Leicester will be hoping to mount a charge for a top-half Premier League finish, though after losing Riyad Mahrez, if it a possible achievement for Claude Puel’s side?
After a pretty abysmal beginning to their campaign last season, the Foxes sacked manager Craig Shakespeare just four months into his three-year deal at the King Power.
The sacking of the former coach all but wiped out the remainder of the title-winning season at Leicester and the job to begin their revival was given to Claude Puel. The ex-Southampton manager, similarly to Claudio Ranieri, had questions asked of him when he took over the club. Many were disappointed with his approach at Southampton and Leicester fans were somewhat dumbfounded with his appointment.
The Frenchman was taking over a Leicester side who sat 14th in the table with two wins from nine games and steered the Foxes clear of relegation trouble finishing a respectable 9th place. Europe was on the cards for Leicester at a point, and the owners will be disappointed this was not achieved yet with a quarter-final defeat in the FA Cup to Chelsea Puel had a troublesome first season at City.
Manager and preferred tactics
Claude Puel took over from Craig Shakespeare midway through last season, and it’s fair to say he has taken a stance which previous Leicester City managers have not. The Frenchman has attempted to adapt the way the Foxes play and has tried to change their recognisable counter-attacking style. The former Southampton and Nice manager has never been known for his attacking play and has always been a coach recognised for his build up from the back, his passing moves and solid defence. This is the philosophy he has taken at Leicester too, and he received some stick in his early life in the East-Midlands as City were struggling to score and were losing games by looking rather lack-lustre and minimalistic.
Despite this, his development of the Leicester squad has been evident. The midfield development has been clear with Ndid, Iborra and Adrian Silva attempting to mirror the roles of Drinkwater and Ngolo Kante who were leaders at the club. Wilfred Ndidi is beginning to be noticed by other Premier League clubs his ability on the ball, and his tackling nature looks a glimpse of Kante, who was so fundamental in his role at City. Vicente Iborra and Andre Silva have also impressed with the aforementioned Puel’s preferred starter last campaign. Alongside the above trio, Leicester City youth prodigy Hamza Choudhury also had game time at the latter end of the previous campaign, and it would be no surprise to see the youngster included this season.
Kelechi Iheanacho is a player who could be vital to Puel this season. During his managerial stint, he has struggled to find a natural partner for Jamie Vardy and had chopped and changed between Kelechi and Okazaki, with a host of other strikers going out on loan. Iheanacho began to show signs of his worth at the back end of last season, and it would be no surprise if he were Puel’s choice for the 18/19 campaign. Ricardo Pereira will probably replace the ageing Danny Simpson with Ben Chilwell likely chosen over Christian Fuchs. The pair will provide pace and agility down the wing, and the two will look to ensure stability in the defensive region where Maguire and Morgan will likely be chosen.
After Riyad Mahrez left the club to join current Premier League champions, Manchester City, he will undoubtedly be a considerable absence this upcoming season. Without consideration, Jamie Vardy has to be the key to Leicester’s season as he has been in seasons gone past. The Sheffield born striker is coming back from a World Cup with the Three Lions where he did pick up a groin injury which haunted him at times last season. If Vardy can stay fit and Puel can find a natural partner for Cities number nine, then he could have another season full of goals.
Kasper Schmeichel and Harry Maguire, depending on their possible movement in the transfer market will also be of considerable importance in the Leicester ranks and will be turned upon to provide experience and a breath of knowledge in the back line.
Despite Leicester acquiring the talents of Jonny Evans who will be a possible starter alongside Harry Maguire; Wes Morgan will be once again captaining from the back for Leicester City. The Jamaican born centre-half signed for Leicester back in 2012 from Nottingham Forrest and is a logical choice as leader of the side. As a Leicester fan myself, I feel a change of captain for the forthcoming season could be imperative, yet Puel has elected his captaincy to Morgan. With the former ageing and possibly approaching his last season in the Premier League, the captaincy will be the task of Kasper Schmeichel when Morgan is not in the squad.
Leicester’s transfer activity has been positive so far. Although the exit of the extraordinary Riyad Mahrez to Manchester City for £60m will hurt the Foxes, the arrival of English youth prospect James Maddison for £25m from Norwich will give the Leicester faithful hope that the Algerian won’t be a significant miss. Although many may argue Leicester over-payed for the 21-year-old, Maddison has shown extreme signs of professionalism and is an exciting prospect for the Premier League.
The Foxes have also acquired the talent of Portugal’s Riccardo Pereira for £16m from Porto as well as the experienced Jonny Evans from West Brom.
There has been a fair bit of speculation about the future of the great Dane Kasper Schmeichel at Leicester with talks of him replacing Thibaut Courtois if his expected move to Real Madrid takes place. This could explain Leicester’s £10m swoop for Liverpool’s Danny Ward who spent last season on loan at Huddersfield Town.
Similar to Kasper, after his triumphant performance at the World Cup, Harry Maguire has been mentioned in a possible top 6 club move and has been heavily linked with Manchester United yet Leicester will be determined to hold on to the defender who they only picked up last summer for £15m from Hull.
What’s expected this season?
After two top 10 finishes the past two seasons, Leicester must be striving for a top 10 finish once more. With the owner’s desire to compete once again in European football, this will no doubt be the aim amongst the club. The champions of 15/16 have shown everybody this is possible, yet with this being said the departure of Mahrez is a considerable loss. If Maddison or Gray can fill the hole this season and if Vardy performs as expected the Foxes will mount a serious challenge. A domestic cup final alongside a top 10 finish will undoubtedly be considered a success for the East Midlands outfit.