With the Italian gaffer gone, is there renewed hope for the Nigerian forward in the East Midlands?
They’ve struggled to assert any form of dominance this term and find themselves one point above the relegation zone. having been dumped out of the League Cup, the FA Cup, and with their hopes of Champions League progression in jeopardy after a first leg 2-1 defeat in Sevilla in midweek.
This latest failure prompted the sacking of iconic coach Claudio Ranieri, but might some of the Leicester squad be quietly confident that the club are primed for a change of scene?
Ahmed Musa was supposed to add spark to the Foxes attack following his summer transfer from CSKA Moscow for an initial club record fee of £16 million, later eclipsed by lslam Slimani’s £29 million purchase from Sporting Lisbon.
Player Stats — Ahmed Musa
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- Minutes Played
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- Duels Won
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Ahmed Musa | 2016-17 statsHowever, he hasn’t truly had enough game time, coming off the bench more often and making very little or no impact, to truly leave a mark at the King Power Stadium.
He has played 29 games so far in all competitions, scoring just four goals, having racked up 18 appearances in the league but only seven starts.
The former Kano Pillars man started the season as a strike partner with Jamie Vardy but the duo didn’t work together, and Slimani’s arrival made things tougher. He has subsequently played mainly on the flanks, but Marc Albrighton and reigning PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez have made both wide positions theirs just as it was last season, limiting Musa’s options.
Both men have 44 league starts between them and have only been subbed off a combined five times.
Although Leicester have been generally poor, Musa has been the least effective of the Foxes’ widemen.
His average number of key passes stands at 0.5 per game, while he averages just 0.3 crosses per game and his number of successful take-ons is 1.2 per game. Musa is known to trouble defences with his pace, but he seems to have declined and could not, for instance, do anything devastating to Sevilla’s backline in the Uefa Champions League last 16.
He simply cut a peripheral figure during the first half in Andalusia and was replaced by Demarai Gray 13 minutes after the break.
It seems Ranieri bought Musa to be utilised as a striker, but this approach never yielded any fruit. The Italian tactician continued to use a conservative 4-4-2 formation that won him the league last term but most teams got the hang of it. Even though the former Chelsea boss tried to make some tweaks like using a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 at times, it failed to spark any change.
Leicester are now under the temporary management of Craig Shakespeare [below, right] but can he make that turn around and will the change of management represent a whole new chapter for Musa?
Leicester’s failings are not unprecedented; it’s worth noting that Chelsea suffered this dip in form having won the league title in 2014. They struggled to make headway in their title defence and almost fell into the drop zone but a change of manager reinvigorated the poor atmosphere at the club and players got their grove back.
There is equally the chance that Leicester might continue to struggle as they don’t have the same structure and quality as the aforementioned Chelsea.
What is different, however, is that while even in their struggles, Chelsea were still favourites to win every game under Jose Mourinho and then Guus Hiddink, there’s a chance that for Leicester-who have so struggled to impose themselves on teams who have sat deep-the pendulum could swing again.
In their remaining matches, starting with a showdown with Liverpool on Monday night, there’s a chance that teams will begin-increasingly-to see Leicester as easy prey.
Indeed, should opponents begin to attack the Foxes more, and go for the jugular, games could open up for the reigning champions to impose themselves as they did during their run to the title last season.
It is not certain that Musa will displace Albrighton or Mahrez, or begin to feature as a striker, under the caretaker manager, but there’s reason for optimism that now, at their lowest ebb, teams will begin to underestimate Leicester.
The speedy Musa, and the likes of Vardy and Mahrez, have demonstrated that they ideally need space and time to thrive. As teams closed the Foxes’ down, their opportunities were limited, but with the reigning champions apparently listless and heading for the second tier, perhaps the East Midlanders’ star men will begin to thrive once again.
Either way, if he is called upon, Musa needs to raise his game significantly and begin to show the spontaneity and the menace in wide areas that made him such a lethal presence with CSKA Moscow and, on occasion, the Super Eagles.