Premier League 2016/17 preview: Leicester City – Confounding, compelling, probably still pretty good, too
With the start of the 2016/17 Premier League season less than two weeks away, Premier League correspondent Richard Jolly provides his previews for each club. Here he looks at champions Leicester City.
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Anyone who tipped Leicester City for the title last season can congratulate themselves on their foresight. They were very much in a minority as Leicester became football’s most unlikely champions.
Leicester confounded predictions last season and may do so again, if only because it is hard to know what to expect.
A side who benefited from great energy levels and continuity of selection will certainly be tested by the added workload of Uefa Champions League football.
Opponents who were too slow to adapt to their counter-attacking gameplan are likely to devote more attention to stopping them. And while Leicester showed great unity last season, they have suffered two crucial defections, with ball-winner extraordinaire N’Golo Kante joining Chelsea and their talent-spotting assistant manager Steve Walsh off to Everton.
There are questions, too, about Riyad Mahrez’s future.
On the plus side, top scorer Jamie Vardy repelled Arsenal’s advances and captain Wes Morgan signed a new deal. Claudio Ranieri appears to have recruited well, Luis Hernandez offering a younger option in the centre of defence and the club record buy Ahmed Musa providing a high-speed, exciting option either as a winger or a striker.
Leicester should again provide one of the stories of the season, whatever the ending is.
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Key Man: Riyad Mahrez
The PFA Player of the Year was extraordinarily productive last season, contributing 17 goals and 11 assists and adding flair to a sometimes workmanlike team. Leicester will look to him to add the extra dimension again.
Pivotal Signing: Nampalys Mendy
The man who has to replace Kante. Much like his fellow Frenchman, Mendy has come from Ligue 1 — Nice in his case — but he is more of a passer, whereas Kante specialised in tackling.
Point to Prove: Gokhan Inler
One of the few to struggle last season, Inler arrived as Leicester’s flagship buy and soon lost his place. While the veteran Swiss would offer an option as an anchorman if Ranieri opted to play three central midfielders, it was telling he was omitted from Leicester’s squad for their pre-season tour.
Crucial Factor: The mentality
Leicester prospered as underdogs who had been written off. They had formidable team spirit. Now, with greater expectation, a trophy in the cabinet, prominent departures and others being coveted, can they keep their greatest strength?
Predicted finish: 8th
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Published: July 31, 2016 04:00 AM