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Leicester City: 2017/18 Premier League Season Preview

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Leicester

Following their staggering title win in 2015/16, nobody really knew what to expect from Leicester City last season.

The kings of unpredictability started competently enough, at home at least, but a downturn in results in the late autumn and Christmas period left them teetering on the edge of the bottom three when Claudio Ranieri was sacked, concluding a dramatic fall from grace for the Italian.

But in came Craig Shakespeare, his assistant, on a temporary basis to turn around their tragedy of a season. Shakespeare became the first English manager in the Premier League era to win his first five games in charge as Leicester escaped the threat of relegation and finished the season in a respectable 12th place. Reaching the Champions League quarter-finals, the best showing of any Premier League team was the real highlight, though.

Now Shakespeare has been given the chance to take the job on a permanent basis and starts his first full season as a full-time manager with the aim of returning Leicester to the top half of the table. The squad is talented enough, but with the Foxes, who knows?

How has their summer gone?

Leicester’s business has been thoroughly positive so far this summer.

Although two of their stars of the title winning season, Danny Drinkwater and Riyad Mahrez continue to be linked with moves away, Leicester have both added quality in these positions and have a number of talented players waiting to show what they can do.

Harry Maguire has come in from Hull City to add some youth to an ageing back line, while Vicente Iborra from Sevilla represents a classy capture in the centre of midfield. For a fee believed to be around £10.5 million, he will be seen as a bargain should Drinkwater depart.

Up front, Leicester have opted spent big to sign 20-year-old Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho from Manchester City for a fee of £25 million. The youngster scored 21 goals in 64 appearances for City, most of which came as a substitute, so he could prove to be a bargain in today’s inflated market.

Their pre-season has been packed full of matches, starting in Hong Kong where they lost the Asia Trophy final to Liverpool, before a series of friendlies back in England.

Defeats to Wolves and Burton Albion were not ideal preparation, but a win over Borussia Mönchengladbach in their final friendly sees them go into the season in good stead.

Manager: Craig Shakespeare

Still very little is known about Craig Shakespeare as he embarks on his first full season as a manager.

He rejuvenated the Foxes last season by reintroducing the tactics employed by Ranieri in the title winning season, but it is yet to be seen how he will adapt to a sticky spell or if teams sit back to counter the pace of Jamie Vardy and force Leicester to play.

However, he showed a lot of promise at the helm of the club last season and the club may even push for Europe should his win ratio remain as high as last year.

How could the Foxes line-up this season?

Who is Leicester’s best fantasy football option?

There is still plenty of guesswork in deciding how Leicester will line up next season with the likes of Christian Fuchs, Robert Huth and Wes Morgan getting older and slower in defence and Mahrez and Drinkwater potentially heading for the exit, so the best option may be further up the field.

Demarai Gray and Marc Albrighton could both prove to be bargains at 5.5m, but which one starts regularly is yet to be known.

However, Iheanacho should get plenty of game time and at 7.0m, he is cheap for a striker. He will score goals, so he is certainly worth a punt.

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 Premier League Verdict

The only thing you can really predict with confidence about Leicester is that they will be unpredictable, but their squad has enough talent to make the top half, even if Mahrez and Drinkwater do leave.

There are plenty of players who under performed last season with a point to prove, namely Ahmed Musa, Islam Sliman and Nampalys Mendy, who spent much of his season on the treatment table, as well as several talented youngsters such as Demarai Gray and Ben Chilwell who will be expected to step up.

Wilfried Ndidi should go from strength to strength with his energy in midfield and a front two of Iheanacho and Vardy has enough pace and skill to frighten any defence in the league.

A repeat of 2015/16 is a very long shot, but the Foxes will be confident of an improvement of last season.

Leicester City

Who is Leicester City’s new signing, Ricardo Pereira?

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Photo: Getty Images.

He may come to the Premier League as a regular in a league winning side set to travel to the World Cup as a Champions League regular, but few had heard of Porto full-back Ricardo Pereira when it was announced that terms have been agreed for him to join Leicester City.

The deal was confirmed on the club’s official website as the 24-year-old put pen to paper on a five year contract which will be confirmed on June 9th, when the international transfer window opens.

Yet, those who know Pereira well will not be surprised. The right-back was Claude Puel’s undisputed first choice at OGC Nice during his spell in France and was one of the first names on the current Leicester boss’ team-sheet week in, week out.

(Photo credit should read FRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty Images)

Then, Pereira was deployed as both a right-back and a left-back, with his versatility being one of his biggest strengths in the eyes of Puel. Since then, he has added another dimension to his game, improving his attacking play and featuring in a more advanced role in midfield and even as a forward on the right hand side for Porto.

