Leicester City 2017/18 Season Preview: A season of consolidation for the Foxes?

Leicester City head into the 2017/18 Premier League campaign in the hope of enjoying a relatively straight-forward season on the back of a couple of dramatic few years.

Current manager Craig Shakespeare takes the reins in his first full season as a top-flight manager and already looks to be assembling an excellent squad at the King Power Stadium.

An ex-Assistant manager to former boss Claudio Ranieri, the 53-year-old will hope to continue the excellent form that the team displayed at the end of the last campaign.

How did they do last time out?

The Foxes endured a somewhat dramatic campaign throughout 2016/17. Heading into the season as defending champions, the East-Midlanders' defence of their title fell dramatically flat. They only won four of their opening 15 games in the Premier League and flirted with the relegation zone until the departure of Claudio Ranieri.

At the start of the new year, the Foxes did not score a single goal in six successive league games which led to the sacking of the enamoured Italian.

Craig Shakespeare was then appointed as boss on an interim basis and he led the team to an eventual 12th place finish following seven wins out of the last 13 games. He was also in charge as the team reached the Champions League quarter-finals, only falling to a 2-1 aggregate loss to Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid.

What could we expect from them this season?

Judging on the Foxes' past three seasons in the top-flight, it is difficult to really predict how the team's fortunes will play out. Nevertheless, it is clear that they will play to their strengths yet again this campaign.

Utilising their counter-attacking style of play, the pace of the likes of Jamie Vardy may well prove to be crucial yet again. A very strict 4-4-2 formation has also become very profitable over the last two seasons. However, there may be some alternatives to be considered. A plan-B may also be in the offing.

Last season, the Foxes looked bereft of ideas when outnumbered in the midfield so formations such as 4-5-1 and 4-1-3-2 could be utilised far more often, as has been seen throughout pre-season.

A better season than their title defence last time out is what Leicester fans will be hoping for in the upcoming campaign.

Jamie Vardy could prove crucial to the Foxes' chances of success again this season | Photo: Getty/ Kevin Barnes - CameraSport
Jamie Vardy could prove crucial to the Foxes' chances of success again this season | Photo: Getty/ Kevin Barnes - CameraSport

What transfers have been completed?

Since the conclusion of a disappointing title defence, Shakespeare has already revamped his Leicester City squad. The players that have already joined the club already look to be clever acquisitions going into the new season.

Hull City defender Harry Maguire was the first to arrive at the King Power Stadium and also looks to be a valuable addition in the Foxes' defence. His clever positioning, aerial prowess and passing ability are already stand-out features of his play in his short time in the East Midlands.

Eldin Jakupović quickly followed the Englishman, just after Sevilla captain Vincente Iborra signed a four-year contract with the club.

Manchester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho also completed a protracted move to club for a reported £25m. His lethal finishing and electric pace will surely be a valuable asset to the East-Midlanders for the foreseeable future.

Kelechi Iheanacho completed his big-money move to Leicester City last week | Photo: Getty/ Plumb Images
Kelechi Iheanacho completed his big-money move to Leicester City last week | Photo: Getty/ Plumb Images

Youngsters George Thomas and Sam Hughes have been signed as ones for the future from Coventry City and Chester City respectively.

There have also been a couple of departures before the start of the season. Goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler, only signed from Hannover 96 last summer, has already left the club for VfB Stuttgart. Another signing Bartosz Kaputska has followed the stopper to Germany as he embarks on a season-long loan with SC Freiburg.

Centre-back Marcin Wasilewski has been released following the expiration of his contract. It also remains to be seen whether want-away winger Riyad Mahrez will still be at the club come deadline day.

Who should we keep an eye on in 2017/18?

The star man for the Foxes' is again clearly striker Jamie Vardy. Despite a somewhat below-par season in 2016/17, the Englishman still managed to find the net 16 times in all competitions. The former Fleetwood Town man's pace is key to how Craig Shakespeare's men operate. Fans will be looking forward to seeing the England international running beyond even more Premier League defences.

Recent signing Harry Maguire is also set to be a crucial cog in the Foxes' defence. Having featured prominently throughout pre-season, the former Sheffield United defender has looked assured and comfortable. He will surely help what turned out to be a leaky defence last season.

Wilfred N'didi again looks set to star for the East-Midlanders. The Nigerian enjoyed an impressive first few months in English football having joined from KRC Genk in the January transfer window. He notched three goals in 23 appearances in all competitions. The 20-year-old's tough-tackling and strong runs from the centre of the park all combine to produce a very talented midfielder.

