Leicester City: How Is Claudio Ranieri’s Squad Looking?

Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy.
Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy at The King Power Stadium, Leicester, May 7. Vardy will stay at Leicester as it looks to defend the Premier League title. Laurence Griffiths/Getty

Life at the top, they say, is harder than the climb up the slippery ladder to get there.

Leicester City produced the most unlikely English Premier League title triumph in a generation last season, putting the division’s big dogs in their kennels and forcing them to lick their wounds.

But to even stay at the same level in such a competitive environment, investment is needed. Leicester must buy this summer—but in what areas and who? Newsweek examines its needs.


Defense

The issue here for Claudio Ranieri is depth, because Leicester’s first-choice back four is the one that won it the English Premier League last season.

Christian Fuchs is now firmly established as one of the league’s best left-backs. Robert Huth and Wes Morgan form a rock solid, ultimately steady partnership in the centre of the defense. Perhaps Danny Simpson could be upgraded at right-back — then again, the former Newcastle United man was excellent last season.

The only defensive deal completed so far is Luis Hernandez, the former Sporting Gijon center back, who at 27 will add nous and provide competition should Huth and/or Morgan lose form.

An intriguing rumor in The Sun would make sense in the context of Leicester’s recent transfer activity, should it come true: the addition of Ragnar Sigurdsson, the Iceland defender who put in such a fine performance against England on Monday at UEFA Euro 2016.

Sigurdsson would probably cost less than the £10 million ($13.4 million) that Leicester is believed to have bid for Michael Keane, the 23-year-old Burnley defender. Keane probably has more upside but comes with greater risk. If Ranieri gets his way, he should get both to prepare for Leicester’s UEFA Champions League run.

Predicted line-up: Fuchs-Morgan-Huth/Sigurdsson-Simpson


Midfield

Who Leicester manages to hang onto here is probably more important than anyone it adds.

That refers, most specifically, to N’Golo Kante, the coiled ball of energy who was arguably the central playing figure in its unexpected title triumph.

Paris Saint-Germain would dearly like to add Kante to its midfield under new head coach Unai Emery, while the pull of going home would be strong for Kante, born in the Parisian suburbs. Real Madrid is also thought to be circling.

Here, as throughout the squad, additions are likely to add depth rather than improve the first team. Nampalys Mendy, the Nice midfielder who played under Ranieri at Monaco, is likely to join, though he would be an understudy to Kante. Gokhan Inler, whose playing time was so limited last season that he was left out of Switzerland’s Euro 2016 squad, should be kept around for the Champions League campaign. Demarai Gray, the precocious former Birmingham City winger, should make the step up to regular first-team action.

If Kante leaves—and this goes for the lovely talent of Riyad Mahrez, too—Leicester and Ranieri panic. Until then, reinforcements will be added quietly.

Predicted line-up: Gray-Kante-Mendy-Mahrez


Attack

Jamie Vardy has signed a new deal, but Ranieri would still like to augment his strike force. Leonardo Ulloa is willing, but probably not quite good enough. Watford is determined to hold onto its captain, and symbol of the club, Troy Deeney.

Leicester is prepared to pay £30 million (£40.3 million) for Deeney, which sounds excessive, but remember Sadio Mane just went from Premier League club to Premier League club for £34 million ($45.7 million) and clubs put a premium on character. Deeney is a leader, you cannot have too many of those.

Predicted line-up: Vardy-Deeney


Is that team good enough to win back-to-back Premier Leagues? Perhaps that’s not Leicester’s aim—making the Champions League again would be good enough. Keeping Kante and Mahrez, gelling Vardy and Deeney and maintaining the fitness of its first team are the most pressing issues. Solve those, and it can go well again.