Graham Tracey is the second of our match reporting team in this series of articles giving their opinions on last season as well as looking ahead…..
Before the season started what were your hopes on what we could achieve?
Certainly top half, push for a European place but as always for me try and win a cup.
Given how the season panned out, in terms of success how do you rate it out of 10 and why?
I can only give it 7/10. This may sound harsh given the achievement in terms of our history, which I have supported through 40 years, but it is about momentum. Obviously we can’t go on 8 game winning streaks every season and we over-achieved until Christmas, but I am concerned at how the management seem to feel that averaging just over a point a game across over half a season is acceptable. The manner of exit in both cups was also very hard to take and left huge regrets.
Overall how do you rate Brendan Rodgers performance?
I like his long-term vision and without seeing behind the scenes I think he is a decent man manager. I think Maddison signing a new contract is testament to this. However, I think he can improve considerably and I expect he believes that too. When we play badly, we look less likely to score than any team in the league. Maybe Brendan is suffering from managing Celtic where every game was basically the same in that you could win without breaking sweat or tactical adjustments. Clearly our record against big clubs has to improve if he is going to create a legacy here.
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?
I am full of admiration for the likes of Jamie and Kasper who have stayed on with us after the title season. Ricardo and Soyuncu obviously stand out, before Cags and Evans seemed to self-destruct in the closing games.
What were your views on the signings made during last season?
Praet is highly competent and a mark of our standing that someone wants to come to us from Sampdoria. James Justin did really well given he could not have expected such an extended run, and Luke Thomas had a fantastic taste. In contrast, Ryan Bennett was a signing befitting the Peter Taylor era – thankfully we didn’t trigger the £5m clause.
Which player do you think made the most progress last season and why?
I have to go for Iheanacho. After the late miss at Man City at the end of last season that would have altered the title in Liverpool’s favour, I could not see him playing for us again. But to come in from the cold with such confidence, skill and intelligence was remarkable. I think we need to work towards a permanent two striker solution with him and Vards.
Which player did you think underperformed the most last season and why?
I am reluctant to choose a victim of their initial success but I have to pick Tielemans. I am sure he will improve and a first full season in England is tough physically. I often felt we were better with only one of Madders and Tielemans in the team which seems counter-intuitive and a difficult conundrum to solve.
What was your personal highlight of the season?
The biggest away win in top flight history is a real ‘tell your grandkids’ story and so that’s how I want to remember the season rather than the anti-climaxes. But in the empty stadium era, thinking back to being in such joyous atmosphere as Arsenal at home and Everton away in the league cup almost bring tears to the eyes.
VAR – how do you feel about its effectiveness last season and what would you change?
Like the Trump presidency, worse that my worst nightmares. I have not heard a single fan, player, manager or ex-player pundit support it. So many games ruined by ridiculous decisions – one week I was embarrassed to get a draw at Wolves given their disallowed goal, the next we were cheated by a stupid handlball decision disallowing our goal. The only advocates of it are a group of low quality pundits who see it as something that can help them keep stealing a living from pontificating about.
Look no further than Jonathan Pearce, who introduced a phone-in on 5 Live when VAR was confirmed with “I don’t want to hear any negative comments about it, it’s coming in so get used to it”. The sort of guy who would say “fans like bad decisions because it gives them something to argue about”. We really don’t. I would abolish the accidental handball rule, bring in clear daylight for offsides, and sack the entire VAR officials team and replace them with ex-players.
Moving onto next season
If you had to choose one position where we needed to strengthen, what would it be?
An extra striker – unlike Rodgers I would like a target man option.
What other changes do you think are necessary to improve on this year’s squad?
Some more experience (see below) as if we can keep this squad together there is plenty of potential to improve.
Would you be looking to add some experience to a fairly youthful squad or would you continue bringing in younger players and develop them?
Someone like Iborra or Cambiasso would have helped us nail down the top four post-lockdown I suspect. So another wise head would be useful, but in general I love seeing the likes of Barnes, Justin, Choudhury, Thomas etc. I would never sign someone who couldn’t roughly pinpoint Leicester on a map before their agent told them it was an option.
If you had a chance for a word in the owner’s ears, which player(s) would you be advising to sign?
Troy Deeney and Reuben Loftus-Cheek.
What are your expectations and fears for next season?
Unfortunately I think it will be harder next season. The clubs below Liverpool and Man City are strengthening and even if we keep hold of everyone there is the danger of a hangover, especially if we remain over-dependent on JV for goals. On the positive side, the new training ground may be something that gives us an edge. For once let’s get knocked out of cups with no regrets if we can’t go all the way. On a wider note I’m sure we all fear we may not see a game in person next season.
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?
I would happily trade mid-table for cup glory. In particular, let’s give the Europa League everything. I live in Bolton and about 15 years ago they were in I think the last 16 of the UEFA Cup and then basically forfeited the tie by playing a weakened team because of their next league game (which they lost anyway). They’ll never get that back. Seize the day.
Any other observation you would like to make
I am very disappointed by ongoing criticism of our players by our fans, namely Chilwell and Gray. We have a home grown England international and yet that doesn’t seem enough for some people. Likewise it was no coincidence that Gray put together a good run post-lockdown without the negativity of the crowd behind him. I do think there is something in the theory that some people are quick to ignorantly label black players as somehow lazy. There seems a mismatch in fans’ feelings towards the similarly productive and exciting but inconsistent Harvey Barnes.
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