium (assuming fans get back into stadia). I would take away the ludicrous attacking hand-ball rule – which was only introduced to stop things like the infamous Thierry Henri goal that VAR would stop anyway. I would base offsides solely on foot position,
I would encourage the on-field referee to use the pitch-side monitor as the ‘norm’ and if the back-room boys are needed then there should be a maximum time beyond which VAR is null-and-void as clearly there is nothing ‘clearly and obviously’ wrong. The worst thing to do, but which I gather is happening, is to bring in VAR to check goalkeepers’ positions at penalties. That one rule pretty much spoiled the Women’s World Cup Finals for me when it was trialled a couple of years ago.
Moving onto next season
If you had to choose one position where we needed to strengthen, what would it be?
Centre-back. Evans and Söyüncü are fine, but Morgan is getting a bit long in the tooth as back-up. Although, to be fair, he did ok each time he was asked to this season.
What other changes do you think are necessary to improve on this year’s squad?
A more reliable foil for Vardy. The results are still too dependent on his goals.
Would you be looking to add some experience to a fairly youthful squad or would you continue bringing in younger players and develop them?
I would be fine with one chosen experienced player, but other than that I am in favour of the younger squad.
If you had a chance for a word in the owner’s ears, which player(s) would you be advising to sign?
This is always the question I find hardest to answer each season.
What are your expectations and fears for next season?
As I said at the beginning … I am a great believer that consistent runs of form towards the end of a season – good or bad – can indicate the following season’s form. This does make me fear for City a bit as replicating the form from the second half of this season would likely result in a relegation tussle.
I’m not sure that I ‘expect’ that, but without solid cover in central defence and another reliable goal-scorer I am worried as to whether City can maintain the ‘Top Ten-plus’ performances of recent seasons. I am looking forward to the Europa League, though. Of course, I would have preferred Champions League, but City in Europe is still an ‘event’.
With the Europa League, Premier League and 2 Cup competitions, along with a condensed season, what would you give priority to and what would you be prepared to sacrifice?
Always prioritise the League. After that, why not go for the Europa League? On their day City can beat anybody. Doing well in either of the two domestic Cups is fun, but I could live without that for a settled place in the top six and a European semi-final or final!
Any other observation you would like to make
Aside from the obvious comments about the impact of Covid-19 … on football and on everything else … this season will stand out in two ways for me. For a good four months of it, City really were running Liverpool close for a playing style and results befitting ‘the best team in the land’. And the Southampton win.
*This article was written before Ben Chilwell’s transfer to Chelsea
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