It was quite the rollercoaster season down at Leicester. From Nigel Pearson’s ‘Ostrich’ rant to his throttling of Crystal Palace’s James McArthur. Beyond that, the Foxes seemed certain for relegation until Pearson pulled off a miracle and was then promptly sacked at the start of pre-season. In comes Claudio Ranieri and surely another eventful season ahead.
Last Season: Premier League (14th)
Manager: Claudio Ranieri
GKs: Kasper Schmeichel, Ben Hamer, Mark Schwarzer
DFs: Ritchie De Laet, Paul Konchesky, Wes Morgan, Danny Simpson, Liam Moore, Marcin Wasilewski, Christian Fuchs, Rob Huth
MFs: Danny Drinkwater, Matty James, Andy King, Marc Albrighton, Jeff Schlupp, Tom Lawrence, Riyad Mahrez, Michael Cain, Ryan Watson
FWs: Jamie Vardy, Leonardo Ulloa, Jack Barmby, David Nugent, Andrej Kramaric, Shinji Okazaki
In: Christian Fuchs (Schalke), Rob Huth (Stoke City), Shinji Okazaki (Mainz)
Out: Paul Gallagher (Preston North End), Anthony Knockaert (Standard), Chris Wood (Leeds United), Esteban Cambiasso (Released)
First Six: Sunderland (H), West Ham United (A), Tottenham Hotspur (H), Bournemouth (A), Aston Villa (H), Stoke City (A)
Likely Lineup: (4-4-2) Schmeichel – Wasilewski, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs – Mahrez, King, Drinkwater, Schlupp – Vardy, Okazaki
A word from…Frank Sinclair
On moving to Leicester It was difficult leaving a big club in Chelsea but the new manager there had his own ideas and the club wanted to get a good fee for me. I think it was about somewhere between £2m and £2.5m in the end plus a few clauses which wasn’t bad for a defender at the time.
It was a good opportunity for me to go to Leicester, I was experienced and wanted to carry on playing first team football every week, I spoke to Martin O’Neill and I knew he had big plans to try and make Leicester compete, which we did. Chelsea were starting to bring in foreign players like (Marcel) Desailly and (Albert) Ferrer in defence so it was a good time for me to go and prolong my career in the Premier League.
On the League Cup success We had some up and down times at Leicester with promotions and relegations but the League Cup final was certainly the highlight of my time there.
We were making history, we knew that before the game with it being the final League Cup final at the old Wembley stadium and that was fantastic. We had the confidence from the year before, even though we’d lost we knew we were the better team and that we had a good chance of doing it.
It was a difficult game, we knew it would be tough but defeats galvanise you. The year before was disappointing but it makes you more determined. I’d had that turnaround at Chelsea in 1994 when we lost to Manchester United but came back in 1997 and beat Middlesbrough.
It was a great game, we took the lead and they were down to ten men and incredibly they got an equaliser. But big Matt Elliott popped up again and made himself the hero, it was a fantastic day. We’d looked out of it at times too, especially against Villa in the semi-finals so we showed a lot of strength to get there ad do it.
On the current Leicester side I saw quite a few games there towards the end of last season and in those last seven or eight games they were as good as anybody, their form was absolutely incredible, I think there was only Chelsea who were picking up more points at the time.
It definitely goes down as one of the best ever survivals in the Premier League, they’d looked dead and buried and it seemed the manager was on his way out, the turnaround was incredible.
The key thing was they never changed their mentality, they went out there and played good, attacking football and they started getting the results they needed. It’s a shame the manager had to leave but it appears the owners wanted something different.
On Claudio Ranieri He’s a good experienced manager but he’s never been at a club like Leicester, he won’t be used to being at a side where you know you’re likely to be scrapping near the bottom of the league for a large part of the season.
Teams find out about you, they work how you play and what your dangers are, that surprise element disappears in the second season so he’s got to hit the ground running, at the start of last season they were fine but they couldn’t buy a win after the United game.
He was a bit unlucky to lose his job at Chelsea in my opinion. Abramovich obviously wanted something more and to make sure the club were challenging for the Premier League and the Champions League, can you judge him too move on the Greece job? It’s a whole different world and can you be expected to challenge for honours with Greece? He needs to come in and stabilise things and ensure Leicester have a long-term Premier League future.
On summer recruitment Cambiasso is a big loss, his will to win games and his quality was evident last season, he was different class and he’s difficult to replace.
Rob Huth is a big signing, he had a big effect when he came in last season, results picked up and I think he stabilised the back four with his Premier League experience. He’s big in both boxes too and a great leader but Cambiasso is still the big blow.
They were so open last year, that was the problem. They played open, expansive football which can be great but you could also say it was a bit naive from the off. Ranieri is perhaps a bit more defensive minded so I’d be surprised if they play the same way this season. But they’ve got goals in them and if they get it all together then they could have a good season.
The Offside Rule Podcast Prediction: Leicester tempted fate last season and Claudio Ranieri has not had a good few years, sacked by Greece after losing to the Faroe Islands in a Euro 2016 qualifier. He hasn’t managed in the Premier League since 2004 and needs to hit the ground running, if he doesn’t, Leicester are in trouble.
Key Player: Jamie Vardy – The latest England international was fantastic at times last season and Leicester have a realm of quick, attacking options. Mahrez, Schlupp and Kramaric can all do damage but it was Vardy who impressed the most last season.
One to Watch: Shinji Okazaki – The Japanese striker comes to the Premier League hoping to fare better than his compatriots in recent years. 27 goals in 65 for Mainz appears impressive on paper and Leicester will need him to score plenty to have a good chance this season.