Might be posted elsewhere..... Seems a fair assessment.
Premier League 2019‑20 preview No 9: Leicester City
Premier League 2019-20 previews
Premier League 2019‑20 preview No 9: Leicester City
The captures of Ayoze Pérez and Youri Tielemans have the potential to lift Brendan Rodgers’ buoyant side up another level
Guardian writers’ predicted position: 7th (NB: this is not necessarily Paul Doyle’s prediction but the average of our writers’ tips)
Last season’s position: 9th
Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker): 250-1
It is advancing nicely, Leicester City’s plan to evolve from blue sky champions into contenders for all seasons. No one expects the upcoming campaign to yield a repeat of the 2016 title bonanza but Brendan Rodgers’ team could prove to be better than the league-winning one even without achieving as much. Leicester have a squad full of energy, invention and versatility, and they should threaten the elite this season no matter what becomes of Harry Maguire.
Rodgers has the tools and knowhow to build on the useful work done by his predecessor, Claude Puel. The Frenchman began Leicester’s transition from counterattacking sensations to slick all-rounders but he did not have the personality or personnel to complete it. Rodgers is better armed. For a start, he may well have found the solution to the riddle that has stumped Leicester for much of the past three seasons: what to do when opponents neutralise Jamie Vardy by depriving him of space?
The answer is to give Vardy better support while also developing an attack with more prongs. Ayoze Pérez, signed from Newcastle for £30m, is ideally suited to succeeding where players such as Kelechi Iheanacho and Islam Slimani have failed. Pérez gives Rodgers precious options because he can play either as a partner for Vardy or as a winger; in either role he is skilful and clever enough to link play and deadly enough to finish most chances. Think of him as a belated upgrade on dear Shinji Okazaki, with far more goals plus occasional razzle-dazzle on the wing.
Leicester’s other big summer signing is likely to prove even more valuable. Youri Tielemans thrived after being lured on loan by Puel in January and his decision to commit permanently to Leicester is a powerful endorsement and driver of the club’s hopes under Rodgers. If the Belgian, 22, can consistently produce the form he showed in a dozen league games last season, then Leicester will be uplifted by one of the finest playmakers in the Premier League.
Tielemans’ vision and passing can elevate Leicester to a higher level, enabling them to unhinge defences with faster and less predictable attacks. And opponents dare not over-commit to stifling him because doing so would give more freedom to Leicester’s other mischief-makers, particularly James Maddison or any of the team’s bevy of dangerous wide players, whether that be Pérez, the underrated Marc Albrighton (challenge: without even considering his other qualities, name five Premier League players who cross the ball better than Albrighton) or Harvey Barnes, a 21-year-old who can be expected to shred many defences and to develop more composure in front of goal (mind you, something similar was said about Demarai Gray a year ago and he is one of the few young players at Leicester who has not progressed as hoped – but, at 23, he still has time. This is a big season for him.) Rodgers wants to strengthen that armoury by signing another offensive midfielder.
The attackers Rodgers deploys, and in whichever formation, are likely to enjoy regular support from two of the best full-backs in the Premier League, Ben Chilwell and Ricardo Pereira.
Leicester’s creative talents should revel on the stage secured for them by an excellent midfield linchpin, Wilfried Ndidi, who will be assisted when required by Hamza Choudhury, another young player nurtured under Puel who could flourish even more under Rodgers. In collective terms, at least, the Northern Irishman has shown signs of giving Leicester the cohesion, intensity and tempo that Puel said he was working towards but did not reach regularly.
Leicester were often wasteful last season (Opta, for what it is worth, tell us they were a top-six team in terms of chances created, averaging 13.6 per match – or 14 after the arrival of Rodgers – compared with Arsenal’s 12.3). Everything suggests that this term they are are going to create and convert far more chances.
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But how well will they defend? That depends partly on how they deal with the Maguire fandango. It would obviously be handier for Leicester not to have to replace the England centre-back on the eve of the campaign. He was not at his best last season but was highly influential, a useful carrier and distributor of the ball as well as a formidable stopper whose aerial power was one of the reasons why Leicester conceded fewer goals from set pieces than any other team in the league. But his loss could be mitigated by a smart purchase – the interest in Lewis Dunk, for example, is sensible, as, without being as nimble on the ball as Maguire, the Brighton player is solid. But he, or whoever Leicester signed, would have to find his feet quickly.
Indeed, there is a case for Leicester signing another centre-back even if Maguire stays but the club seems to be counting on the classy Jonny Evans avoiding injuries, the 35-year-old Wes Morgan telling Father Time to back off, or Caglar Soyuncu or Filip Benkovic fulfilling their uncertain potential. In goal, at least, there are no doubts: Danny Ward is a sound deputy to the reliable Kasper Schmeichel.
Last May Leicester would have introduced a dramatic twist into the title race if not for a wild miss by Iheanacho at Manchester City. By next May they could have really shaken up the top clubs. We will soon have a clearer idea of how likely they are to do that, as their first eight matches include jousts with Wolves, Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool, all of whom finished above them last season and all of whom, unlike Leicester, must contend with European action on top domestic duties this term.