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Sean Sullivan

Season Preview

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Leicester City Season Preview

Thursday, August 9, 2018


2017/18 Recap


Finish: 9th
Points: 47
Goals For: 56
Goals Against: 60
Goal Difference: -4



Leicester City embodied the definition of a middle table club last season. The Foxes began the season under the stewardship of Craig Shakespeare, but the former interim manager turned full-time boss failed to replicate his success from the season prior. Shakespeare was sacked after just five matches and replaced by Claude Puel, with the former Southampton boss becoming the third manager appointed at the King Power Stadium in eight months. The decision to go with Puel proved to be the right choice as the club tasted defeat just twice during his first 13 matches in charge. Although the Foxes never dropped below ninth in the table, the back end of the season was much more polarising. They managed just three wins during the last four months of the season and suffered four defeats in their final five outings.


Any discussion of how things will things be different this season must begin with the departure of Riyad Mahrez. Losing one of the Premier League’s top midfielders would set most clubs back a few seasons, but an active summer in the transfer market has placed the Foxes for long-term success in the post-Mahrez era. Rather than finding a direct replacement for the former PFA Player of the Year, the club has brought in James Maddison and Rachid Ghezzal to share the creative workload. But addressing the creative void wasn’t the only thing they did in the window. Fullback Ricardo Pereira and centre-back Jonny Evans have arrived to strengthen a backline that conceded 60 goals last season, which was more than relegated Swansea City and West Brom. While Puel might not know his best XI until mid-September, all signs point towards the returned of his 4-2-3-1 formation and counter-attacking style of play.

 

Summer Business


Arrivals: James Maddison (Norwich City), Ricardo Pereira (Porto), Danny Ward (Liverpool), Jonny Evans (West Brom), Rachid Ghezzal (Monaco)

 

Departures: Riyad Mahrez (Man City), Robert Huth (free), Ahmed Musa( Al-Nassr)

 

Squad Overview

 


Goalkeepers

 


Kasper Schmeichel (5.0m)

 


The Denmark international enters this season following a fantastic showing at the World Cup after making 22 saves and conceding just two goals across four starts. Schmeichel has been the undisputed number at the King Power Stadium since the beginning of Leicester City's title-winning campaign in 2015/16 and has been a top-10 goalkeeper in all fantasy formats during that span. And trend should continue this season. He returned 123 points last season despite tallying just eight clean sheets for the second straight term. Considering the defence has improved, he gets my stamp of approval at 5.0m.

 


Danny Ward (4.5m)


Leicester doubled down in between the sticks this summer by signing Danny Ward from Liverpool for £12.5 million. The fee seems to indicate that the 25-year-old has been selected to be the Number One in waiting. For now, he will serve as the number two and only see action when Schmeichel is unavailable. Look elsewhere for a backup in FPL.

 


Defenders

 


Harry Maguire (5.5m)

 


To say Maguire had an excellent year would be an understatement. The 25-year-old centre-back played every minute of the 2017-18 season, was awarded Leicester City's player of the season award and played a crucial role as England reach the semifinals in Russia. The heart and sole of the Foxes defence, Maguire enters this season after providing two goals, four assists and 117 FPL points in 2017/18. With the addition of a new partner in central defence, Jonny Evans from West Brom, all signs point towards Maguire enjoying another strong campaign. I would like his odds even better if he joined Manchester United, but a move to Old Trafford seems unlikely with Leicester under no real pressure to sell. Since he most likely will miss the first match of the season, which is against the Red Devils, I’m not sure why he’s the second-most selected defender in FPL (24.6%). Despite my faith in his overall production, he won’t be on my team at the beginning of the season.

 


Jonny Evans (5.0m)

 


Leicester City’s smartest move of the summer could pan out to be Evans, who arrived for just £3.5m after the Foxes activated his relegation release contract. That fee is merely a fracture of the £20m+ price tag that West Brom had demanded back in the January window. The multifaceted centre-back will partner Harry Maguire at centre-back and allow the club to use ageing skipper Wes Morgan, 35, as rotating piece with former backups Robert Huth and loanee Aleksandar Dragovic no longer on the books. Evans is a proven commodity boasting 235 career Premier League appearances and 69 caps for Northern Ireland, but he’s tough to back him at 5.0m in FPL. He returned just five goals across his last 86 league starts. His value is best suited for draft league formats that award points for individual defensive actions.

