In the final our series of end of season articles from members who write match reports across the season, Stuart Dawkins gives his views on last season and looks forwards to next.
Before the season started what were your hopes on what we could achieve?
I thought we might have a decent run in the Europa League. I wasn’t sure whether we could improve on our position in the Premier League, but would have been disappointed had we not kept at least one of the inaccurately named ‘big-six’ out of top six positions.
Going into the final weeks of the season what was more important to you, winning the FA Cup or qualifying for the Champions League?
Until we actually got to the final, I had given little thought to the FA Cup – conditioned by too many years of disappointment for Leicester in that competition. Once it got to the beginning of Cup Final week, with the two fixtures against Chelsea looming, I did have a bit of a heart-versus-head moment. I then read a blog (which unfortunately I have now lost) which included a line roughly: “… some people are saying getting to the Champions League is more important for Leicester City than winning the FA Cup. Those people are wrongs ‘uns”. That wonderful phrasing brought me to my senses and once I was actually at Wembley it was clear that the FA Cup win was a moment of history for the Club.
Given how the season panned out, in terms of success how do you rate it out of 10 and why?
Tricky question. Fifth in the League and a historic (for many reasons) FA Cup win suggests anything less than a nine would be harsh. Given where we were in the league for almost the whole season, to again drop to fifth place at the very end made it feel more like an eight-and-a-half.
What was your personal highlight of the season?
Being at the FA Cup Final. It was obviously historic for any City fan, but adding to the footballing emotion of it, the feeling of being in a proper crowd after all the months of lockdown was special too.
Youri Tielemans won the Player of the Year Awards, would he have been your choice and who else do you think deserves praise for their performances?
Tielemans would probably have clinched it for me when he struck the Cup Final goal. Fofana would be in with a shout – particularly for one so young. It was a season when many players played consistently well.
What were your views on the signings made during last season?
Fofana and Castagne have both been excellent – indeed the ability of the City scouting and hiring system to find affordable talent year-in and year-out is quite remarkable.
Which player do you think made the most progress last season and why?
Barnes, particularly early-mid season. He moved from being a fringe player to an England-hopeful. Iheanacho deserves a mention for the persistence and professionalism to turn what was looking like a failed move to Leicester into a goal-scoring season finale. And Vardy is worth a mention, too. Even at his free-scoring best, I always rated him as one of the most intelligent crossers of a ball in the Premier League, and his transition into goal-provider has been impressive.
Which player did you think underperformed the most last season and why?
For most of the season I would have said Perez, although he did put in some decent performances towards the end of the season. Whilst it is a little harsh, I also thought Maddison faded a lot after his injury (and misdemeanour) absences. Prior to that he was one of the key players, after it he looked off-the-pace,
In a season of many injuries, which players injury do you think had the most detrimental effect on our season?
Maddison’s injury (and, as above, absences for misdemeanours) had the most immediately visible effect. The team survived the series of absences at centre-back remarkably well. I suspect Ricardo’s absence was also important, he is often able to push the team forwards at times when they are sluggish (as well as being a great defender). His presence in, for example, the draw against ten-man Southampton may well have made the crucial Champions League-qualifying difference.
VAR – with our view via our armchair for nearly all the games, how do you feel about its effectiveness last season and what would you change?
I am a fan of VAR. The powers-that-be have always been clear that getting it completely right will be a five-year journey and they have show willingness to tweak it as things have been found to work well or less well in English football. I would remove anything ‘special’ about handball in the run-up to a goal (it is either handball or it isn’t; wherever on the field). I would simplify offside decisions, probably by making it dependent on the players’ feet (although the recent move to using the shoulder rather than the ridiculous ‘t-shirt sleeve’, as used in the Euros, seems a step in the right direction).
If you had to choose one position where we needed to strengthen, what would it be?
We will need a Vardy replacement and we could do with some more cover for the ‘creative midfielder’ role.
What other changes do you think are necessary to improve on this year’s squad?
See above; further cover at centre back would not go amiss. More generally, Leicester’s overall squad strength proved to be quite resilient during as injuries took their toll last season. Next season it would be good to see squad strength that can withstand spells of injury and a run deeper into the Europa League final stages.
Would you be looking to add some experience to a fairly youthful squad or would you continue bringing in younger players and develop them?
In recent years, Leicester has been good at finding both experienced players and re-kindling their spark (Evans is a good example) and youth (Fofana and many others). I think they should continue in that way.
If you had a chance for a word in the owner’s ears, which player(s) would you be advising to sign?
I rarely have an answer to this question; City’s scouting team are far better at it than I am!
What are your expectations and fears for next season?
Expectations: the Premier League will be tougher but Leicester still getting a European place and maybe a Quarter- or Semi-final in the Europa league. My fears: a season of mid-table obscurity as other teams get stronger.
Any other observation you would like to make?
Following Leicester City continues to be far more entertaining and eventful than following most other teams and long may that continue.
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