With just over a week to go before the start of the new season, Colin Murrant continues our series of match reporters views on last season looking at the season ahead
Before the season started what were your hopes on what we could achieve?
Top 6 was a definite chance the way we finished the previous season and with BR having his first transfer window to strengthen the squad. The cup is always a dream and, with BR saying he would take the competitions seriously, a semi-final would be progress.
Given how the season panned out, in terms of success how do you rate it out of 10 and why?
Up to Christmas 10/10, in the second half of the season 4/10, therefore 7 overall. If the two halves of the season were reversed, I guess the sentiment would be different, but the disappointment of the second half leaves a feeling of what might have been in both Cups and CL qualification.
Overall how do you rate Brendan Rodgers performance?
At first impressed, but latterly very disappointed. Not least with the substitutions to a more defensive formation at Bournemouth when we were well on top. There is a stubbornness with BR over not playing certain players, Iheanacho substituted or not brought on and why pay £30m for Perez and then not play him alongside Vardy, his best position.
The defensive formation against Tottenham was a disgrace in my opinion: I said in my match preview about the threat from Spurs pacey attack, and BR did nothing to counter that threat. I also think that Soyuncu and Evans are far more effective when they play left and right side respectively yet, at times, BR chose to reverse them to the detriment of the performances.
Having said all that, I would not advocate changing BR, I hope that he is able to organise and motivate the team to play as brilliantly as they did up to Christmas when they won eight games in a row and were pushing Liverpool for top spot.
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?
For his 23 goal golden boot achievement alone JV was a worthy winner. I think that Soyuncu, Evans and Ricardo were also contenders. Soyuncu for his performances in replacing Maguire, Evans for his steadiness in position and nurturing of Soyuncu, Ricardo for being an exceptional full back.
What were your views on the signings made during last season?
Tielemans has been a shadow of the player he was when on loan although I thought he played better in the post-lockdown games; does he play better when Maddison is not there? Perez, I have spoken about already and needs to be played nearer to Vardy, after all if he can get 12 goals a season with Newcastle he should better that at City.
Praet is a very classy midfielder who has time on the ball and rarely wastes a pass, I think he should have had more game time. Justin’s form was in and out; initially poor after Ricardo injury, I thought his performances improved a lot as his confidence grew with more game time.
Which player do you think made the most progress last season and why?
Unquestionably Soyuncu, he was rough diamond at the beginning of the season but some of those rough edges have been smoothed. He will be disappointed with his escapades at Bournemouth but he is a fan’s favourite as a result of his effort and skills, a real old-school warrior.
Which player did you think underperformed the most last season and why?
I think Tielemans, I like him a lot, but he did not exert the influence he had at the end of season 18/19: there is so much more potential with him, hopefully we see it in 20/21.
What was your personal highlight of the season?
Being at St Mary’s with my grandsons on the night that City scored nine without reply and Vardy and Perez scored hat-tricks: only once before had I seen City have two hat-trick heroes in the same match, Lineker and Lynex versus Carlisle. It mattered not that we got drenched that Friday night in Southampton. I was so worried the Covid Pandemic would curtail the season and that the 9-0 would be eradicated from the record books.
VAR – how do you feel about its effectiveness last season and what would you change?
I think the hooah over the off-side interpretation is misguided, whether it is a millimetres or not is missing the point. To my mind wherever you draw the line it will always be down to millimetres at the end of the day, the decision is objective so I would say we have to get used to it.
Where I have a problem is the subjective decisions) such as sending off offences, penalties etc) being taken away from the on-field referee. I think if VAR spots an incident then it should be brought to the attention of the referee who should then make his decision at pitch-side from the monitor. I think this might speed the decision up as well rather than the often relentless replaying of action to prove what is meant to be ‘a clear and obvious error’.
Incidentally the thing that annoys me most is the attacker handball decision which is a rule issue not a VAR issue, other than VAR permits closer analysis. How a defender can accidentally handle a ball which then accidentally hits the attacker’s arm (Iheanacho at Norwich) who then scores from 20 yards, and the goal be disallowed is beyond me.
Moving onto next season
If you had to choose one position where we needed to strengthen, what would it be?
Difficult to choose one position as we need a central defender, creative midfielder, winger and attacker. I will go for a player that is apparently available, reasonably priced and with Premier League experience; David Brooks from Bournemouth.
What other changes do you think are necessary to improve on this year’s squad?
Greater quality squad depth as we were exposed at the end of the season as injuries and suspensions kicked in; with Europa League squad depth is even more paramount.
Would you be looking to add some experience to a fairly youthful squad or would you continue bringing in younger players and develop them?
With Europe in mind I think someone with European experience would be welcome. Overall, I like youth as City have recent success in developing young talent. With Schmeichel, Ricardo, Fuchs, Albrighton, Ndidi, Vardy, Evans, Praet, Perez and Tielemans, we have a lot of players experienced at playing top division football. Depending on whether he is sent out on loan again, I think that Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall might come through the ranks this season.
If you had a chance for a word in the owner’s ears, which player(s) would you be advising to sign?
As stated above, David Brooks is a sensibly priced option. I think we might have to pay over the odds for a quality centre back so could not recommend on the basis I do not know the cost; if the price is right, Lewis Dunk.
What are your expectations and fears for next season?
Fears are two-fold, firstly we have a carry-over of post-Christmas form, secondly the Europa League takes its toll. Expectations are a long run in the Europa League and a top 10 finish.
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 the PL and this time the Europa League which I think offers our best route into the Champions League. I think the home cups have lost their magic year’s ago, if I sacrificed one it would be the Carabao. Deep down, I would still love to win the FA Cup, but not a priority.
Any other observation you would like to make
I just think we lost an unbelievable chance of progressing in the EPL and Cups by not investing in January. To get Ryan Bennett in on loan and let Filip Benkovic go out on loan when we were short of a quality and quick centre back was beyond comprehension. I think there was almost a sense of we accomplished what we set out to do (top six) and the rhetoric from BR underlined this. Once you look like accomplishing your targets you re-assess, City chose to sit on their laurels: it is to be hoped the lesson is learnt.
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