After a truly wonderful season, where Leicester City now sit seven points clear of nearest title rivals Tottenham Hotspur after a 1-0 victory over Southampton, the Foxes look set to shock the footballing world and win the Premier League. Leicester’s compact and hard-to-break-down 4-4-2 (to read further on this, take a look at my LCFC team analysis) has been very impressive and one of the key factors behind their success this season. Manager Claudio Ranieri seems to have found the perfect 11 players to fit into the system, though when the time comes next season when Leicester are competing in the Champions League as well as the Premier League, Ranieri will be forced to rotate his team a bit more, meaning the squad will need a few new additions this summer.
Owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha seems willing to back the club with a fair wad of cash. I expect Leicester’s recruitment team to be given around £50milliom to spend this summer. Head of Recruitment Steve Walsh will work closely will with Head Scout David Mills in order to build as strong a squad as possible, as cost-effectively as possible. The pair will continue the hunt for another rough diamond like N’Golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez or Jamie Vardy from lower leagues, though it is likely that Leicester will look to be buying more established players this summer, ahead of their competitive next year.
Though purchasing the right players is an extremely important task, keeping hold of key, almost irreplaceable players such as Kante, Mahrez and Kasper Schmeichel is just as important if Leicester are to remain as strong next season. Over the summer months, big offers from European big boys are likely to come in for these players but Leicester must fight tooth and nail to keep hold of these players, as replacing them with players just as good will be a difficult enough task, especially doing so at a suitable price.
In order to analyse the squad and determine areas that Leicester must improve and look to bid on in the upcoming transfer market, I will be going through each position and looking at the current options available, and whether or not they need upgraded upon.
One area Leicester are very well equipped both long and short term is in goals. In Kasper Schmeichel, the Foxes have arguably one of the best goalkeepers in Europe, as well as the most underrated in England. The Danish ‘keeper’s distribution is perfectly suited to Leicester direct style, and his shot stopping abilities are unquestionable.
In Mark Schwarezer and Ben Hamer, Leicester have two relaible back-ups to Schmeichel, should he pick up an injury. In their under 21 squad, Leicester possess Johnny Maddison and Daniel Iversen, who are supposed to be two of the best goalkeeper’s in their age group.
The centre-back position is somewhere Leicester have excelled this season, though first choice Robert Huth and Wes Morgan perhaps benefit too heavily from their side’s strong defensive system. The pair have had outstanding seasons, and Morgan will go down as a hero should he lift the Premier League title, yet a replacement for either seems sensible. Before spending unnecessary cash, Leicester will consider their current squad members obviously, though Liam Moore, despite being a promising young defender, hasn’t seen as much game time as he’d like, and looks set to leave this summer, while Marcin Wasilewski proved in his appearance against Arsenal that he isn’t up to the required standard to start for this team. Next to be analysed will be Daniel Amartey. The Ghanian joined Leicester in January and although he hasn’t played lots yet, he has looked solid in his few appearances and their is certainly lots of promise for him. Amartey is primarily a defensive central-midfielder, though his attributes suggest he may evolve into centre-back as his career goes on.
After analysis, it’s clear that an addition to the centre-back position would be beneficial to Leicester. Possible targets include Walter Samuel from Basel who would offer invaluable experience, as well as fitting the profile of Ranieri’s central defender very well, Victor Lindelof, a promising centre-back from Benfica, Shawcross from Stoke and Ezequiel Garay, Zenit, as well as a few others.
The weakest area of Leicester’s team this season has been at right-back. Although Danny Simpson seems to have matured and improved since his silly red card, which cost Leicester the game at Arsenal, he still remains the weakest player in Leicester side. The man who filled in during Simpson’s suspension, Amartey, is defensively sound and does the basic task required at right-back, this isn’t predominantly his position, and he is of far more use elsewhere. The same goes for Wasilewski as what was said of him in the centre-back position.
