N’Golo Kante is the only player to have left the club so far, and whilst Riyad Mahrez could still make a late switch, Ranieri will be confident that Jamie Vardy, who rejected Arsenal at the beginning of the summer, will remain. The Leicester squad is arguably stronger than it was last season and yet dramatic improvements made by their title rivals still leaves them in a weaker position overall.
Ranieri will persist with a deep-lying four-four-two shape in the coming campaign, which should mean a continuation of the form that saw them concede just 12 goals in their final 21 league matches. Wes Morgan has looked shaky in their heavy friendly defeats to PSG and Barcelona, but pre-season results rarely reflect the season to come.
Leicester play in a very narrow shape when out of possession and instruct their full-backs to remain deep at all times. This strong, compact line of four proved remarkably difficult to pass through last season. Even if the goals dry up, Ranieri’s team should be able to grind out plenty of points. There is no way this team is going down.
Mahrez and Vardy both looked sharp in the Community Shield defeat to Manchester United, and their explosive counter-attacks will be supported this season by some exciting new additions up front. Ahmed Musa, signed for a club-record £16 million from CSKA Moscow and showed his blistering pace with two excellent goals against Barcelona, whilst young winger Bartosz Kapustka could take the Premier League by storm.
In short, Leicester are still a formidable force in defence and with strength-in-depth added over the summer should still be a major threat.
Every Premier League team will be wary of that famous counter-attack, and as such we can expect their opponents to sit a lot deeper this season. This is why the goals began to dry up at the back end of last campaign, and the momentum that carried them over the line is unlikely to be sustained in 2016/17. Expect teams to double up on Mahrez and deny Vardy space in behind, as Manchester United managed so successfully in the Community Shield.
Leicester are a formidable force in defence and with strength-in-depth added over the summer should still be a major threat in the new season.
Furthermore, the added Champions league games are likely to tire out Leicester’s key players, which will somewhat slow down the speed of their counter-attacking approach. Ranieri was able to consistently field the same eleven last year, but he will not be afforded the same luxury when Leicester are playing twice a week.
Their final, most important weakness this season is the loss of N’Golo Kante. Kante’s influence cannot be overstated. His impeccable positional play and boundless defensive energy allowed Leicester to field just two central midfielders and thus carry a greater counter-attacking threat up front, whilst his composure in possession helped instigate their quick breakaways. He is irreplaceable, and could lead to more dropped points in 2016/17.
The biggest obstacle for Leicester is the dramatic improvements made by their rivals. Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United all have new managers with a world-class tactical appreciation of the game. This is likely to both reduce the number of points Ranieri’s men take from the top clubs and also increase the amount of points needed to lift the title.
Leicester’s defensive strength and exciting new signings should see them land comfortably in the top ten, but another title challenge is improbable. But then again, that’s exactly what we said last year: 21.00* is significantly shorter odds to overcome than 5001.
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