The desire to keep improving is one which permeates any great team, as rather than be content with past accomplishments, they strive to build upon those and secure further success.
Ranieri readying Leicester for the new season
At present that is the aim of Leicester City, who are currently preparing to defend their Premier League title, which they won last season to create the biggest surprise in the history of England’s top flight. That achievement was masterminded by manager Claudio Ranieri, who is working meticulously to try to ensure a continuation of the wonderful development and progression, which characterised Leicester’s 2015-2016 season.
Despite losing his influential midfield enforcer N’Golo Kante to Chelsea for £30m, Ranieri has otherwise strengthened Leicester City’s Championship winning squad by signing a quintet of quality players, who each have the potential to play a vital role for Leicester throughout the forthcoming season, with the club’s outlook for that being extremely positive.
Quality new players improve Foxes squad
Whilst Kante’s departure constitutes a major blow to Leicester, given that the 26-year-old made both considerably more tackles and interceptions than any other player in the Premier League last season, the club have recruited a ready made replacement in the form of Nampalys Mendy.
As well as being intelligent and resilient, the 24-year-old former Nice midfielder is comfortable in possession, whilst there is also a maturity and strong physical edge to his play. Therefore Mendy, who previously played under Ranieri when the 64-year-old Italian was in charge of Monaco, appears ideally equipped to seamlessly settle into Leicester’s midfield alongside Danny Drinkwater, as the Foxes team is set to take on an excitingly fresh look.
Whereas Mendy will help to create that, so too will the club’s new record signing Ahmed Musa, along with the prodigious young Polish talent Bartosz Kaputska and Luis Hernandez, who is a domineering and powerful Spanish centre back.
In recruiting the trio, Ranieri has greatly enhanced the depth of quality in his squad, with competition for places in the Italian’s starting XI set to intensify from that of last season. Ultimately that will act to increase Leicester prospects of enjoying a good season, since players will require to perform to the very best of their ability to earn a regular place in Ranieri’s side.
Affluence of attacking options
Another positive aspect of having assembled a stronger group of players for Ranieri is it affords him the opportunity to operate an efficient squad rotation system, which will be vital to enable Leicester to meet the demands of competing well in both domestic and European competition.
Following the arrival of Musa, for £16m from CSKA Moscow, Leicester now have a quartet of excellent strikers, with the Nigerian forward joining Shinji Okazaki, Leonardo Ulloa and Jamie Vardy, who between them scored 35 Premier League goals last season, which was over half of the 68 Leicester netted in total.
It is altogether likely that Ranieri will opt to play Musa up front alongside Vardy, which has the potential to be a prolific partnership, particularly if the pair receive the type of quality service that Marc Albrighton, Danny Drinkwater and Riyadh Mahrez consistently delivered last season, with the trio providing assists for 26 of Leicester’s Premier League goals.
Although Albrighton and Mahrez are firmly established as Leicester’s first choice wingers, in Bartosz Kaputska Ranieri now has acquired an excellent alternative wide option, since the 19-year-old Polish internationalist is widely regarded as one of the brightest prospects in European football. During Kaputska’s two full seasons with Cracovia, from whom Leicester signed the player for a fee in the region of £7.5m, he scored 8 goals and provided assists for another 12, whilst making 65 appearances.
As such Kaputska possesses the potential to be another rich source of goals for Leicester, just as Mahrez has been after making his Premier League debut for the club on the first day of the 2014-2015 season against Everton. Since then the 25-year-old Algerian internationalist has made 67 appearances, whilst scoring 21 goals and providing assists for another 13.
Continuity and strength in defence
In addition to now being blessed with a wealthy array of superb attack minded players, Leicester’s squad is well stocked in terms of both quality defenders and goalkeepers, consideration of which substantiates the suggestion that the club are set to embark upon another prosperous season.
The central defensive duo of club captain Wes Morgan and Robert Huth, as well as goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel were key members of Ranieri’s title winning side, with the trio having played alongside one another in 45 of Leicester’s last 48 Premier League games, since an enthralling 4-3 defeat away to Tottenham on 21 March 2015.
As such Schmeichel, Morgan and Huth are likely to continue forming the backbone of Leicester’s side, as Ranieri has valued a continuity in selection since being appointed manager in July 2015. As previously indicated however, Ranieri will require to run a calculated squad rotation system, so as to ensure his players remain fresh whilst competing both domestically and in the Champions League.
Given that the German internationalist goalkeeper Ron Robert Zieler, who was recently signed from Hannover 96 and started his career with Manchester United, along with the centre back pair of Daniel Amartey and Luiz Hernandez, are to be important members of Ranieri’s squad, as will the Italian’s first choice full – backs from last season, Christian Fuchs and Danny Simpson.
Providing back-up for the pair are the highly rated 19-year-old left back Ben Chilwell and experienced Richie De Laet, although the former Manchester United player spent the second half of last season on loan at Middlesbrough.
Leicester’s prospects bright for the new season
Therefore given the depth of quality to Leicester’s squad, which is characterised by a wealth of individual talent and unwavering collective unity, the Foxes are entering the new season armoured with all of the weaponry required to build upon the success they achieved last season.
Just as Ranieri’s team excited last season as a result of their ability to play wonderful counter-attacking football, which was facilitated by compact defending, they have the potential to do so once again during the 2016-2017 campaign, with their first game of that being against Manchester United in the Community Shield on 7 August.
That game represents an opportunity for the Foxes to build up before starting the defence of their Premier League title away to Hull six days later, as they look to both delight and excite for a second successive season.