The signing of a competent right-back would massively boost Leicester and for that reason, it will probably be a priority to sign a RB over summer. The player must be defensively adept in order to fit into the strict defensive system, though being mobile and able to overlap Mahrez when he cuts inside is also needed. Options are as follows:
Ricardo van Rhijn-Ajax
Julian Korb-Borussia Monchengladbach
The best option when taking ability and price into account is probably either van Rhijn or Trippier. Although Flanagan on loan would be ideal as he has Champions League experience as well as being a very good defender, Jurgen Klopp seems keen on keeping Flanagan near the starting 11 making a loan move unlikely at the moment. Tyias Browning is a possibility as he seems ready for some first team football, though doesn’t seem to be near it at Everton. He is a solid and physically outstanding young defender who could provide cover at both right-back and centre-back. Browning would see quite a lot of action in the FA Cup and League Cup, though there would be a couple of negatives; 1)Browning probably isn’t ready to start every game and another RB would be needed alongside him, meaning extra(perhaps unnecessary)money would be being spent. 2)Everton may command a decent fee as he is one of their best young talents.
Another position Leicester are well equipped in is left-back. Christian Fuchs was an excellent acquisition in summer, the Austrian is a great fit into the system and offers Champions League experience which is a bonus. Ben Chilwell is a young full-back who is currently attracting interest from the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool after his handful of promising appearances for Leicester this season. Chilwell is one who Leicester will be looking to hold onto as he will smoothly take over from Fuchs when the time is right. As well as the current two ahead of him, Jeffrey Schlupp can provide cover at LB, confirming no additions will be needed for left-back.
Perhaps the most impressive area of Leicester team this season has been the centre of midfield. N’Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater have excelled this campaign and have been two of the league’s best players throughout the season. The pairing are a nice mix, as they are both just as competent in defence as attack. Kante’s engine compliments Drinkwater’s better range of passing, which forms a nice midfield paring.
Although the two have been almost faultless all season, perhaps an upgrade on Drinkwater would be wise as he probably isn’t Champions a League quality. Leicester must also consider potential replacements for Kante, should he unfortunately leave the club. Possible successors to Drinkwater’s role include Stefan Defour, Thomas Partey and Jordan Rossiter while a couple of candidates to replace Kante are Corentin Tolisso and Thulani Serero.
Another outstanding player this season has been Riyad Mahrez. The Algerian has perhaps been the best player in the Premier League this season, and is a strong candidate for PFA Player of the Season. With this naturally comes interest from bigger clubs, and rumours of bids from Barcelona and PSG won’t seem to go after following the beginning of them in January. Mahrez is one player who Leicester must battle to keep a hold of, as replacing him at a suitable price will be far from easy.
Demarai Gray is a young English talent who has a good future ahead of him, whether it’s at Leicester or elsewhere. The winger is a different player to Mahrez, though if the Algerian wasn’t available, Gray would be more than capable of filling in. If Mahrez was to leave this summer, Leicester may not have to look any further than their current squad for a replacement, Demarai Gray.
Claudio Ranieri has done well to get the best out Marc Albrighton, who has had a very consistent season. The traditional winger has been very good on the left of midfield both when his team have the ball and when they don’t. Despite this, Albrighton is one of Leicester’s poorer players and a new signing to grapple with the best full-backs in Europe wouldn’t go amiss.
The new signing must be a traditional winger, rather than a wide playmaker like Mahrez, as it is important to have balance on either flank. The signing must also be a clear upgrade on Albrighton, as back-up isn’t needed with Gray and Schlupp already providing that. Targets include Nathan Redmond and Joel Campbell.
Perhaps the most difficult position to judge whether or not Leicester need additions. Firstly, Jamie Vardy has had an unbelievable season but at the age of 30 his form is more than likely to decline, and he will surely not be able to play three games a week at his age next season. Similarly to Vardy, Shinji Okazaki has had a brilliant season but his age suggests he will decline soon.
Strength-in-depth is something Leicester have in the forwards department, which is always a positive. Leonardo Ulloa has been a good substitute to have, while Jeffrey Schlupp is always on hand to play anywhere down the left, left striker included. An interesting one is Andrej Kramaric. The big Croatian struggled after a promising start to his career at the King Power Stadium, though has impressed in a loan spell at Hoffenheim in the past few months. Ideally, Kramaric would remain at the club, making a few appearances here and there until he proved himself able to start, or not. This probably won’t be possible though, as Kramaric is likely to want to leave the club in summer unless he is a guaranteed starter next season, which is highly unlikely.
Another position where a signing isn’t hugely necessary but would boost the side largely.
The most important signing in my opinion is a right-back, although another key addition is a centre-back as having just two or three suitable centre-backs isn’t anywhere near enough to remain competitive in more than competition. The signing of Ricardo van Rhijn from Ajax seems a good one, especially considering Ajax aren’t likely to command to large a few, probably nothing over £15m.