The Portuguese side have relied on the number 21 as they returned to the top of Liga NOS this season and his fine form has earned him a spot in his national team, adding to his two caps from 2015 with another in November and then being selected ahead of Barcelona’s Nelson Semedo for Fernando Santos’ World Cup squad to travel to Russia.

A strong dribbler who likes to overlap down the flank, he is a clear upgrade on Danny Simpson provided he can rapidly adapt to the pace and physicality of the Premier League.

With a WhoScored rating of 7.59 in 2017/18, Pereira is one of the most highly rated full-backs in Europe and possessed some of the best statistical returns in the world in his position. His signing for the Foxes represents a step in the right direction in the club’s quest to return to European football.

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Leicester City

Leicester City will hope Kelechi Iheanacho can live up to price-tag next season

The Nigerian striker still has to prove himself at Leicester City.

Mathew Coull

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Leicester City played out a scintillating final game of the season against Tottenham Hotspur this weekend, losing 5-4 at Wembley in a game where defending appeared to be abandoned. One of the highlights of the game was a magnificent strike from Leicester striker Kelechi Iheanacho. He picked up the ball from 25 yards out and fired a rasping left-footed drive into the top corner of Hugo Lloris’ goal. It was, simply unstoppable.

For Leicester fans, it was probably just as frustrating as it was pulsating to see this strike go in. Because every Foxes fan is acutely aware that this is what the Nigerian is capable of, yet he struggles to do it on a regular basis.

(Photo by Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images)

In August last year, Leicester beat off a host of competition to sign the striker from Manchester City. According to ESPN, the Nigerian set the club back £25 million. But it was an investment in what is clear talent.

The former wonderkid had shown in his brief appearances for Manchester City and with the Nigeria senior team that he is a ruthless finisher in front of goal. If given chances, surely he would be a lethal Premier League striker.

But his application is often not at the right level. This season, Iheanacho managed just three goals in 21 Premier League appearances.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Yet this strike against Tottenham highlighted the fact Leicester have a potential star on their hands. He was brilliant in the Foxes FA Cup campaign, with four goals in five games. This summer he will lead the line for Nigeria at the World Cup and has a fine record with the Super Eagles.

Leicester paid £25 million for a player they hope can become a top talent. Incidentally, the 21-year-old’s middle name is ‘Promise’. If he can deliver on that next season, Leicester’s investment will not be in vain.

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Does Arsenal win justify stay for Claude Puel at Leicester?

Josh Kerr

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Claude Puel
Photo: Getty Images

Claude Puel helped Leicester secure their first win over Arsenal in 24-years on Wednesday night to round off their home campaign in spectacular fashion.

However, does the win do enough to justify why the Frenchman should stay at King Power for next season?

The Foxes ended a miserable run of five games without a win and six at the King Power Stadium by inflicting a first-ever defeat to the Gunners.

The victory, courtesy of goals from Kelechi Iheanacho, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, ensured Puel’s side now cannot finish lower than ninth.

After the win, Puel dedicated the final home game of the season to his Leicester supporters, despite many fans wanting a change of management in the East Midlands.

Puel took over from Leicester with the Foxes sitting third from the bottom – a position that had resulted in the sacking of Craig Shakespeare back in October.

Puel was a breath of fresh air for the former Premier League champions and got them quickly flying up the league table.

However, his poor form in recent weeks has also seen fans unhappy with his unimaginative style of play, and some have called for their fourth managerial change in just over a year.

The current Leicester boss found himself in an almost identical position last season when he was sacked by Southampton on the final day of the season, despite guiding the team to an impressive 8th place finish.

It comes as a cruel reminder to Puel that wins just aren’t enough in the modern game. Fans still want to see their team playing a positive brand of football that lifts them off their seats each weekend.

Puel’s obsession with results had clearly upset the Leicester dressing room, who looked jaded and unimpressed with the manager’s tactics in recent weeks, but Wednesday’s win may inspire the board to keep the 56-year-old in charge of the Foxes for next season.

Leicester can’t afford to keep going through managers and Puel’s style may not be the most imaginative, but the former Saints manager has dragged them up the table dramatically when they looked a serious contender for the drop just months ago.

The supporters need only look to Burnley for inspiration, with the Clarets recording a stunning seventh place finish that has secured them European football for next season.

Puel has an 8th and 9th place finish on his managerial CV, and supporters should be delighted with the progress made since his appointment back in October.

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