One of the fairy tale stories of professional football, Leicester City, the 5000/1 outsiders were crowned Premier League 15/16 Champions. Vardy stole many of the in-season headlines, breaking scoring records and having many a party, but there was much more to Leicester’s title win than a WKD fuelled striker. Amongst those were Mahrez and Kante, examples of excellent scouting, a fast paced counter attacking style which even the big boys couldn’t cope with and a rock solid defence marshalled by Wes Morgan and Robert Huth. With Kante joining Chelsea and player of the year Mahrez potentially on his way out too how will the champions cope with a European adventure and title to defend?
A European workload is not to be under estimated, especially for a team who play with bundles of energy, so the arrival Ahmed Musa seems a smart buy. £15m, a bargain in the transfer market these days, brings a forward with decent European experience and some much needed support for Vardy and Okazaki. Kante’s departure was swiftly acted upon by signing like for like replacement, Nampalys Mendy, from Nice. The Frenchman, who was compared by Monaco scouts as a “carbon copy” of Claude Makélélé, was previously wanted by Manchester United and Arsenal but rejected a move because he wanted to stay in France. With praise like that and those types of clubs sniffing around it’s difficult to think Leicester’s scouts haven’t pulled another one out of the bag.
Despite the signings, they’ve gone somewhat under the radar over the summer as the big boys have stolen much of the lime light, which should play into Leicester’s hands. They’ll be quietly of confident of getting themselves into the top 4, though at 6/1, the bookies think that’s wishful thinking. On the subject of wishful thinking, 33/1 to retain the title must be the highest odds of any winner from the previous season.
Looking back through Premier League history, Blackburn Rovers are the only slight comparison that can be made to Leicester. After winning the title in the 1994/95 season, they finished a modest 7th the year after and, for me, that sounds about right for this Leicester team. A top 10 finish at 4/9 looks a safe bet. If value is more your thing, 13/5 to finish in the bottom half or Vardy to be top scorer at 18/1 both offer good value, but are far from wreckless.