Leicester City kick off their Europa League campaign with a tricky opening fixture against Serie A giants Napoli this evening.
It’s been a slow start to the campaign for the Foxes despite their Community Shield victory in the curtain-raiser against Manchester City, with the same opponents condemning them to their second defeat in four Premier League outings last time out.
And unusually for Leicester, it’s been in the final third where they’ve found life particularly difficult.
Their 1-0 loss at the hands of the Cityzens over the weekend was the first time they’ve failed to find the back of the net in the opening weeks of the new season but was also the fourth time in five outings that they’ve failed to score more than one goal.
Only a narrow 2-1 victory over newly-promoted, pointless Norwich City broke that run. It’s something that will be causing manager Brendan Rodgers some headaches, but the solution could be a rather simple one.
Leicester’s struggles in front of goal are due to several reasons, yet one is more obvious than most. Attacking midfielder James Maddison has failed to score or assist in his last 15 appearances as he struggles to rediscover his best form following an injury.
“Every player will always go through a period, especially with the rise James has had,” Rodgers said in Wednesday’s press conference after being quizzed over the player’s recent poor displays.
“Injuries have held him back. I’ve no doubt over the course of the season he will be an important player for us. He’s got a big talent.”
“He’s working hard in training. He will show his worth. I look forward to working with him. The level he has been at, you go through a period where you don’t quite hit the heights. But once he gets his rhythm and we improve as a team, he will get that form back,” he concluded.
However, Maddison’s hugely underwhelming displays of late have been hampering his team’s chances of success, and when there’s a player as talented as Kelechi Iheanacho waiting in the wings, there’s only so long Rodgers can keep faith with the Englishman.
Iheanacho showcased his truly top-class potential in the second half of last season, lining up with fellow frontman Jamie Vardy to devastating effect.
In his last 15 top-flight outings, the 24-year-old bagged an astonishing 12 goals and appeared to carry that form into this season when he scored the winning goal in the Community Shield.
Since then, though, Iheanacho has only been on the pitch for a combined 67 minutes as Rodgers continues to persist with a struggling Maddison.
That must change against Napoli, the Northern Irish tactician must revert back to the player he hailed as “very talented” back in April, providing Leicester with a boost in the attacking areas while allowing Maddison time away from the spotlight to get back to his scintillating best.
And, in other news…Leicester receive big boost ahead of Napoli, Rodgers will be delighted