The Foxes’ escape last season was impressive.
With Leicester bottom for so much of the season, Nigel Pearson deserves great credit for inspiring his charges to a winning run, that dragged the Foxes comfortably clear of the relegation zone.
Whilst that escape will have certainly raised Pearson’s stock among the fans, he was extremely unprofessional at times last year, getting into touchline tussles and laying into the press at conferences.
Those incidents must have been in mind of the owners when they dismissed Pearson earlier this summer, but the breaking point was the reprehensible behaviour of the manager’s son, on what was meant to be a goodwill tour of Thailand.
Pearson’s replacement, Claudio Ranieri has hardly been a popular choice, not having managed in England since being sacked by Chelsea. Hardly a shock given Ranieri has little experience of relegation battles and a questionable managerial record.
What Ranieri does have though is a great amount of tactical acumen, and a side with the potential to score goals. Leonardo Ulloa was solid last term, while the tenacious Jamie Vardy’s excellent end of season form saw him earn an England call up.
They have been bolstered by Japanese international Shinji Okazaki, who will be expected to replicate his solid goal return for Main. Ranieri will also hope for more from January signing Andrej Kramarić now he’s had time to acclimatise to life in England.
The difference between survival and relegation is so often an ability to score goals, and Leicester boast an impressive array of forwards.
Riyad Mahrez already looks set to be something of a creative force this term. The Algerian’s influence was limited last season, but Mahrez has the ability to shine at this level, and will be tasked with being the primary supply line this year.
His influence will be especially important given Leicester’s current weakness in midfield. With Esteban Cambiasso leaving for Olympiakos and Matty James set for a long layoff, the Foxes lack options in the middle of the park.
New signing from Caen N’Golo Kanté should add bite once he makes the transition to the English game, but creativity is lacking.
Leicester’s defence has been solidified with the permanent addition of Robert Huth from Stoke, but it will be important than Ranieri continues the strong late season form. The backline cannot slip into the disorganisation that led to many calamitous errors in the early periods of last term.
Kasper Schmeichel may not be the same calibre as his father, but he is a reliable presence in goal.
Key Player: Shinji Okazaki has 43 goals in 93 international appearances, as well as 27 in 65 for Mainz. He has experience in relegation battles in the Bundesliga and brings far more than goals to Leicester.
Full of energy and determination, Okazaki is a modern forward, pressing from the front and never shirking his defensive responsibilities. His tenacity and goal threat will be crucial if Leicester are to consolidate their position in the top flight.
One to watch: Liam Moore is a solid centre half, who featured for England’s Under-21 side this summer, in their disappointing Euros campaign. He struggled for game time last term, both with Leicester and on loan at Brentford, and will hope for more minutes this time out.
Moore will need to improve to make his mark this term, or may find himself further down the pecking order, with Ben Chilwell another impressive defender coming through the Leicester ranks.
Prediction: 16th – It won’t be easy, but Leicester should have enough firepower to pull them clear of relegation. Reinforcements in central midfield and in defence would increase their chances of survival.
Ranieri may need to reign in his tinkering instincts, with Leicester likely to be better with a solid core of consistent starters.