You might not be aware of the fact that Leicester City are the only team in the top European leagues not to make a signing so far during this summer’s window. You might not be, but you probably are. It’s no secret that things have been moving slowly on Filbert Way.
You think I’m going to miss an opportunity to link a Futurama video?
With the 2022/23 campaign starting in less than two weeks, we are faced with a possibility that seemed impossible when the previous season ended: We might not bring anyone in. Given that it felt like the team took a step backwards last term, this would be viewed only slightly more favourably than having a Kula Shaker song featured on Stranger Things, making it suddenly ubiquitous.
If we don’t sign any players, it would be difficult to describe any scenario as “good.”
What does the squad look like if we don’t sign any players, but also don’t sell any?
Honestly, we’d be in pretty good shape. I’d like to remind you that we finished 8th last season despite the fact that we never fielded our first-choice XI simultaneously. We were without Vardy, Fofana, Evans, Söyüncü, Ndidi, Ricardo, Castagne, and, um, Bertrand for extended periods. Or, to put it another way, no outfield player started 30 matches in the league for us.
The point is: If we don’t lose any of our key players and if we aren’t wrecked by injuries again, this is a much-improved squad over what we saw last season. We’ll address the former in the next section, but how likely are we to avoid major injuries this time around?
The best two indicators of injury risk are: Injury history and age. Thus, and I hate to say it, it’s hard to imagine Vardy staying healthy all season. Evans and Albrighton are over 30 and thus increasingly prone to injuries, while you have to be concerned about Ricardo. The Portugal fullback hasn’t looked fully fit since Jack Grealish petulantly took his knee.
On the other hand, many of the key players are either youngsters or in their prime years. There’s no guarantee that young players won’t get hurt, but they’re less likely to do so and, importantly, more likely to improve. Another year under the belt is sure to help Daka, Soumare, Fofana, Castagne, and Söyüncü.
Assuming we go to war with the players currently under contract, here’s what I imagine Brendan Rodgers’ starting XI might look like:
The goal here is to get Ndidi and Tielemans on the pitch at the same time. Everything else flows from it. One thing I should probably mention at this point is that, since he was here on loan last year, I’m not considering Ademola Lookman in either of these scenarios. This is a far from ideal use of resources, but playing Maddison on the right always the gaffer to include both Madders and Dewsbury-Hall.
How would this team fare? Pretty well, in my opinion. There’s no lack of depth, although you could argue that there’s a lack of quality depth in some roles. This squad competes for Europe and, if they stay fairly healthy, gets into the Europa League. I’d guess a 6th or 7th placed finish, which makes sense if you remember it’s a healthier version of the squad that finished 8th last term.
Since the news today made it even more unlikely that this particular scenario will unfold, let’s prepare for the worst.
What about if we sell all the players we’re trying to sell, but don’t make any signings?
Is it possible that the Foxes could lose key players and not bring replacements in? I don’t think it’s likely, but it isn’t outside the realm of possibility. What happens if we lose Youri Tielemans, Çağlar Söyüncü, Kasper Schmeichel, Ayoze Perez, Boubakary Soumare, Hamza Choudhury, Dennis Praet, and Timothy Castagne and then fail to bring anyone else in?
The good news is that, of those eight, only Tielemans and Schmeichel are regular starters. Castangne and Söyüncü are both key players who slot into the starting XI, but the rest haven’t been as heavily involved on match days. So, the impact to our regular lineup isn’t quite as severe as it might seem.
However, this would absolutely wipe out our depth and severely restrict our flexibility. This would leave Luke Thomas and Daniel Amartey as the primary backups at the back, with Papys Mendy and Marc Albrighton getting more minutes than you’d like in the midfield. It would mean that we’d have to rely on players from the U23s, which is a fine thing when you’re doing it to get them the experience and not out of necessity.
Here’s how I’d recommend the team line up in this scenario:
I’m going with a 4-3-3 since we aren’t likely to be playing two deep midfielders without Youri. The thing that stands out is the Seniorman on the right wing. I know Rodgers would probably go with Albrighton, but Iheanacho is left-footed, brilliant-ish at long shots, and fits this shape better than Sharky.
Honestly, I kind of like this shape. A healthy Ndidi is the key to this working. We get carved up if he’s not at the top of his game (or if Justin and Ricardo get too adventurous bombing forward). I could also see Rodgers going 3 at the back with wingbacks when he needs to tighten up the defence.
I understand this lineup is probably pure fantasy, but then again, so is losing eight players and not signing any replacements. Would this team be competitive? With a full week between most matches, resting players won’t be an issue and this starting XI is pretty strong. But...injuries happen. Mendy and...someone from the youth squad...are our reserves in central midfield. Amartey and Vestergaard are the backup defenders. I think, if we’re fortunate, we finish 10th and there’s a very real chance we drop into the bottom half of the table. There’s too much talent for this side to be relegated, but too little depth to compete for Europe.
That’s my take. Let us know in the comments if I’m wrong or if I’m very wrong.