Preparations for the 2016/17 Premier League season are well underway for defending champions (have I mentioned this before?) Leicester City. The club’s most exciting preseason schedule in a very long time will be getting underway next Tuesday.
With the squad starting to take shape, we’re going to take an early look at how the side could line up this year and what the depth chart looks like at the moment. First off a reminder of the notable first team transfers so far:
- Mark Schwarzer (retired)
- Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim)
If anyone else goes, it’s probably Kanté (the only other rumours out there are the moment are Simpson to Sunderland and Ulloa to Swansea) but for now we’ll act like no one’s leaving.
- Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover 96)
- Luis Hernandez (Sporting Gijon)
- Nampalys Mendy (OGC Nice)
- Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow)
Zieler is a nice simple case, coming in to replace Mark Schwarzer as the backup keeper. Hernandez is probably just a depth signing as a backup defender, but more on that later.
Mendy are Musa are the big signings and with them they bring change. If Kanté does remain, 3 of out best players are now central midfielders. Musa can play as a striker, but in this league will probably be more effective on the left.
For those reasons we’re projecting a switch from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 for this season, and that’s the shape we’ll give in the depth chart:
Kasper Schmeichel will start and Zieler will be his primary backup. Ben Hamer is still with the team for now, but they’ve been trying to get rid of him for a while now. If a 3rd keeper is ever required, 18-year-old January signing Daniel Iverson might get a shot.
Most of the defense picks itself. The only confusion is likely to be at right back where there’s a bit of a logjam of players. After a few friendlies we’ll have a much better idea of who’s being genuinely considered here.
The midfield is also pretty clear cut. The depth chart is set out to look as clear as possible, but Andy King would be the primary replacement for all three midfielders.
No arguments about the front three and they look dangerous. Plenty of intriguing options behind them, especially out on the wings.
A Few Thoughts
Right back unclear
Danny Simpson was solid last year, but if the team is looking to improve, he’s replaceable. Hernandez is a quality defender and there are plenty (including on this blog) who’d like to see him get an opportunity here. The only issue is that he’s only played at right back sparingly before, so who knows if he’s even in Ranieri’s thoughts at right back.
One of those two is going to start though, and probably Simpson, at least early on. Behind them, Ritchie de Laet wasn’t needed last year, so it's difficult to say whether he will be this year. Daniel Amartey was the backup after the January transfer window, but is just a utility player at the moment. Liam Moore and Yohan Benalouane can also cover here, but I’d be surprised if both are still here after the summer.
The front 3 looks extremely potent and dangerous. Equally exciting is some of the depth around them. Demarai Gray has so much potential as we saw last year, while Jeffrey Schlupp was young player of the year for the last 2 seasons.
Marc Albrighton is dependable and provides an alternative style. Tom Lawrence will probably be out on loan again, but would have made the Wales squad at the Euros if not for injury.
The questions lie behind Jamie Vardy. This primary striker role will suit Shinji Okazaki much better, and the team was happy bringing in Leo Ulloa last year, but there would be concerns if Vardy was unavailable, so another signing here wouldn’t surprise me. Raul Uche is one for the youth team, but this could change by the end of the season.
Return of the Tinkerman?
The squad is certainly deeper so far, and that depth of quality provides the manager with all kinds of options. We’ve gone for 4-3-3 but he could certainly stick with what worked last year, or even revert to the 3-man defence that prompted the great escape.
One thing’s for sure, it looks like an exciting squad to me. There’s plenty of options and more players could still come in. So what do you think? What formation should they use, and which players? Which new players would you like to see come in? Let us know in the comments below.