 


Ricardo Pereira (5.0m)

 


Two years on from winning the Premier League, Danny Simpson's monopoly on the right-back role has come to an end. While Simpson's defensive work rate has made him a regular in the starting XI, Ricardo Pereira is an attack-minded fullback well-known to Leicester boss Claude Puel. Under Puel's stewardship during a two-year spell at Ligue 1 outfit Nice, the Portugal international provided eight assists and 45 key passes in 50 league appearances. Recalled by FC Porto this past term, Pereira contributed two goals, six assists and chances 47 created across all competitions during 2017/18. He also topped all Primeira Liga defenders in successful dribbles (48) and ranked second in successful challenges (3.7). He’s someone to target as a mid-tier second defender in draft leagues and an option in FPL given his offensive upside.

 


Ben Chilwell (5.0m)

 


After emerging as a potential long-term option at left-back last season, Chilwell is expected to open the year ahead of Christian Fuchs in the pecking order. The 21-year-old was one of the youngsters who benefitted from the appointment of Puel; 21 of his 23 Premier League appearances came after the dismissal of Craig Shakespeare. As a fullback who could end up playing on the left side of midfield this season, Chilwell has been priced at 5.0m. He won't be a popular option in FPL due to his new price, meaning his value is best suited for draft league formats as a fringe option in deeper leagues.

 


Supporting Cast

 


Wes Morgan, Yohan Benalouane, Christian Fuchs and Danny Simpson will all have roles to play this season, yet without starting positions, they aren't long-term options in fantasy. Morgan and Benalouane will be my pick to start in central defence if Maguire and Evans are unavailable for the opening match against Manchester United, though it is possible promising youngster Darnell Johnson could be mixed in. As for Fuchs and Simpson, their usage will depend on the form of Chilwell and Pereira.

 

Midfielders

 


James Maddison (6.5m)

 


Maddison will be one of the players with the tall task of orchestrating Leicester City's attack in the post-Riyad Mahrez era. The 21-year-old arrived from Norwich City after impressing in the Championship last season, providing 14 goals and eight assists in 44 appearances. Maddison led the Championship with 124 key passes and ranked fourth in total shots with 115 while 71 attempts from outside of the box were better only by Rubin Neves (90). Furthermore, his 43 from inside the penalty were barely off the production of Ryan Sessegnon (45). Although peripheral numbers don't always translate from the Championship to the Premier League, the void left by Mahrez means Maddison should go straight into the starting XI and likely see a fair share of chances from set-pieces. The England Under-21 scored two of his 14 goals from free-kicks and converted all four of his chances from the penalty spot in 2017/18. Based on the underlying statistics, Maddison seems like a bargain at 6.5m. In draft leagues, I’ve selected him as my second midfielder.

 


Wilfred Ndidi (5.0m)

 


Since arriving from KRC Genk in January 2017, Ndidi has evolved into an outstanding defensive midfielder and one of Leicester’s most important players. Last season, his first full season in the Premier League, he led the league in successful tackles with 138 and made more clearances (95) than any other midfielder. The Nigeria international, in turn, become one of best non-goal dependent midfielders in fantasy formats driven by defensive actions. I used a ninth-round pick on him in a 12-team Fantrax draft. Due to his lack of offensive returns, I would look elsewhere in FPL.

 


Rachid Ghezzal (5.5m)



An Algeria international with 13 caps to his name, Ghezzal represents a price-worthy gamble for the Foxes since the club paid just £10 million to secure his services from Monaco. The 26-year-old is another player well known by Puel, who was in charge of Lyon as the right-footed winger progressed through the club’s youth ranks. Ghezzal had his best campaign for Lyon in 2015/16 when he bagged eight goals and eight assists in 29 league appearances. Last season, he signed for Monaco and tallied two goals and four assists in 993 minutes. From 154 appearances in Ligue 1 across four seasons, he returned 16 goals and 24 assists.


