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Analyzing Leicester’s depth chart ahead of the 2017/18 season

A position-by-position look at how the Foxes will line up in 2017/18

Leicester City v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Preseason Friendly Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

With the opening match of the season less than a week away, the long, silly summer of ridiculous rumors and wildy-overpriced transfers is almost over. Have the Foxes set themselves up with a deep enough roster to deal with the grind of a 38 match season and multiple cups, or do they have some more work to do?

Goalkeepers:

  • Kasper Schmeichel
  • Eldin Jakupović
  • Ben Hamer

Schmeichel is the undisputed #1 and that would have been the case even without the departure of Ron-Robert Zeiler. New arrival Jakupović will likely be on the bench on most match days. Ben Hamer could challenge the Swiss international as the primary backup, but, barring injury, won’t see much action in the league.

Defenders:

Centre-halfs

  • Wes Morgan
  • Robert Huth
  • Harry Maguire
  • Yohan Benalouane
  • Elliott Moore

What a difference a single signing makes. The lack of depth at centre-half led to some comically makeshift pairings (Fuchs and Benalouane) at the end of last season. The popular Marcin Wasilewski will be missed, but replacing him Harry Maguire is a massive upgrade and will give the gaffer some selection headaches on Saturdays. Benalouane will fill the big Pole’s role as “fourth centre-half/rash challenge specialist,” a job to which he is well-suited.

Manchester City v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Full backs

  • Danny Simpson (R)
  • Danny Amartey (R)
  • Darnell Johnson (R)
  • Christian Fuchs (L)
  • Ben Chilwell (L)
  • Callum Elder (L)

Simpson and Fuchs will again be the primary full backs for the Foxes. I’ve listed Amartey as a full back due to his being the most likely back up the former QPR man on the right. Chilwell may challenge Fuchs for the starting role at left back at some point this year if he can rise to the defensive challenges of the job. Johnson and Elder are unlikely to feature, with Elder already on season-long loan to Wigan (and took all of 44 minutes to pick up his first red card.)

Midfielders:

Central midfielders

  • Danny Drinkwater
  • Wilfred Ndidi
  • Matty James
  • Vicente Iborra
  • Andy King
  • Nampalys Mendy
  • Harvey Barnes

No position is more improved over this time last year than the central midfield. January arrival Wilfred Ndidi impressed mightily over the last four months of the season and will be difficult to dislodge. Danny Drinkwater may find it difficult to hold on to the other starting position. His form slipped last year, and with the arrival of Iborra and the recovery of Matty James, the competition for minutes will be fierce.

Game time will be scarce for our Welsh talisman Andy King, who is certainly capable of being more than the fifth option in the central midfield. Mendy is on his way out, and a loan for Barnes seems probable as well.

Leicester City v Everton - Premier League
Above: An opportunity to post a gratuitous Andy King picture. You will be seeing a lot of this.
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Wingers

  • Riyad Mahrez
  • Marc Albrighton
  • Demarai Gray
  • Tom Lawrence
  • Ahmed Musa

The impressive depth on the wing will be significantly less impressive if/when Riyad Mahrez leaves the King Power. The Foxes’ fortunes will hinge on Demarai Gray’s ability to step up and prove he deserves to be in the starting XI. Marc Albrighton can and will play either wing, running his socks off and providing teasing crosses to strikers who don’t really have the height to reach them. . Leicester ask a great deal of their wide men and frequently substitute them late in the match, so expect both Lawrence and Musa to see significant action off the bench.

Strikers:

  • Jamie Vardy
  • Kelechi Iheanacho
  • Shinji Okazaki
  • Islam Slimani
  • Leonardo Ulloa

How Craig Shakespeare handles his glut of attacking options will be one of the most interesting stories of the season. The temptation will be to simply write the names “Vardy” and “Iheanacho” on the team sheet every week and the very early evidence suggests this could be a fruitful partnership. Write off Okazaki at your peril, however. As disappointing as last year was, City averaged just over two points per game when the former Mainz man played more than half the match. Either Slimani or Ulloa offer can offer the Foxes something different in attack, but it’s hard to imagine there’s enough available time on the pitch to keep them both happy.

Leicester City v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Preseason Friendly
The angle from which defenders will most often be seeing those two
Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Conclusion:

All the talk during the summer of 2016 was about acquiring enough depth to deal with the rigors of the Champions League, but the parts never really gelled and City were left short in several areas. This year’s squad is much deeper, more versatile, and better balanced than the one we started the campaign with against Hull last year.

The only concerns I see are a lack of options of the wings and at right back. Neither are pressing at this time, but an injury or two or maybe a suspension and we could be caught out at those positions. I’ve seen no legitimate rumours regarding this, but a player with similar skills to those of Marc Albrighton (Robert Snodgrass?), who could both play on the wing and serve as a makeshift wing back, would solve both problems at once. All in all? We’re in a good place, with multiple options at most positions and at least some cover at all of them. Bring on the Arsenal!