These are worrying times for Brendan Rodgers and as he grapples with the first mini-crisis of his tenure at Leicester, the pre-season friendly against Villarreal will not be far from his thoughts.
Leicester’s brilliant center-back Wesley Fofana fell to the grass after 58 minutes after a dangerous scissor tackle from Villareal striker Fer Nino.
Fofana was taken on a stretcher and, hours later, received the crushing news that he had fractured his fibula and dislocated his ankle, ruling him out until February at the earliest.
Injury is an unfortunate aspect of football, but Fofana’s loss should not be underestimated, destroying Leicester’s summer transfer strategy as well.
As fears grow over Jonny Evans’ long-term fitness as he recovers from a plantar fasciitis injury (he will miss Sunday’s game at Crystal Palace), the absence of both center-backs from last season is significant.
Evans is the glue that holds Leicester’s defense together, giving Rodgers the strength and leadership to line up with a third or fourth.
Leicester have also been without all-rounder James Justin, who was exceptional last season and on the sidelines of the England squad before sustaining a serious knee injury in February.
Without these three players Leicester have not been able to cope and their financial model is not designed to sign defenders of £ 30-40million every summer.
Leicester have conceded ten Premier League goals before and whenever the ball passes close to their penalty area, the musical theme of Jaws would be the perfect soundtrack.
There are other issues Rodgers faces: James Maddison has gone 19 games without a goal or an assist and lost his spark, while even goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel seems unconfident.
Wilfred Ndidi is the latest player to be sidelined due to injury, with the defensive midfielder expected to be out “for a few weeks” due to a hamstring problem, which requires further consideration of methods. ‘coaching.
The intense schedule of Thursday nights in Europe and then Sunday games doesn’t help recovery, but there is clearly a larger issue that needs to be looked at.
The embarrassing episode in Warsaw where Kelechi Iheanacho was refused entry into Poland at border control, due to a problem with his Schengen visa, only heightened the feeling that things were going downhill un little.
After two fifth consecutive places and last season’s FA Cup triumph over Chelsea, this is the first bump on the road since Rodgers’ appointment in February 2019.
He regularly delivered European football, infusing an identity and a philosophy that destabilized the well-established private “Big Six” party.
We are only six Premier League games away but, make no mistake, Rodgers is worried and knows there are problems.
He will be more frustrated than anyone that his team’s forward momentum has temporarily stopped, in what was to be a transition season.
It cannot be denied, however, that performances so far this season have been poor and the mood of some fans is muted – especially the 800 or so people who traveled to Warsaw for the Europa League defeat on Thursday. evening.
“We definitely need to raise the bar for our performance,” said Rodgers. “We created an expectation and raised the bar over a consistent period of time and we let it go.
“It happens to all teams, but it’s a challenge that excites me – you know it’s not going to be easy throughout your managerial career.
“I really want to do something about it and that’s why we’re here.”
Leicester’s heavy and slow performances were totally at odds with how Rodgers’ sides are generally known: high intensity, dominating the ball and aggressive.
Rodgers called the performances “passive” and some have even compared them to those dreary days under Claude Puel who, incidentally, faces the sack at Saint-Etienne this weekend.
But with Fofana absent and Evans having to be carefully managed this season with his injury, Leicester must find another way to play.
With Caglar Soyuncu battling for form and the summer signing of Jannik Vestergaard making an unsuspecting start, Leicester cannot afford to operate with a high line or play expansively and risk leaving the defense exposed.