20 Days of the Premier League moves forward with Leicester City, last year’s fifth-place finishers and FA Cup champions.
Leicester was in the top four every week apart from the final two, dropping out of Champions League qualification and ending the season on a bitter note but still qualifying for the Europa League.
A New Member of the “Big Six?”
Leicester’s fifth-place result last season was its second in a row, after they had a similar flame-out of the top four in the 2019-20 season. While fifth is still an impressive finish, especially for a club that was in the championship in 2014, it does not produce the acclaim or financial reward that a Champions League spot does.
Leicester scored the third-most goals in the league last year, trailing only the Manchester Clubs; their defensive record was the worst amongst the top-eight finishers, was average for the league as a whole, and spelled their downfall at the end of the campaign as they conceded 11 goals in their final four matches.
Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho led the club with 27 combined goals in one of the league’s most lethal one-two punches on the frontline; Iheanacho netted 11 of his 12 goals in his final 12 appearances for the club and seemed to take the first step in carrying the torch for Vardy, who is now 34-years old and beginning to lose a step.
Leicester also has a young and talented squad around their two goal-scorers, with Youri Tielemans, Wilfred Ndidi, and Wesley Fofana being a few names that jump out. The Foxes have done an incredible job building their squad and are a perennial threat to finish in the top-four, despite having a less-storied tradition than other teams in the top flight.
Signs of Intent
Leicester made a statement this summer by securing Patson Daka and Boubakary Soumare for a total of $55 million, giving them the necessary depth to compete on multiple fronts; Daka, a natural center-forward, could become a strike partner in a two-striker system or play alone, depending on the situation. His arrival suggests that Vardy’s time could be running short, though he is on a contract that will see him through 2023.
Soumare, a 22-year-old defensive-midfielder from France, will help connect the midfield to the defense in ways that Tielemans cannot; he will play as one of a double-six in a 4-2-3-1 formation, assuming the Foxes use the same structure they did last season.
Christian Fuchs left on a free transfer to the Charlotte Independence this summer, partly due to his age (35) and partly due to the emergence of Luke Thomas at left-back.
Club legend and captain during Leicester’s 2015-16 Premier League conquest, Wes Morgan, retired after last season, and his leadership will be missed in the back-line.
Expectations for Leicester
Leicester City will be expected to finish inside the top-four for the first time in five seasons after they choked their last two chances; they will be against stiff competition in Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, and Chelsea, but with Brendan Rodgers at the helm and an even more talented and expansive squad under his control, they should be up for the challenge.
A majority of the club’s players are moving into their prime years, and with their experience and ability, it is hard to produce a list of teams that are definitively better than them.
Watch for Leicester to right its wrongs and finish with Champions League qualification, perhaps even challenging for the title.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.