The year after winning an unlikely league title was always going to be weird for Leicester City, but what can be expected from the season after the season after dreamland? Well we can be sure there will be changes at the club with the ambitious Srivaddhanaprabha family doubtless wanting to move the club further towards their goal of consistent European football, after a dramatic season to say the least last year. Whilst a Champions League quarter-final was fantastic, the league campaign was difficult throughout, excluding a period of excellence after Shakespeare took over, and surely the owners will want improvement after some significant investment. However there is no doubt this is a team in metamorphosis. With a new manager, some big signings, and a crop of talented young players breaking through this should be a fascinating season for the Foxes. But will we be seeing a surge up the table? Or a season of mid-table mediocrity?
The Transfer Window
Leicester’s summer has been quietly impressive as re-inforcements have been provided in all four areas of the pitch and the drama surrounding Riyad Mahrez has kept a relatively low-profile. Eldin Jakupovic, who has replaced Ron-Robert Ziegler, was impressive between the sticks in Hull’s promotion campaign two years ago and Harry Maguire at centre-back has obvious top flight quality which will be important as Huth and Morgan age. The versatile and experienced Vincent Iborra impressed Shakespeare when he faced the Foxes for Sevilla last season, and will likely operate as a physical attacking midfielder who will provide a goal threat and a cool head with and without possession. Kelechi Iheanacho is a truly surreal signing for the club after the hype surrounding him over the last couple of years. Despite Pep not liking the cut of his jib, the pace, movement and the natural finishing ability should suit Leicester down to the ground and his partnership with Vardy should be fantastic to watch. The biggest plus of the summer for the team however is from within the squad. Riyadh Mahrez is yet to leave, after a distinct lack of substantial bids, and through pre-season has shown his commitment to the club, if the right offer does not emerge, with some excellent displays. Matty James has also returned from injuries over the summer being the most consistent midfielder in pre-season, after nearly 700 days without playing a game for the club. His partnership with Drinkwater took Leicester to the Premier League, and if he returns to form the two Manchester United youth players could force the Foxes up the table.
Formation-wise many will be expecting Leicester to line up in their tried and tested 4-4-1-1 formation that they have used so prominently over the last couple of years. However this year Shakespeare seems to have a squad with the versatility to play a variety of different options such as 4-3-3, 5-2-1-2, and the 4-4-2 Diamond. Hopefully this creates opportunities for Leicester to negate certain teams in personnel and formation which was a problem for them last year. Vardy and Iheanacho are certain to play together when fit and Kasper Schmiechel will obviously play as many games as humanly possible meaning the real competition is in midfield and defence. With Huth injured Maguire and Morgan will start off in defence early season with Daniel Amartey hopefully converting his international form into club success when given opportunities. James, Iborra, Ndidi and Drinkwater will fight for the two or three central midfield places with Albrighton and Gray likely operating out wide. It’s a strong squad this year with excellent depth and whoever it is that fits into Shakespeare’s early season team can’t be sure of their spot which should really push the team forward.
What Will Happen?
For the first time in our current spell in the Premier League I’m actually quietly confident of a successful season for the Foxes this year with the ability to adapt their formations and tactics against different opposition meaning teams shouldn’t be able to work them out, as they did last season. Iborra, Maguire and Iheanacho are all incredibly good signings in my eyes and should improve the team across the pitch. We also have a batch of incredibly talented young players in Demarai Gray, Ben Chilwell and Tom Lawrence, who have all attracted interest from other clubs, who could have a breakthrough season this year. With Mahrez on the way out the often magical England under-21 star will want to showcase his ability on a consistent basis after complaints of a lack of game time.
A series of difficult fixtures to start the season, including Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool in the first six should be a good show of the character of the team and how far they can go this season. If we can gather five points or more from those fixtures it could very well give the team some momentum as they settle into the season and push them beyond what many expect of them. Ironically it may be the lack of expectation from other clubs which could be their best weapon this season as I feel that they can be far more potent than they look this season.
All in all the last couple of seasons has been an excellent time to be a Leicester city time with Domestic and European glory beyond many’s wildest dreams. Whilst I don’t expect anything as brilliant this season, the fantastic infrastructure and fanbase of the club, alongside the commitment of the owners surely creates a possibility of great things to come for the club.
Top Scorer: Jamie Vardy
Player of the Season: Jamie Vardy
Breakthrough Player: Daniel Amartey
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