Despite going top of the table last Christmas, not many considered Leicester City’s title winning prospects one worth being paid any iota of attention. Given that the reverse was the case just 365 days ago with the team sitting on 20th, many considered their new found opportunity a fluke. 5 months afterwards, they defied all odds by lifting the coveted title. Next month, the new season commences and many believe the King Power outfit will fade into oblivion. But given the happenings in the club, it doesn’t look like that will be happening.
Can they successfully defend the title? Maybe not, but nobody gave them a chance few months ago. However, mounting a strong title challenge is something they will be capable of doing. Especially if they are able to keep hold of Riyad Mahrez. Losing N’golo Kante to Chelsea is definitely a heavy blow no doubt, and they might never be able to replace the France international defensive midfielder, but if they are able to hold on to the duo of Mahrez and Vardy, then they probably have a shot at a top four finish.
Claudio Rainieri has made a couple of additions to his squad, notably former CSKA Moscow widesman, Ahmed Musa arriving for a club record of £16million. The Nigeria international forward is able to play on both flanks and can also be deployed as a striker. The initial plan might have been to see him come in as a Jamie Vardy understudy, but given that the future of Mahrez is in serious doubts, Musa will probably get a starting shirt to himself by the left. The 23-year-old is of course not in the same class as the Algerian, but with Champions League experience and Russian League titles to his name, he can definitely step up to his level.
The arrival of former Nice defensive midfielder, Nampalys Mendy has also been seen as the club’s attempt to replace Kante. This was even before the tough-tackling player was lured away by Antonio Conte. Mendy is a former prodigy of Rainieri at Monaco, and the coach isn’t a stranger to his abilities. However, they are still below par compared to Kante’s, a reality the Italian tactician has quickly pointed out. Drinkwater enjoyed a lot of protection due to Kante’s work rate that makes him visible everywhere on the pitch. With that missing, the England international might suffer a lot next season without his partner. Only that, that eventually may not be the case due to the coach’s brilliance.
Having to play in Europe will also tell on the players’ physical fitness, and that will be another factor to help decide their fate at home. Seems the club have also prepared for that by bringing in defender, Luis Hernandez, goalkeeper, Ron-Robert Zieler and striker, Raul Uche. That will make squad rotation the order of the day, and that is going to be their biggest test ever; how up to 18 players of the squad can stick to a playing style and deliver the results. Is it possible? Only time will tell, but from the look of things, Leicester City aren’t fading away anytime soon. They are here to stay. Underrate them at your peril.