Premier League 2017/18 Preview – Leicester City

Leicester

Image: The Sun

Everyone expected Leicester to drop off last season, but not quite to the extent that they did. Craig Shakespeare steadied the ship after the sacking of Claudio Ranieri, dragging the Foxes away from the relegation zone and up to a mid-table finish. Their Champions League run to the Quarter Final last year was one of the highlights of the season for neutrals. Shakespeare has been backed in the transfer market, and Leicester have had one of the most successful windows in the league. Harry Maguire impressed in a poor Hull side last season, and at 24 he offers an alternative to the aging Robert Huth and Wes Morgan. Vincete Iborra has joined from Sevilla for around £12.5m, with the midfielder looking to partner Wilfred Ndidi, who really improved as the season went on last time out. After Ahmed Musa’s struggles to adapt last season, the Foxes have brought in Kelechi Iheanacho from Manchester City for £25m. He scored 7 in 28 appearances last season for City, and has proven in his limited game time that he is a top quality poacher. This should help ease the burden on Jamie Vardy, who still managed 13 goals last season despite his struggles in the first half of the campaign. Eldin Jakupovic has also joined from Hull to replace the outgoing Ron-Robert Zieler as backup to Kasper Schmiechel. A worry for Leicester will be if Riyad Mahrez does depart, as they have not brought in a direct replacement for their want away star, however Demarai Gray could step up to replace the Algerian.

Key Player: Wilfred Ndidi. The 20-year-old had a solid start to his Leicester career last year, and didn’t look out of his depth as he tried to replace N’golo Kante. He averaged 4 tackles a game last season (1.1 more than any other Leicester player), and only Yohan Belalouane made more interceptions per game. At such a young age, and being partnered with the experienced Vincete Iborra, Ndidi can only improve this season.

One to Watch: Darnell Johnson. The young defender was a mainstay of the club’s Under-23 side last season, featuring in 17 of their 22 league games. He featured at centre back for England in their successful Under-19s European Championship campaign, and may be ready to make the step up in to the first team.

Last Season: 12th

Predicted Finish: 9th

Leicester sack Ranieri

It was Leicester winning the title that reminded us why we love football, but it is their sacking of Claudio Ranieri that sums up what we hate about it.

ranieri_getty

Image: BBC Sport

When Claudio Ranieri took over at Leicester they were favourites to get relegated. Ranieri had recently failed to win a single game as Greece manager, even losing to the Faroe Islands, whilst Leicester had narrowly avoided the drop under Nigel Pearson. What followed was the most incredible season in Premier League history.

Fast forward nine months, Leicester are again fighting a relegation battle, but crucially sit outside of the drop zone. They reached the last 16 of the FA Cup, and are still very much in their Champions League last 16 tie. By normal standards, Leicester are having a good season. But Ranieri has become the victim of his own success, being judged against an anomaly of a season.

Ranieri was one of the main reasons behind the wealth of goodwill towards Leicester last season. Everyone that wasn’t a Tottenham or an Arsenal fan was willing them to the title, and you would have thought that it had given him at least enough credit with the owners to give him a chance to keep his side in the division. It is a sign of modern football that the man who gave the Foxes their greatest ever success was unceremoniously dispensed of less than a year later.

If you look at Leicester’s season in isolation, then sacking Ranieri was the right decision. The Foxes sit just one point above the drop zone after 25 games, and have not won a Premier League game in 2017. The champions have won just five games all season and seem to be sinking without a trace. The owners may have seen the impact that Marco Silva and Paul Clement have made at Hull and Swansea respectively, and felt that this is what was needed.

But how much of this slump is Ranieri’s fault? Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have simply not turned up this season. Vardy’s goal against Sevilla was his first in 758 minutes of football, and only his seventh of the season. Mahrez has not been the same player since the summer; he looks lethargic and hasn’t shown the same hunger as last year. Wes Morgan and Robert Huth have reverted back to the players that they have been for their entire careers: relegation candidates, not title winners. Obviously the loss of N’Golo Kante has had a major effect, and his work-rate has been the thing that Leicester have been missing. Whether or not it was Kante that inspired this relentlessness is up for debate, but players like Danny Drinkwater have not showed the same levels of application since the Frenchman’s departure.

Have the Leicester owners made the correct decision in sacking Ranieri, or is it a sign that modern football has lost its way? Have your say in the comments, or tweet me @MoodyMan147.