Friday, 30 December 2011

Reflections on 2011 at Leicester City FC

The past twelve months have not been a vintage year for Leicester City Football Club, what with Sven Goran Eriksson's fall from grace through to Nigel Pearson's less than impressive start to his task in revitalising an ailing team. There have been positives, the arrival of a world-class keeper in the making of Kasper Schmeichel to name but one, and here we weigh-up those who have had a good, bad or indeed indifferent year at the King Power Stadium.

Annus Mirabilis
Kasper Schmeichel
The excitement greeting the early-summer arrival of young Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel was palpable and he has repaid the faith put in his reputation with a series of stunning performances that have all but guaranteed his status as a future Foxes' legend. With the weight of anticipation on his shoulders, the son of Manchester United legend Peter was a bargain at just over £1 million from Leeds United who apparently did not rate his potential. Eriksson thought differently and his optimism has proven well-founded. Schmeichel is showing a maturity in leading his defence and a passion many fans see far too little of from their Leicester City team. The odd mistake still creeps into his game but that has not deterred interest from the likes of Tottenham Hotspur for a January swoop for the Dane. 9/10.

Lee Peltier
Signed from Huddersfield to bolster the back line, Lee Peltier has proven somewhat of a revelation at right-back and seen to it that established Ghanaian international John Pantsil, a regular in the Premier League with Fulham last season, cannot get a sniff at a starting place. Peltier has shown a strong work ethic along with his pace and ability and has proven a worthy addition to the Foxes' squad. His defensive positioning remains the only doubt. 7/10.

Sol Bamba
Having burst onto the scene with two goals in his first two games - as a defender - big Ivorian defender Sol Bamba captivated the crowd at the King Power Stadium and earned himself cult status. Whilst his forays into the latter third have come under scrutiny in recent matches he has provided a much needed attacking impetus throughout the squad and many are calling for him to be pushed into the midfield to allow him more opportunity to excite the crowd with his forward runs. Having established himself as a first team regular in his first six months, attracting Premier League attention in the summer, Bamba opted to remain with the Foxes for 2011/12 and will be hoping for more of the same in his second year in royal blue. 7/10.

Jeffrey Schlupp
2011 will be remembered as the year a young German of Ghanaian descent broke through into the big time. Jeffrey Schlupp was a big part of Eriksson's plans for the 2011/12 campaign and he travelled on the pre-season tour of Sweden before scoring a hat-trick in his first senior appearance for the Foxes in a League Cup first round game away to Rotherham, only the second man to net three on his d├ębut since the war. He subsequently made his first league appearance (versus Reading) and scored against Derby County to earn his first Championship goal but his star has somewhat faded following the arrival of Pearson at the helm. Here's wishing well to a promising youngster who has laid down a firm gauntlet for 2012. 7/10.

Paul Konchesky
Signed on a free transfer after a disappointing spell at Liverpool - like many he failed to shine under Roy Hodgson - Paul Konchesky has proven an exciting addition to the Leicester City squad with a string of solid performances, highlighted with a couple of stunning strikes. A powerful full-back, Konchesky's performances have been marred only by a little inconsistency in defence. Like Bamba and Peltier, the defending aspects of this defender's game remain his only weakness. 7/10.

David Nugent
Sparks of the old David Nugent have already been seen following his summer move from Portsmouth and his seven goals have proven vital in a disappointing six months for Foxes' fans. His hard work has given his game a positive spin in the eyes of many Leicester City fans. 6/10.

Yuki Abe
If there was one word to sum-up Yuki Abe it would have to be 'solid'. Reliable, dependable and occasionally sparkling performances have reminded Urawa Reds what they've been missing... 6/10.