Is Ghezzal equipped to replace Mahrez? Although Mahrez wasn’t a household name when he moved to Leicester back in 2014, suggesting Ghezzal will make a like-for-like impact straightaway would be irresponsible. The right-footed winger will need time to settle, and that’s reflected by my stance on his value. Priced at 5.5.m in FPL, he’s a textbook punt based off his less than stellar numbers in France. I won’t pass judgement on his season-long potential until we have a substantial sample size to analyse.

 


Marc Albrighton (5.5m)

 


Albrighton will likely open the year as a first-choice wideman in midfield. The 27-year-old has proven himself on the left and right, tallying six or more assists and providing at least 165 crosses in each of the past three seasons. Albrighton isn’t a flashy player, but his defensive abilities and overall work-rate should see hold a significant role in 2018/19, especially since Puel’s other options on the wing being offensively minded. He returned two goals and a career-best eight assists and 107 points in FPL last season. If he plays 2,500+ minutes, expect to see him rank as a top-40 midfielder in all formats.

 


Demarai Gray (5.5m)

 


The 22-year was touted to finally get his chance as a full-time starter following Riyad Mahrez's departure. Gray scored three goals and tallied two assists in 1,683 minutes of action last season, but struggles for consistency saw him tweeter in and out of the starting XI. Gray is more developed than fellow youngster Fousseni Diabate, although I’m not sure if he’s a clear-cut starter following the arrival of Ghezzal. After looking pretty sharp playing as a striker in pre-season, it will be interesting to see what position Puel prefers him in this season. While I do believe he has all the tool to be a success, 5.5m isn’t an appealing price for a player without a nailed-on starting role.

 


Supporting Cast

 


Vicente Iborra (5.0m) and Adrien Silva (5.0m) will compete to play alongside Wilfred Ndidi in central midfield. Silva is a looked better in the final pre-season match against Lille but did take a slight knock. I would favour Iborra to open the campaign as Ndidi’s first-choice partner, with Puel likely to take a more defensive approach. Last season, the Spaniard provided three goals and 58 FPL points in 19 appearances. Long-term, it appears the place next to Ndidi will go to whoever is in better form. Fousseni Diabate’s role is hard to pin since he can play in couple positions. He was inconsistent last season, but Puel likes to play youngsters.  

 


Forwards

 


Jamie Vardy (9.0m)


The England international is a dynamic striker when firing on all cylinders and should get his fair share of goals despite the absence of Mahrez. The 31-year-old has hit the 20-goal mark twice in the past three seasons and was the second-highest scoring forward in FPL last season with 183 points. Only Harry Kane (217) returned more points in 2017/18. If Vardy can find his form, he’s a nailed-on second striker in FPL. However, he isn’t an option for me to start the season since he could miss the Premier League curtain-raiser at Old Trafford after his World Cup exploits.

 


Kelechi Iheanacho (6.0m)

 

The Nigeria international joined last summer from Manchester City for a handsome fee of £50 million. While Iheanacho’s debut campaign at the King Power Stadium began disappointingly, he gained momentum in the second half and ended on a high note. The 21-year-old scored three goals and provided two assists in his final seven appearances. Having closed out the season with goals in successive starts against Arsenal and Tottenham, he picked up where he left off following his return from the World Cup. Iheanacho notched four goals in three pre-season matches and impressed Puel enough to be considered a starter ahead of the new year. The in-form Nigerian could lead the line if Vardy is unavailable, or operate as a secondary striker in a 4-4-1-1 if the latter features against Manchester United. He’s not the worst option in the 6.0m price range.

 


Supporting Cast


Shinji Okazaki (5.5m) seems to be the odd man out with Iheanacho finally looking like the player Leicester believed they had signed last summer. Okazaki isn’t an option in fantasy unless Vardy picks up an injury or Iheanacho regresses.

 

 

Potential Lineups

 

Best XI (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel; Pereira, Maguire, Evans, Chilwell; Ndidi, Silva; Ghezzal, Maddison, Albrighton; Vardy

GW1 (4-4-1-1): Schmeichel; Pereira, Morgan, Benalouane, Chilwell; Albrighton, Ndidi, Iborra, Gray, Maddison, Iheanacho

 

 





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