A Little Bit of History…
They were the story heard around the world, creating headlines in every country, in every language, that made every underdog in every sport believe that it can happen. The Leicester City miracle of the 2015/16 season, when they won the Premier League title as 5000/1 outsiders, is one of the greatest sporting stories in history. By the end of that remarkable season, even neutrals (such as myself) were cheering them over the finish line. It was a magical, romantic story, lifted straight from the screenplay of a Disney movie. The name Leicester City would be immortalised alongside other eminent English league champions such as Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.
But after rapture came a reality check.
The following season was a major disappointment for the defending champions, as they failed to find the same form that had carried them to glory. With the loss of the resplendent N’Golo Kanté to Chelsea, Leicester City were struggling to gain any traction. An opening day loss to newly promoted Hull City set an ominous tone. Remarkably, title-winning manager Claudio Ranieri was sacked in February 2017 with the team hovering above the relegation zone, fighting to keep its head above water. The club were in a state of flux.
They rallied to end the season in an ok-ish 12th place, but the challenges would continue. A quick turnover of managers and two more mid-table finishes made it appear that any momentum the title win had given Leicester had dissipated. And, on 27th October 2018, the club lost their beloved owner, Thai businessman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, in a tragic helicopter crash that also claimed the lives of four others, including the pilot.
But after such a challenging period, the good times are back at the King Power Stadium. With Vichai’s son Aiyawatt now at the helm, and the club managed by former Liverpool and Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers (below), Leicester City look the most likely to challenge the big four for a regular spot in the Champions League places, and perhaps even another shot at the Premier League title.
The Season Ahead…
The stage is set and the pieces are in place for Leicester City to challenge for a top four finish, where the glory and riches of the Champions League await. The big problem is that we’ve been here before. In the last two seasons, Leicester have been in the top four on the last day of the season, only to lose their final match and finish fifth. To go this far and fall at the final hurdle, and to do it twice, is a negative against Brendan Rogers.
But the Foxes are well placed to challenge this season. An impressive performance and win in the season opening Charity Shield against Manchester City has raised expectation. Leicester have carefully and quietly assembled a hugely impressive squad, filled with talented, creative players going forward, and seem solid at the back. Kasper Schmeichel is one of the top goalkeepers in the league, capable of pulling off outstanding saves (just like his dad). Çağlar Söyüncü has filled the hole left by Harry Maguire, without putting a foot wrong.
In Harvey Barnes, Youri Tielemans, James Maddison (below), they have a dynamic trio of players at the heart of the midfield, and the evergreen Jamie Vardy leads the frontline, alongside a resurgent Kelechi Iheanacho.
The big transfer for LCFC so far has been striker Patson Daka, who the club have signed from Red Bull Salzburg for around $30 million. The 22-year-old Zambia international has drawn comparisons to Sadio Mane, which is high praise indeed. He’ll provide additional attacking options for the Foxes, since the 34-year-old Vardy can’t play forever.
For Leicester, the big question will be whether they can keep hold of their most talented players. Over the last three seasons, they’ve sold Riyad Mahrez, Harry Maguire and Ben Chilwell, and rumours persist that Arsenal have James Maddison in their sights. If Leicester are going to be considered a serious challenger going forward, the must keep their top stars.
It has been confirmed that defender Wesley Fofana will not play again until 2022, after breaking his leg in a pre-season friendly with Villarreal.
Location Leicester, Leicestershire
Stadium King Power Stadium (32,261 capacity)
20/21 Final League Position 5th
Opening Game of 21/22 Season home to Wolverhampton Wanderers
21/22 Predicted Final League Position 4th
It’ll be third time the charm for this impressive club; a place in the top four beckons. If they can keep adding talented players to the squad, and keep top stars like Maddison, this should be the season that Leicester City take a huge step forward into the Champions League places.