Leicester City’s Europa League hunt, and effectively their season, came to an end with Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Burnley.
Here, reporter James Sharpe looks at five of the key talking points from Turf Moor.
Stats point to positive future under Puel
While Claude Puel’s face filled the screen on Match of the Day as the Leicester City manager gave his reaction to a defeat at Burnley, a curious little graphic flicked into the bottom right-hand corner.
Expected Goals (xG): Burnley 0.85, Leicester 1.95.
We all know by now that xG measures the quality of chances a team has in a game and gives a number that represents the probability of those shots resulting in a goal.
In short: City had better chances to win the game than Burnley did.
Of course, that matters little to City fans who have just watched their team gift Burnley a 2-0 headstart inside 10 minutes on their way to killing off their chances of European football.
“Expected goals in such a pointless thing,” came one comment on social media. “The thing that mattered was it was 2-1. Burnley are seventh and we are nine points behind. It’s a nonsense stat.”
Now, of course it is the ‘balls into onion bag’ number that is the most important, but xG does have its uses, especially in the on-going debate over Leicester’s long-term style under Puel.
What xG does do is give you a clear idea of how effective your general play is. Or, at least, *should* be over time. Not just in one game.
Based on xG this season, Leicester would have eight more points and would be seventh.
That does not mean they should be seventh. Variables such as individual defensive errors and missed chances mean that Leicester should be eighth, nine points off Burnley.
But what it does show is that, over time, Puel’s approach should be able to bring sustainable positive results. And sustainability in the top half is what the owners want.
xG won’t change the result at Burnley, but it should at least give some hope for the future.
Morgan criticism justified (for once)
Plenty of the space in this column over recent months has been given to defending the performances of City captain Wes Morgan in the face of growing criticism.
Supporters had been frustrated at the decision to bring Morgan straight back into the side after injury, despite Aleksandar Dragovic performing well alongside Harry Maguire in his absence.
A fair view, and harsh on Dragovic. But Morgan is the captain: highly popular and influential in the dressing room. And his performances were still solid, and some opinions became twisted and premeditated because of it.
However, over the last few games Morgan’s performances have been poor and his mistakes have led to City conceding goals and, in turn, points. The criticism is now justified.
But should Morgan’s role as captain have any effect on his place? Nigel Pearson used to say that every player’s position is up for grabs, but the captain’s place is different.
Should Morgan’s popularity among his team-mates, his influence, play a role in Puel’s decision? How would his removal from the side affect dressing-room morale or squad happiness with the manager? Should that even matter?
This is the man who lifted the Premier League trophy. But he is struggling for form. It is a sensitive subject, but these are the decisions which Puel is paid to make.
Choudhury makes most of Ndidi’s suspension
Puel has got another decision to make for the visit of Southampton. Wilfred Ndidi returns from his two-game suspension and will come straight back into the starting line-up.
The question is: who should partner him? Adrien Silva or Hamza Choudhury?
Choudhury has been excellent in his last two games and, for the start of his full debut at Burnley, looked more assured than Silva.
It would be harsh to leave Choudhury out, but he is potentially too similar a ball-winner to Ndidi. And while Silva had a disastrous start at Turf Moor, he did improve and his creativity is likely to be needed.
Regardless, Choudhury has done enough to show, with time and experience, that he will become a mainstay of the first-team for years to come.
Time for experimenting is now
Well, that’s that then. Barring a miracle, Leicester will have to wait another year for European football.
Five games left to see if you finish eighth or 12th. What is left to play for? Other than pride and prize money, little.
What should Puel do now? Is now the time to phase out those players who he feels cannot adapt to his style ready for a summer clear-out?
Is it time to bring in more of the youngsters to see who can make the grade? Centre-back Sam Hughes continues to bang in the goals for the development squad. He could be worth a try.
This is the first time in a long while that Leicester have nothing to play for. As frustrating as that has been, at least make the most of it.
Hamer’s final chance to shine for City?
For a few weeks now, there have been growing murmurings that Kasper Schmeichel could do with a spell outside of the team.
A couple of rash errors, and some wayward kicking, has tested some fans’ patience with City’s No.1.
Well, they might just get their wish now. Schmeichel limped off late in the defeat at Burnley and will need to assessed ahead of Thursday.
Not only will those fans get to see whether their wishes were well-placed, it is also a great chance for Ben Hamer to showcase his talents to either Puel or potential suitors as he approaches the end of his contract.