What can lacklustre Leicester City do to lift their season?
It must seem a lifetime ago for Leicester City fans and players when the Premier League newcomers, 13/10 second favourites with Coral to be relegated, began the campaign brimming with confidence, managing to take points off both Arsenal and Everton.
Then came their swashbuckling 5-3 victory against Manchester United, but the Foxes have since imploded and there is much work to be done if Nigel Pearson is to convince everyone that thrashing was not their peak.
Esteban Cambiasso, Leonardo Ulloa and Jamie Vardy showed promise in that early encounter, duggesting they could be consistently impressive Premier League performers.
However, since then Leicester have been incredibly lacklustre, with only ex-Argentina international Cambiasso from that trio proving he possesses the fight to step up for these relegation candidates.
The Foxes have not managed to win any of their last eight games and, following a 3-2 defeat to trap door rivals QPR, are now propping up the Premier League table, with an 11/2 chance of finishing bottom.
So what went wrong? And how can the Foxes fix their season before it unravels entirely?
Leicester’s hierarchy have been linked with a move to replace under-pressure Pearson (5/1 to be the next Premier League boss to leave) with the out-of-work Tony Pulis.
The former Crystal Palace coach has never been relegated and won acclaim for rescuing the Eagle’s from what seemed a certain slip back into the Championship last season, before departing amid acrimony this past summer.
Plucky Pulis’ record is hard to argue with, but there is no guarantee the Welshman could pull off the same heroics again.
Pearson did, after all, mastermind those impressive early results and, as QPR and Burnley have shown recently, picking up a few morale-boosting points can put a team back on track quicker than expected.
While 51-year-old Pearson has overseen a club record signing in Ulloa, he has still had little to spend compared to many of the teams he is tasked with foiling.
Despite apparent promises of further funds for the Foxes, Pulis, who reportedly left Palace over transfer target disputes, would appear to be unlikely to toe the party line if this did not materialise.
There’s no doubting 10 points from 13 games is a poor return, but Pearson deserves the chance to right his own wrongs after guiding Leicester back to the Premier League, and can provide vital stability.
If the Foxes choose to stick by their man, they will have to look to the January transfer window to benefit from an injection of new blood.
Misfiring forward Ulloa is currently low on confidence after failing to find the target for eight games, with his sudden barren spell somewhat of a surprise after the Argentine grabbed five in his first six matches.
After being tipped for a call-up to La Albiceleste and lauded as one of the signings of the summer, it has been a sharp fall back to earth for the 28-year-old, who spearheaded Brighton and Hove Albion’s Championship promotion push last term.
Whilst the Foxes are understandably keen to support their under-fire star striker, steps should be taken to find an alternative, lest Ulloa fails to recapture his early form.
Jermain Defoe has been mooted as a winter window signing, after links with former club cult hero Emile Heskey were dismissed.
Leicester will likely have to fight QPR for ex-England international Defoe, however. The current Toronto frontman has not been plying his trade at the top level since leaving Tottenham a year ago, but his poaching instincts and experience could be a vital addition to the Foxes’ faltering forward line.
In the meantime, Person should look closer to home for a solution to the Foxes’ goal drought. On-loan Manchester United man Nick Powell was on target for Championship side Wigan Athletic a dozen times last term, but is yet to be given a consistent run.
Although not an out-and-out striker, Powell was also prolific for former club Crewe Alexandra, including a play-off final strike, and has a fantastic right foot and nose for goal.
Blooding youth is always a gamble, though, especially in a dogfight. Leicester may have to take risks, however, if they are to stay in the top flight, which they are still odds-on at 8/15 to do.