The new Premier League season gets underway on Saturday and those expected to challenge for the title have completed their pre-season preparations, if not quite all of their transfer dealings.
Ahead of the big kick-off, here is a look at what the champions Leicester City have done this preseason.
What’s gone right?
The greatest fear for Leicester fans was that clubs with greater spending power would swoop and strip them of the three stars that delivered the Premier League title last season – Kante, Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy. Well, so far, only Kante has left (for Chelsea) and that is an encouraging sign. Leading scorer Vardy snubbed the advances of Arsenal to remain at the club. Mahrez may yet move, but if they can hang on to him, they’ve done pretty well. Claudio Ranieri, perhaps anticipating the feared exodus, moved swiftly to sign Ahmed Musa from CSKA Moscow for £18m, who has shown some impressive glimpses of what he can do in pre-season.
What needs work?
Leicester will be taking a step up in class this season as they compete in the Champions League for the first time. Conceding four goals against both Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona in friendlies doesn’t bode all that well for their chances. A contributing factor to their title success was their relatively light schedule and it remains to be seen if Ranieri has the strength in depth in his squad to cope with playing every weekend and every midweek for at least the first-half of the campaign.
Wins over Oxford United and Celtic early doors were followed by the two pretty comprehensive losses already mentioned. They were Manchester United’s equals for much of Sunday’s Community Shield and the story might have been different had Shinji Okazaki taken his first-half chances. Ranieri, ever the optimist, won’t be too discouraged by pre-season, however, knowing that the real business starts at Hull on Saturday.
Kante has gone and was replaced by Nampalys Mendy, signed from Nice for £13m. Leicester’s attacking strength has been bolstered by the arrival of Musa, who really looked like one to watch. They also signed the Polish winger Bartosz Kapustka for £7.5m last week, centre-back Luis Hernandez from Sporting Gijon, and goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler from Hannover.
Has to be Musa, who may be their club record signing but showed his class with two brilliant goals against Barcelona. He is lightning quick and, if combined with Vardy and Mahrez, it will mean, if anything, that Leicester have an even better front line to carry out their counter-attacking style in the season ahead.
July 23 – 1-1 (Leicester win on penalties) v Celtic
July 31 – 0-4 v Paris Saint-Germain
August 3 – 2-4 v Barcelona
August 7 – 1-2 v Manchester United