Leicester are becoming the top tip with the bookies to be relegated this season. Many pundits are beginning to write Leicester off before the season has even begun, but what can we expect from Leicester this season?
We begin with the sacking of Nigel Pearson amidst the alleged racist sex tape involving Leicester City players. Punishing Pearson for the incident may seem little harsh but as addressed by the club, this was really just the straw that broke the camels back.
Pearson was mired in controversy last season, predominately for losing his cool in interviews and notably with James McArthur during the game against Crystal Palace. The pressure was clearly beginning to tell.
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However, its seems once he was dismissed the club faced their fair share of criticism from the journalistic world. To be fair, this was the man who led them to promotion and oversaw a spectacular turn around last season, arguably the best in Premier League history. With ten games to go, it would have taken a die-hard Leicester fan to predict anything but relegation for the Foxes.
Considering Pearson’s unprofessional behaviour, and the frankly abysmal form that plagued, Leicester through much of last season it could yet prove to be the correct decision.
If Leicester can hit the ground running and produce more of the form we saw towards the end of last season, they could be in for a very successful campaign. Removing the unnecessary off field distractions will allow them to focus more on their own game rather than be confronted with questions of the manager’s future.
When Leicester were first promoted, they were coming off the back of a very impressive season with a tally of 102 points, and they boasted a strong squad capable of competing in the Premier League.
They had the making of a comfortable bottom half finish and something to build upon the following year. In this sense they underachieved for much of last season, occasionally showing their capabilities but with a complete lack of consistency.
Which brings us to the man in question. Claudio Ranieri, an appointment which was met by little excitement and much criticism most notably from club legend Gary Lineker.
It may not have been the best option available to the club. Ranieri arrives with the dark cloud hanging over him from a dreadful tenure in charge of the Greek national team. He does bring a wealth of experience though and he is no stranger to the pressures of the Premier League.
Sam Allardyce was a name consistently thrown up as a better option for Leicester, but he’s a man who’s been around for a long time in England and carries with him a somewhat definitive style.
The advantage of a left field choice like Ranieri; whilst being a gamble; could produce something entirely new and difficult to deal with, an x-factor that could launch Leicester forward this season. Leicester already boasted a strong squad last season and despite the loss of Esteban Cambiasso, have done some shrewd business this window.
Notably, Shinji Okazaki, who has been a successful figurehead striker in Germany and on the international stage for the last few years. He could well form a formidable partnership with Leonardo Ulloa this season and prove to be one of the signings of the summer.
Robert Huth on a permanent deal is another key acquisition worth mention. He is a solid, reliable Premier League defender and went a long way to stabilise their defence on a crucial loan spell last season.
Coupled with quality in key positions such as the once highly rated Kasper Schmeichel, pacy and dangerous Riyad Mahrez, and creative playmaker Marc Albrighton; forms the outline a very good looking team.
They started the season in spectacular fashion with a 4-2 victory over fellow relegation candidates Sunderland so for now at least hopes will be high. However, you only need to head north up the M6 to Bolton to know that four goals in the season opener is no guarantee of Premier League survival.
As they often say, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, but expect them to cause a few upsets and surprise a few pundits this season.
Dark horses may be too strong a term, but they have the means to outmatch any of their relegation rivals. Expect them to be safe by March and begin to build from there for the future.
Predicted finish: 12th