Leicester City’s 21/22 season is best characterised by a decline in performances despite initial hype. This is most personified by our Turk, Caglar Soyuncu.
Disjointed, incessant changes, a lack of core, and a real degradation in our neat passage of play are just some of the myriad reasons why the King Power club declined from Europa League to top ten challengers. The side Brendan Rodgers formed was hardly consistent and lacked the quality depth to bounce back.
This much is self-evident when analysing the situation with our defence during the gruelling campaign. An inconsistently fit Jonny Evans, a leg-break for Wesley Fofana, immediate injury for Jannik Vestergaard, and struggling returns for James Justin et al. Rodgers was always forced into altering the centre-back pairing.
Leicester City’s defensive decline
Solid defending is the base on which football is played. As an invasion game, being proactive, active, and passive in defence are critical to prevent opportunities for attackers. Plus, knowing when to use which defensive style is equally important.
This is what has been our downfall in defensive situations and from set pieces: not knowing what to do when. Often, defenders like ‘Cags’ have made the wrong choice either too late or too soon to meaningfully impact the passage of play.
One statistical indicator of this is clearances per game. This is because it implies a rush to clear the ball: it does not reflect any lack of quality in the defender. Using Sofascore, we see that in 20/21, Soyuncu made 3.5 per game whereas in 21/22 he made 4.0 per game.
Also worth noting is the statistical comparison with the 19/20 season. This was the peak time for the Turkish defender: he featured in more matches and defended well. He actually made more clearances per game at 4.4.
The same pattern can be seen when looking at tackles per game. Sitting at 1.8 per game during 21/22, 1.2 per game during 20/21, and 1.8 per game in the 19/20 campaign. Stats do not tell us everything, but they inform what we have seen from the Turk.
The truth is that during the 19/20 season, Soyuncu was impressive and proactive in defence. He was the aggressive defender taking steps forward and making challenges whenever possible. On top of that, the CB often chose the right time to surge forward and press.
The Turk was impactful, devastating, and made very few errors. However, during the 20/21 campaign, the player featured less, and tried to become less proactive and more active in style. This was to counter the passivity of Evans and proactiveness of Fofana.
His decline was because Soyuncu does not suit that role here at Leicester. However, it would not have even mattered were Cags to have adapted to that role. The next season would challenge his style and make the defender even less suited to the role Rodgers laid out for him.