What do the stats say about Leicester's lacklustre start to this season?

From the loss of Kante to Champions League commitments, a couple of patterns emerge

Chelsea, N'Golo Kante, Danny Drinkwater, Leicester

Chelsea's N'Golo Kante (left) and Leicester City's Daniel Drinkwater (right) battle for the ball during the Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, London. Picture by Yui Mok PA Wire/Press Association Images

After the unprecedented success of last season, no-one really expected Leicester City to challenge for the Premier League title again.

The surprise element has gone and the traditional powers have thrown money at their problems or appointed new managers.

The Foxes spent too with a maiden Champions League campaign in mind.

But results in the Premier League this season have been decidedly poor.

They have just been beaten 3-0 by Chelsea to make it four defeats in eight games.

The other losses have seen them thrashed 4-1 by Manchester United due to an inability to defend set-pieces, while Liverpool (4-1) and newly-promoted Hull City (2-1) have come out on top against them.

Gone is the resolute nature of last season which saw them grind out result after result once they had hit the top of the table.

So what could be going on?

Champions League commitments

"Hey man we are in Champions League. Dilly ding, Dilly dong. Come on."

They were the words of the affable Claudio Ranieri when Champions League football was secured last season.

Thus far their introduction to Europe's elite club competition has been very positive with two wins from two including a victory over two-time European Cup/Champions League winners FC Porto.

But the added fixture congestion, which wasn't an issue last season, means taking one's eye off the ball and dividing attention is a natural consequence.

Or is it? Well, the trend suggestions something is at play.

Either side of the game against Club Brugge, Leicester lost 4-1 to Liverpool at Anfield and then beat Burnley 3-0 at home.

Then when they took on Porto, they lost 4-1 to Manchester United away before facing the Portuguese side and followed up the European game by drawing 0-0 at home against Southampton.

This time, with FC Kobenhavn coming up, they have suffered another defeat by three goals in the build up.

So if the post-European match pattern prevails, Crystal Palace won't win or score when they visit Leicester next Saturday. 

It's a small sample size granted, but the pattern is: lose away then play a European game and then return and keep a clean sheet in the next domestic fixture.

The loss of Kante

According to John Giles, the way N'Golo Kante plays the game proves designated holding midfielders are unnecessary.

Alongside Danny Drinkwater last season, Kante's peerless energy and work-rate in the centre of the park made the 4-4-2 work.

As Ranieri himself put it about what it meant to lose the France international to Chelsea in the summer, a midfield with Kante is equivalent to "Two midfielders plus Drinkwater. I always play with three midfielders in the middle".

Leicester have lost that massive presence (not in physical terms given that he is just 5 foot 6 inches tall!) and today was the first time they had faced Kante in the Premier League.

As a team last season, the Foxes made 22.9 tackles per match which was the joint highest alongside Liverpool. That has dropped to 16.6 so far this season.

How much of that is down to Kante?

In 2015-16, he was far and away the most prolific tackler in the Premier League with 4.7 per game and also led the way in interceptions with 4.2. And let's remember the fact that Leicester routinely ceded possession to the opposition which meant more work for their central midfield pairs.

Drinkwater is avering 4.6 tackles per game this season but he was already averaging 3.0 last season. In 2016-17, he is essentially working alone in a statistical sense because no other Leicester midfielder is averaging over 1.5 tackles per game, while Kante's erstwhile direct replacement Nampalys Mendy is averaging 2.0 interceptions per match.

The difficulty in stopping attacks means more pressure for a back-four that was tough to break down last season and consequently they are shipping goals at an occasionally alarming rate. 

 Mahrez under-par

The reigning PFA Player of the Year has shone in the Champions League but has not hit the heights of last season in the Premier League the campaign.

One goal and no assists is just a headline figure but given that he shone last season, he will remain a marked man for opposition defenders and tacticians.

As the creative outlet alongside Jamie Vardy in 2015-16, Ranieri will hope he finds that missing form again.