Wilfred N'didi could be a key performer for Craig Shakespeare | Photo: Getty/ Plumb Images
Wilfred N'didi could be a key performer for Craig Shakespeare | Photo: Getty/ Plumb Images

How did the team do during pre-season?

It is fair to say the 2015/16 Premier League champions had a mixed bag of pre-season results. Firstly, the team travelled to Hong Kong to do battle with the likes of West Bromwich Albion, Liverpool and Crystal Palace in the Premier League Asia Trophy.

A penalty shoot-out victory over the Baggies, following a 1-1 draw in normal time, earned the Foxes a place in the final. However, goals from Mohamed Salah and Philippe Coutinho overturned Islam Slimani's opener and meant Leicester went home empty-handed.

A late Riyad Mahrez strike though against Luton Town ensured that the team got back to winning ways upon their return from Asia. They then followed this up with a 0-0 stalemate against Milton Keynes Dons.

A 1-0 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux followed by a 2-1 loss to Burton Albion ensured back-to-back defeats for Craig Shakespeare's men. Nonetheless, their preparations concluded in the best possible way with Jamie Vardy bagging a brace in a 2-1 victory over German outfit Borussia Monchengladbach.

What are Leicester City's strengths going into the new season?

The Foxes have many of the same attributes as last season. One strength that they do have in abundance is pace. The aforementioned Jamie Vardy possesses wicked speed, as well as the likes of Ahmed Musa and Demarai Gray. Recent signing Kelechi Iheanacho is also no slouch so could well be utilised in Leicester's trademark counter-attacking style.

Demarai Gray and Jamie Vardy could both use their considerable pace yet again next season | Photo: Getty/ Plumb Images
Demarai Gray and Jamie Vardy could both use their considerable pace yet again next season | Photo: Getty/ Plumb Images

Another of the Foxes' positives is their strength-in-depth in the midfield areas. Sevilla captain Vincente Iborra has been drafted in to further bolster the centre of the park. He will be vying with the likes of Danny Drinkwater, Matty James, Wilfred N'didi, Daniel Amartey and Andy King for a starting berth.

The Foxes also have plenty of youthful promise on their books that could step-up if needed. Demarai Gray, Tom Lawrence and newcomer George Thomas are all able to do a job on the wings, whilst Ben Chilwell provides Christian Fuchs with considerable competition in the left-back position. Amartey, N'didi and Iheanacho also have plenty of time to develop into top players at the King Power Stadium.

Do they have any weaknesses?

Right-back is a position that the Foxes desperately need to address. Current first-choice Danny Simpson has been a solid option since his switch from QPR in 2014. However, should the former Newcastle United get an injury, the East-Midlanders would be seriously lacking in the defence.

Versatile Ghanaian Daniel Amartey is able to deputise there but he has been far from convincing when called upon. Therefore, back-up at right-back could be something that Shakespeare looks to address before the summer transfer window closes.

Another aspect that the Foxes' boss should rectify is the creativity in his team. Throughout pre-season, Riyad Mahrez seemed to be the main provider and looked to be the only player capable of producing quality. The signing of Iheanacho has gone some way in bringing goals to the team, however the Foxes still need a creative force.

Whether that will happen with a new signing or a change in system remains to be seen, however the Foxes cannot rely on the Algerian as much - especially if he gets his wish and leaves the club.

Riyad Mahrez could yet leave Leicester City | Photo:; Getty/ Michael Regan
Riyad Mahrez could yet leave Leicester City | Photo:; Getty/ Michael Regan

What are their opening fixtures like?

The first six opening fixtures make for some worrying reading for Leicester City fans. Shakespeare's men travel to the Emirates Stadium for the first game of the 2017/18 Premier League season to tussle with Arsene Wenger's Arsenal.`

Newly-promoted Brighton and Hove Albion are the first visitors to the King Power Stadium before the Foxes clash with Manchester United away from home. Reigning champions Chelsea are the first opponents in September before matches against Huddersfield and Liverpool.

Where will they finish this season?

With the clever acquisitions that Leicester have made over the summer months, they should be in for a much improved season. Having said that, the unpredictability of the Foxes' stint in the Premier League make their position almost impossible to predict.

Harry Maguire should improve their defence markedly though and with Kelechi Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy forging a promising striking partnership, the Foxes should be aiming for a top-half finish. 8th