Can Leicester City recover after an awful hangover season to once again challenge for the title? No, we didn’t think so either. But might they stave off a relegation battle and sit comfortably mid-table? Absolutely. Bar Kante’s move the Chelsea last year, Leicester have every opportunity to go and tear teams apart on the counter as they did in the 2015-16 season. The question is whether Craig Shakespeare, a man with little to no managerial experience of any kind, can inspire his squad to new heights.
Manager: Craig Shakespeare
First Team: Schmeichel; Fuchs, Huth, Morgan, Simpson; Albrighton, Ndidi, Drinkwater, Mahrez; Vardy, Okazaki.
Leicester have a very settled style of play. It isn’t fancy, but long ball football gets results, as it certainly did for them when they won the league. Will anyone fall for the same trick twice? Not enough to get Leicester to the top of the pile come May, but certainly enough to keep them out of trouble. Wilfred Ndidi seems a perfect replacement for Kante, making four tackles and two interceptions per game, and just generally being a nuisance (read: midfield destroyer).
There has been a lack of investment at Leicester this year, with the exception of Vicente Iborra from Sevilla, who is expected to provide competition in the deep-lying midfield areas. While they will have a slightly lighter load this year, with no European competition, don’t expect them to charge up the table. Craig Shakespeare is the man with probably the least managerial experience in the top tier. Expect him to struggle when the going gets tough for his side.
Mid-table obscurity. Leicester have had no “Plan B” for the best part of Ranieri’s and Shakespeare’s reigns, and don’t expect it to change soon. Nonetheless, it has worked well for them in the past, so don’t write them off as relegation candidates. They haven’t invested enough to challenge at the top end of the table, but don’t be surprised to see them sit comfortably somewhere at the upper end of the bottom half of the table.
Managerial change. When Shakespeare loses his way as a new manager, expect Leicester to change sooner rather than later. While managerial change tends to lead to better performances (at least in the short term), it really is a lottery, and the Foxes could easily end up in a relegation battle that could have been avoided.
Beyond saying that Leicester won’t challenge for the top 7 this year, Top Tiers is reluctant to offer much more advice. They could just as easily finish eighth as end up in a relegation scrap. Our best bet? Somewhere in the middle.
But enough of this speculation. Let’s relive the beginning of Shakespeare’s tenure – that glorious 3-1 win over Liverpool.
Leicester couldn’t retain the Premier League, but can Chelsea? Check out our preview of Chelsea’s upcoming season.