Leicester City’s defensive issues have plagued them since the start of the season. Their poor defensive form is further highlighted by the fact that their recent win at home against Newcastle in the Premier League was just their second clean sheet of the season. The Foxes secured their last clean sheet way back in August in the opening day win against Wolves. Since then, they have conceded at least one goal in 14 games up until the win against the Magpies. Only three teams have conceded more goals than Leicester and all of them are relegation contenders. The Foxes’ defensive frailties have also seen them crash out of the Europa League and into the Europa Conference League.
A strong defensive foundation has always been at the forefront of Rodgers’ philosophy since he arrived at the King Power Stadium, and yet the Northern Irish manager has been unable to find concrete answers to his side’s defensive problems this season although, not for the lack of trying. Rodgers has tinkered with different line-ups and formations all season, but overall, it’s becoming clearer that injuries have played a major hand in his side’s lack of defensive stability.
In a recent interview, Rodgers admitted that his side needs defensive reinforcements and that James Justin and Wesley Fofana can fulfil that role. Rodgers also outlined that both players are athletically strong, aggressive, and can defend from the front while denying the opposition any spaces. With the return of both defenders on the horizon, the Foxes would be desperate to welcome the duo back and provide them with the athleticism and aggression that Rodgers highlighted. The pair are yet to make a single appearance this season as they close in on their return.
Let’s analyze the stats of Justin and Fofana from last season to understand if Rodgers is right to see them as a defensive solution.
Justin 20-21 Stats
Justin was one of Leicester’s best performers before getting injured in February. He missed out on the back end of last season. The defender made 23 appearances, and his defensive stats were fairly decent in the league although, there are areas where he can still improve, for example, his aerial duels. Justin is strong in a one-on-one situation, and perhaps his best trait is his runs from wide areas to support his team in the attack.
Another one of his strong points is his closing down of the opponents. Justin possesses brilliant spatial awareness that allows him to position accurately on the pitch. His speed allows him to cover the pitch quickly and provide support to his defense. Last season, he was deployed as a right-back in Rodgers’ 4-2-3-1 formation or as a wing-back in 3-4-2-1 formation. His heat map displays the areas of the pitch where he was most active last season. His frequent forward runs are also highlighted by his heat map.
Fofana 20-21 Stats
Fofana was among the league’s best defenders last season. He ranked highly in terms of the majority of defensive stats. His most notable stats were average aerial duels per match and average recoveries per match. Fofana is an adept defender who excels in tackling and positional play. At 20 years of age, Fofana is maturing as a central defender at a tremendous rate. He made 28 appearances in the Premier League for the Foxes last season.
Fofana’s duel map displays the location where he was engaged in defensive and aerial duels last season. He is an athletic and physical defender who does not shy away from making challenges. During the attacking phases, Fofana pushes into the midfield to support his team. His ability on the ball allows him to retain possession and keep the ball moving. We can see from the duel map his heavy involvement in duels on both left and right wings.
It remains to be seen if Justin and Fofana can provide Leicester with the defensive stability although, if their stats from last season are any indication, the Foxes can expect their defense to improve when the two eventually make their return.