In case you missed it, which would be some achievement in itself, Leicester City are the new kings of England.
The Foxes were crowned champions after Tottenham’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea gave them an unassailable lead at the top of the league. For many at the start of the year Leicester were relegation candidates, Claudio Ranieri was seen as a peculiar replacement for Nigel Pearson and no-one could have predicted what was to unfurl over the following nine months.
However, Leicester have been the best team in the league this season and had the best player in Riyad Mahrez. Things, as they always do in football, will move on quickly, the confetti hasn’t even been fired at Leicester’s coronation against Everton and attention is already turning to how they can carry on into the next campaign.
It’s going to prove an interesting task for the east Midlands club, and here at FFC we’ve been looking at how they might go about it…
One of Ranieri’s strengths when he joined the Foxes was that he didn’t change too much about the side that finished 2014/15 so strongly.
Famously known as the ‘Tinkerman’, the Italian did anything but tinker with his new side. He’s only used 23 players this season, phenomenal considering the rigours of a top flight campaign, and although he’s had some luck with few injuries, the side are clearly a very close knit bunch and understand each others’ games perfectly.
Ranieri will do well to keep this side together, Mahrez and N’Golo Kante look to be attracting some of football’s biggest clubs, but if the former Roma boss can hold onto most of this team that would be a triumph in itself ahead of next year.
Whilst Leicester need to keep hold of their players, they also need add quite a few more.
Leicester’s squad is small and now with Champions League football on its way around ten players could be needed to bolster the side. How Leicester go about signing players will also be pivotal to next year’s fortunes. If they go head to head for players with the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea, despite being the champions, they’ll get shunned.
Leicester need to be clever in the transfer market, find bargains like they have done with Kante and Mahrez and they’ll be able to hold their own in the Champions League as well. Fail do to so, however, and the King Power side will run out of steam.
This squad seems so happy to be playing football and that cannot be overestimated in importance going into 2016/17.
Ranieri is a naturally upbeat man and this has spread throughout the staff and club. It’s a good place to enjoy playing football and it has shown in Leicester’s freewheeling approach. They haven’t looked shackled, overawed or at all flustered in the face of the obstacles they’ve come across this year and that’s largely down to the atmosphere in the dressing room. If they manage to hold onto that spirit, despite higher expectations, teams wanting to beat them more than ever and the ins and outs in the transfer windows, there’s no reason why Leicester can’t go far again.
This explains itself.
The Italian and the job he has done cannot be praised highly enough. Written off by many and seen as the man who would see the Foxes down he has proved all his critics wrong to clinch his first domestic league title, all whilst having a smile on his face. It’s unthinkable that Leicester will replace the ‘Tinkerman’, they will just be praying his head isn’t turned by the soon to be vacant Italy job after Euro 2016.
The chance at managing his national team may be too good to turn down, but at the moment that’s completely hypothetical and surely the Leicester hierarchy are putting a contract together to tie Ranieri down.
Leicester still need to prioritise the Premier League.
They might cause a few shocks in the Champions League, but they won’t win it. I know what you’re thinking, look at this season, but the Champions League boasts the world’s best sides and a lot of the teams in the Premier League have under-performed this year.
It will be tougher next season with more games, and if Leicester are serious about retaining this title, they need to keep at the forefront of their minds, at least for now.