Van Rhijn would be a great signing as he would be the defensively sound right-back Leicester require for their defensive system, as well as being a good athlete, making him able to overlap Manrez when required. Although the attacking side of his game isn’t fantastic, Van Rhijn’s defensive abilities make him the ideal right-back for this team. Another major positive of the signing of the Dutch defender would be the fact that he is just as competent on the right or in the centre of defence. This would mean Leicester wouldn’t have to fork out on another back-up centre-back, as if Huth or Morgan were unavailable for a match, or their form simply dipped, Van Rhijn could move centrally, with Danny Simpson regaining his place at right-back.
If Leicester went into January requiring a centre-back being added to the squad, this wouldn’t be too much of a problem, as Huth or Morgan would probably be willing the time had come to be replaced.
In central-midfield, I would trust Drinkwater to be a starter for at least one more season(unless his form dips throughout next season)as in the last month or two, he has proven that his season hasn’t been lucky and that he is a brilliant central-midfielder in the right system. If N’Golo Kante was to leave the club, then Leicester will probably be demanding a fee over over £25m, which would then give them plenty of money to reinvest. His replacement should be a similar type of player, this man Corentin Tolisso. Although Tolisso is a target for bigger clubs such as Liverpool, if Leicester were to make the right offer to him and to Lyon, they would probably be able to lure him to the King Power Stadium, due to guaranteed Champions League football. This hopefully isn’t necessary though, as Leicester will be looking to keep hold of Kante.
Despite this, Gokhan Inler looks set to leave the club in summer, while Matty James won’t be ready for such a high standard of football after so long out, making a loan spell ideal for him. This will make the signing of a back-up central-midfielder pretty necessary. With Aston Villa going to down to the Championship, Idrissa Gueye, one of the few positives from Villa disastrous season, will be available at a cut-price. Leicester should offer Villa around £8m for Gueye, who would be a nice fit to Ranieri’s system if called upon. If injuries hit Leicester hard towards the January period, Jordan Rossiter of Liverpool would be a good loan signing for the remaining months of the season, even just as back-up.
If disaster was to strike and Riyad Mahrez left the club this summer, an expensive replacement would be almost necessary. Mahrez has been one of the few sources of creativity for Leicester this season, and if that was taken away, the Foxes would have to act quickly to find a new source. Although it may seem realistic, with the £30m Leicester would receive for Mahrez, Andre Schurrle could then be tempted back to England. Although Schurrle isn’t a wide playmaker like Mahrez, he does like to run inside very directly.
Another important area of improvement is the left wing. Raw pace and ability to cross are two skills that Anderlecht’s Frank Acheampong possesses, making him a good signing for Leicester. Due to the young Ghanian being so in-form at the minute, he would likely cost a fairly hefty fee, but it would most likely be worth it, as he would go straight into the starting 11 but also last Leicester for quite a number of years. Acheampong would cost around £15m.
Lastly, we come to strikers. Despite costing a probable very large fee, around £25m to be precise, Michy Batshuayi would be worth every penny. The Belgian forward is capable of playing in either of the 9 roles, making him a very effective signing. Signing just one striker as well as selling one or two would make rotation between Vardy, Okazaki and Batshuayi very smooth and pleasant for all three.
In the unlikely event of Jamie Vardy leaving, M’Baye Niang would be his straight-up replacement, probably being signed for a very similar price Vardy left for.
Ricardo Van Rhijn-Ajax-£13m
Idrissa Gueye-Aston Villa-£7m
Richie de Laet-Loan
Nathan Dyer-End of Loan
Potential Squad Next Season
If Leicester City are able to hold on to key players and make adequate signings to further enhance the squad they currently have, there is no reason why the Foxes can’t challenge for the Premier League title next season, as well as remaining competitive in the Champions League for a good few months. The fact they are likely to be first seed in the Champions League could make the first six months of their season a lot easier than other clubs find in their first season in the a Champions League.
If Leicester form is to significantly drop prior to the January transfer window, it is likely that the Foxes will have more than enough funds to make necessary signings in an attempt to regain some form.
*In order to see the full list of transfer targets, which is over 100 players long, please contact me via Twitter by either DM’ing or mentioning me @boxtoboxcb. I’ll be more than willing to give you the list and even discuss this further!