Annus Indifferentia
Nigel Pearson
His stock has fallen after his return to the East Midlands but the progress he made with little money available to him at Hull City has proven his pedigree as a good manager. Pearson has to deliver over the next twelve months, however, or, like Eriksson, he is certain to be shown the door. Improvements are needed after January or, indeed, he could be on his way before the summer. The quiet man from Nottingham nonetheless broke an eighteen-month long duck by getting his team into the top six at the first time of asking. Lying in the bottom half come Christmas was not what he would have wanted - or expected - however. 6/10.

Paul Gallagher
Paul Gallagher has been unable to find a rich vein of form week-in, week-out but the Scot has shown flashes of brilliance as he has every year since joining the club. It seems remarkable that 2012 will be his fourth year with City. His highlight of 2011 was an outstanding display against Scunthorpe in March, that saw manager Eriksson compare his right foot to that of the venerable David Beckham. 6/10.

Lloyd Dyer
His pace remains and, alas, so does his inability to cross a ball. Lloyd Dyer's inconsistent form has frustrated many Foxes' fans but he remains the most potent threat on either wing. 5/10.

Neil Danns
Bought in over the summer after a solidly impressive season at Crystal Palace, Neil Danns was the man to challenge the relentless reliability of Andy King and Richie Wellens in the Foxes' midfield. His failure to shine early-on in his Leicester career hampered his first-team chances, however, and he has remained on the fringes - or appearing as a substitute on the wing - for most of the season. 5/10.

Richie Wellens
A solid end to the 2010/11 season has been marred by a string of poor performances in the first half of this season. The man who was nearly Player of the Year (twice) has not performed this term and needs to up his game if the manager is not to look elsewhere in January. Negativity and unreliability have edged their way into Richie Wellens' game where he was once solid and capable of delivering a killer pass. 5/10.

Andy King
It seems that Andy King's game has been 'found out' by other teams in the Championship. Where for the past few seasons he has been a reliable goalscorer, ghosting into the eighteen yard box from midfield, now he remains as a bit-part player in a mid-table side. The Welsh international could have fetched up to 

Sven Goran Eriksson
The sacking of the Swede in October came rather out of the blue but, as had been predicted, he was given five games to steady the ship but blew his chances. Eriksson never did get his Foxes into the top six but did have the ambition and drive to bring some big names to Leicester, even if he never could find a winger. Eriksson will be remembered fondly if not for his team's performances but the friendly and cheerful manner he kept off the pitch and the time he found for the fans. 5/10.

Darius Vassell
Constant criticism from the stands has marred the memory of Darius Vassell's important contributions in the past twelve months, with his pace on the wing often the only outlet out-wide in Eriksson's preferred 4-3-3 system. Injury hampered his year and he ends 2011 on the treatment table. 4/10.

Annus Horribilis
Sean St Ledger
Without a chance to really impress himself on the first team - despite a run of suspensions Matt Mills remains club captain and, thus, preferred to Sean St Ledger at centre-half - the Irish international has grown increasingly frustrated at his lack of opportunity in the first team. St Ledger has been far from unimpressive without starring either and, while he remains at Leicester, it seems that his beloved international place remains in jeopardy. 4/10.

Matt Mills
Five million pounds and a good reputation from his time at Reading promised much of lifelong Foxes' fan Mills yet his first six months at the King Power Stadium have been far from impressive. Mills' discipline has been shoddy, his defending questionable and his distribution poor. Only his position as captain sees his place assured and more is expected of Mills if he is to remain in favour with his fellow Leicester supporters. 3/10.

Jermaine Beckford
A disappointing yield of just two goals from his thirteen starts - and having been substituted in every one of those matches - could see £2.5 million-striker Jermaine Beckford depart in January. Beckford is typical of a purchase made by Eriksson: fanfare and expectation forgotten after dull, uninspiring performances. 3/10.

Steve Howard
Although Frankie offers something different to the rest of the Leicester strikers, he has had far from a glittering year. Now in his fifth season at the King Power Stadium, Steve Howard has failed to impress under Eriksson or Pearson and could well be seeing his time with the Foxes come to a quiet end. 2/10.
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