The Mastermind brings you an exclusive guide to every single Premier League team going into the highly anticipated 2017-18 season. From lineups, to transfers to the wackiest of predictions, The Mastermind has you covered. Here is your guide to the champions of two seasons ago, Leicester City.
After becoming the most surprising champions in the history of sport just two seasons ago, last season was a whole lot rougher for Leicester City and Claudio Ranieri. But after the French manager was sacked, the Foxes’ spirits were lifted again and Craig Shakespeare led the club to a 12th place finish and the quarter finals of the UEFA Champions League. Now, the club looks to be on better terms again and could easily force their way back inside of the top ten. Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and Kasper Schmeichel all still remain at the club and on their day have the ability to be some of the best players in the league. The rest of the club are not bad at all either and Shakesperare’s side were only growing in talent with talented youngsters like Kelechi Iheanacho and Harry Maguire joining the club. Leicester City are a brilliant outfit and will easily be able to climb into the top ten this season, a place in the table where they actually belong.
PREDICTED STARTING XI
Craig Shakespeare has made two massive signings this off-season, securing the signatures of Hull City defender Harry Maguire and promising Man City youngster Kelechi Iheanacho. These two are the likeliest additions to Shakespeare’s lineup as once could foresee Huth and Okazaki to be the players that would make way for the summer signings. Riyad Mahrez is the next most interesting talking point about Shakespeare’s lineup as he could very well be on his way out of the club. If that proves to be the case, expect Demarai Gray to have his breakthrough season with the club and establish himself as an instant hero for the Foxes. Wilfred Ndidi will also certainly retain his place in the XI after impressing immensely in the second half of the season and proving so key to Leicester’s rise in form. Wes Morgan could also make way for Maguire instead of Huth but Fuchs and Simpson are also nearly certain to retain their places. Danny Drinkwater, Marc Albrighton and Jamie Vardy will all look to re-establish the deadly kind of chance creation they were conjuring up in 2015-16 while Kasper Schmeichel’s place in goal will never be in doubt.
KEY PLAYER: KASPER SCHMEICHEL
Jamie Vardy will always score goals, Riyad Mahrez’s tricks and skills will trouble any defender and the duo of Wilfried Ndidi and Danny Drinkwater both have the ability to dominate matches. But the man who is truly irreplaceable for Leicester City is Kasper Schmeichel, the Danish goalkeeper who seems to just get better by the game. Schmeichel was the only Leicester player to keep up the same form he managed in 2016-17 from the season before when the club won the title and without him, they probably would have been relegated last year. The 30-year old is an amazing shot-stopper but is also a leader on the pitch and in the dressing room. He often acts as a spokesperson for the club and is just essential to everything they do. Kasper Schmeichel excels in every single aspect of goalkeeping and will be Leicester’s key man in 2017-18.
BREAKTHROUGH PLAYER: WILFRIED NDIDI
Ben Chilwell and Demarai Gray may still need more time but one man who is already at that level, ready to compete at this level on a consistent basis in every single match is Wilfred Ndidi. The 20-year old was arguably even Leicester’s best player from January to May, leading the club’s surge from the relegation zone all the way up to 12th place and dominating the midfield alongside Danny Drinkwater. His defensive qualities are astounding and although not as impressive as N’Golo Kante, it must be remembered that he is six years younger than the Frenchman. The 6’2 Nigerian midfielder just seems to have everything going for him in the game and over the course of the next 10 months could expand his game so greatly that the league’s best come calling. For now, Ndidi will be an essential component to Leicester City Football Club.
WILL RIYAD MAHREZ MOVE ON?
Leicester City do seem open to letting Riyad Mahrez move on to pastures new if the right bid arrives. But fortunately for the club, the right bid just hasn’t come. AS Roma put in a rather pathetic bid of around £20 million before improving that to £32 million. Unsurprisingly both bids were rejected. It’s actually quite interesting that someone like a Barcelona or an Arsenal haven’t come calling this season and perhaps it is as a result of his poor form in the first half of 2016-17. The Algerian midfielder was much brighter after returning from the 2017 African Cup of Nations but ending the season with just 6 goals and 3 assists from 36 Premier League appearances was not what anyone expected him to do. So perhaps the question that should be asked is not ‘Will Riyad Mahrez move on?’ but instead ‘Will anyone actually make a serious bid for him?’. You would think Mahrez will only want to make a move to one of Europe’s most elite clubs but if none of them come calling, Leicester City may just end up being the place where he stays. Regardless of where he plays in 2017-18, this season looks set to be a big one for the wing wizard and he could easily re-establish himself as one of the world’s best players.
- Danny Drinkwater will complete significantly more passes than any other Leicester player each and every game.
- Riyad Mahrez will not move on from Leicester City.
- Jamie Vardy will score 15+ goals, narrowly beating out his strike partner Kelechi Iheanacho who will end the season on 14.
- Drinkwater and Ndidi will both be within the top ten for tackles made and tackles per game.
- Wilfred Ndidi will perform so well that other clubs will already be calling for his services in January. He will however stay on board well into next July.
- Marc Albrighton will be the club’s leading assist-man.
- Leicester City will go out early in both cups, which will benefit their performances in the league.
PREDICTED FINISH: 9TH
Leicester City’s lineup is just far too good to not finish in the top ten this season. They overachieved the season that they won the title and then underachieved last season to finish in 12th; but this season the Foxes look ready to be right where they belong, just inside the top ten. Losing Mahrez wouldn’t even be that big of a deal given his goal and assist tallies of the previous season and the fact that the vibrant and youthful Demarai Gray would be able to come straight into the side as his replacement. Danny Drinkwater and Wilfred Ndidi should not be underestimated in terms of their ability to dominate football matches while Harry Maguire should strengthen Leicester’s back-line in a way that was certainly required. With goal-scoring strikers up front in the form of Iheanacho and Vardy the club should also never have any trouble finding the back of the net. Leicester City will easily finish in the top ten and have a very good season under Craig Shakespeare.