It’s taken a while but they’ve finally made it back… Many will recall the heart breaking Championship Playoff Semi-final the season before last where Anthony Knockaert missed a penalty with 30 seconds left that would have won them the game and put them into the Final, only for Watford to run the length of the pitch and score themselves. Putting Leicester out… Fortunately for their supporters, they made it back at the first opportunity, and now the hard work starts!
Owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the 11th richest person in Thailand who took over in August of 2010, has targeted the club to be amongst the top 5 within 3 years, and has promised 10 billion to make it happen (that’s in Thai Baht, think 180 million pounds…). Ambitious? If that’s true, then there could be some fireworks ahead. They’ve already signed 4 players since they were promoted, but all were on free transfers… So that leaves… 180 million to spend! The problem they will have is that they will struggle to attract many truly big names to venture over to play for them without paying way over the odds, so they have to be smarter. And in Gaffer Nigel Pearson, they have smarter. It will interesting to see how long he lasts…
As with all promoted teams I think it’s far too risky to be picking up their defenders and keepers for our FPL teams immediately. Although the jump from the Championship to the lower reaches of the EPL isn’t quite as big as it’s made out (in my humble opinion), the jump up to the higher placed teams is massive and getting bigger with every Sky cheque that lobs up in EPL mailboxes during the offseason. Pearson do have this mob playing very well at the back however, so they are at least in with a shout of some cleansheets at home. If that happens, much will rely on one of the best young keepers in the world, Kasper Schmeichel (4.5m). You might have heard of his old man? Leicester have done really well to keep him on their books in recent times and will be looking for him to have some massive games. He’s super cheap, so he could be a handy bench player for us. In front of him will be captain Wes Morgan (4.5m) and probably Matthew Upson if he’s fit or Liam Moore when he’s not (both 4.0m). None of them will score you a heap of points unless they go on a cleansheet bender. Rolling up the left flank will be Jeff Schlupp or Paul Konchesky and down the right, Richie De Laet (all 4.5m). Although logic suggests these three have more chance of gathering some attacking points, they fit in the same boat as they defensive partners and should be a wait and see proposition.
This is where I think some value is to be had, but is largely dependant on what formation they come out to play with. Last season they ran with the tried and true lower league 4-4-2 but that isn’t how the EPL is generally played so you’d think they’d drop a striker back. Whatever happens, they’ll have Danny Drinkwater (5.5m) and Matty James (4.5m) patrolling the centre. James is a very good young midfielder but hasn’t got a great record of goals or assists, Drinkwater on the other hand does. The man with the most English name in the world popped up with 8 goals last season from his 49 games so keep an eye on him, he could be a fair M5. Down the wings they’ll have the impressive Anthony Knockaert (5.5m) and new signing Marc Albrighton (4.5m) will fit in there somewhere too. Knockaert is another that is be pretty cheap, and could be in the running for our M5 spot too. He’s the type of player that could make a name for himself this season. Albrighton is an interesting case. He’s shown glimpses since breaking into the Villa first team a few years back, but injury has cruelled him recently and he’ll be looking to get his career back on track. Wait and see… Riyad Mahrez (5.0m) is another that will provide us some thought down the left flank, but again much depends on formations.
It’s up top that Leicester really shone last season. In David Nugent (22 goals from 51, plus 13 assists – 5.5m) and Jamie Vardy (16 goals from 41 – 5.0m) they have a fantastic strike partnership, but one that will have to improve again to make it with the big boys. I see Vardy as an important cog in this team. He has a massive workrate and blinding pace. If he’s able to provide that defensive pressure in the final third, then they can indeed play 2 up front and it will allow Nugent to do his thing. If not, then they’ll have to take one out and have an extra body in midfield, particularly away from home. That may lead to Vardy popping up on the left wing, where he’s more than capable. I can’t recommend either in our teams, but if pushed then Nugent will probably edge ahead due to being on penalty duties. That said, his record in the EPL is utterly woeful. 64 games for 9 goals. This will be his very last chance to show what he can do…
Leicester City. Tick. To be honest, there’s not a hell of a lot to excite me here, but definitely keep an eye on their early season defensive form at home and how their midfield sets up. If they play 5, then one of the central players will have to take an offensive mindset and could be a point scorer (Drinkwater?). There’s been chatter about Nugent but I won’t be touching him with your 10 foot pole. Also, look out for if they spend any of their reported warchest… There haven’t been many big names linked with them thus far, but you never know in this crazy league.