What a summer, right? It’s been a long time since Leicester City have been this active on the transfer market during a single window. It’s a good thing that I didn’t try to do the “summer shopping” report this year, as it would have been even less accurate than normal.
In fact, we were so busy moving players in and out and it’s so early in the season that there didn’t seem to be much point in assigning individual grades to each transfer. Instead, let’s try something different: Let’s look at each player and then assign a grade to the incoming crop and outgoing deals as a whole.
Harry Winks (from Tottenham Hotspur) - Winks was very much Maresca’s first choice to anchor the midfield. He’s a frustrating player from my standpoint as he does very little that shows up in the statistics. It’s very difficult to quantify what he does on the pitch. He’s ostensibly the defensive midfielder, but he plays more like a deep #10 in our system. His job is to help play out of the back, and he seems to be doing it well.
Conor Coady (from Wolverhampton Wanderers) - Remember what I said about statistics? Coady is even more of a statistical ghost than Winks, which is quite a bar to clear. That’s extremely unusual for a central defender. They normally do things like clear the ball, win aerial duels, tackle attackers, and intercept passes. Coady really doesn’t do any of those things, and as he’s yet to kick a ball for us, the jury is very much still out on him.
Mads Hermansen (from Brøndby) - Hermansen was brought in for his ball-playing abilities and he hasn’t disappointed. After nine months of watching the ball sail into touch, it’s a welcome change. He’s also proven to be a fine shot-stopper. Did we need another goalkeeper? No. Did we need Mads Hermansen? Absolutely.
Tom Cannon (from Everton) - The 20-year-old spent last season on loan at Preston North End, where he scored some very familiar-looking goals. He loves to play on the shoulder of the last defender, get in behind, make clever runs and...you get the idea. He’s probably more of a poacher than The Next Jamie Vardy (there will never be another, let’s not kid ourselves), but that’s OK. He’s young and a proven scorer at this level.
Callum Doyle (on loan from Manchester City) - A fine-looking young player who was one of the best defenders in the Championship last season for Coventry. Maresca has deployed him as a hybrid fullback/left centre-back with some success. There’s a non-zero chance we could make this deal permanent.
Cesare Casadei (on loan from Chelsea) - What a player this lad is. He’s tactically precocious, already knows the system better than many of the older players, and he can score from anywhere. Unfortunately, Chelsea are not going to sell him to us. You can bank on that. Let’s hope it’s a glorious year because that’s all we’re getting.
Yunus Akgun (on loan from Galatasaray) - The quest to replace Riyad Mahrez goes on. By this time, we’ve established a spectrum that runs from Mahrez to Rachid Ghezzal. Where does Yunus fit? He’s extremely clever with his feet, he clearly “gets” the system and has set up goals with his passing. His defensive effort is terrific. Does he have the pace to play wide in England? It remains to be seen, but there’s cause for hope. This deal will very likely become permanent, so keep your fingers crossed.
Abdul Fatawu (on loan from Sporting) - An absolutely electric talent who hit the post with his first shot. He’s yet another attempt to plug the gap on the right wing. He’s much more direct than Yunus, and he has the confidence of a 19-year-old who has dominated every level. I have no clue if there’s an option to buy here, but I am sceptical.
Incoming Grade: A-
I’ll admit that I was concerned when the first two signings were veterans who had struggled mightily in the top flight. It felt very “Sven” for those of you who’ve been around a while. Since that time, we’ve brought in a vast amount of exciting young talent. Several of the new signings even have experience at this level or higher.
So why not an A+++++ grade? I have to ding the grade slightly as some of the more impressive players are here on loan. Nonetheless, if the goal was to build a squad that could compete for automatic promotion and lay the foundation for the future, then it looks like a job well done.
James Maddison (to Tottenham Hotspur) - This will go down as the transfer of the year in the Premier League, which suggests we didn’t get enough for him. Of course, we didn’t, as we had no leverage and there was surprisingly little competition for his signature. We had to sell him, we did sell him, and we got all we were going to get.
Daniel Amartey (to Besiktas) - Free transfer as he was out of contract.
Ryan Bertrand (free agent) - Free transfer as he was out of contract.
Jonny Evans (Manchester United) - Free transfer as he was out of contract.
Ayoze Perez (Real Betis) - Free transfer as he was out of contract.
Çağlar Söyüncü (Atletico Madrid) - Free transfer as he was out of contract.
Youri Tielemans (Aston Villa) - Free transfer as he was out of contract.
Harvey Barnes (Newcastle United) - Again, we didn’t get anywhere near value for him. This is a little disappointing as he’s a local lad and he had more than a year to run on his contract. But, he’s legitimately too good to be playing in the Championship so it was always likely that we were going to have to sell.
Timothy Castagne (Fulham) - This was more “he wanted out and he had value” than “we had to sell.” I wish him nothing but the best.
Victor Kristiansen (Bologna on loan) - Maresca never rated him, which surprises me a little. His departure was always a matter of “when and where” as opposed to “if.”
Luke Thomas (Sheffield United on loan) - Thomas always looked like he was just about to get it together in the top flight, so it’s a little strange to see him leave. Here’s hoping he does well for Blades. If you’re keeping score, yes, that’s first-team fullbacks who’ve left the King Power.
Boubakary Soumare (Sevilla on loan) - Soumare had the fourth-highest wage packet of any Leicester player and didn’t fit into Maresca’s system. This was low-key one of the most important deadline moves we made.
Outgoing Grade: D+
I’m not going to reduce the score for players whose contracts were allowed to expire. Those decisions were made a year ago and shouldn’t count against this transfer window’s grade. I can’t even find too much fault in getting less than value for Barnes and Madders as that was inevitable the moment we were relegated.
The low grade is a reflection of the fact that we have left ourselves with an awkward squad composition that may cause problems both on and off the pitch. We have five first-team goalkeepers. Barring a catastrophe, we shouldn’t need more than three. We also have four strikers, including the three highest-paid players in the Championship. Enzo Maresca prefers a single-striker system even when chasing the game, so we really needed to shift at least one of them.
We’ve also left ourselves with two recognized fullbacks in the persons of Ricardo Pereira and James Justin. Both of them are fine players, but their injury histories are worrisome. We also have two classic #6 types in Wilfred Ndidi and Hamza Choudhury. Maresca doesn’t employ a #6, so Wilf has been playing as a #8 and Hamza hasn’t been playing.
What we’re left with, then, is an exciting but ill-fitting squad from both a playing and financial standpoint. I detest the expression “addition by subtraction” but in this case, we might have been better off with a few more departures.
Overall Grade: B
This grade reflects the fact that I’m more excited by the players we brought in than worried about the ones we couldn’t move. Besides, I am perfectly comfortable with a strike force of Jamie Vardy, Kelechi Iheanacho, Patson Daka, and Tom Cannon at this level. Having the Wales #1 as our fourth-choice keeper seems a little redundant, but it’s not the worst problem to have.
On the other hand, we have decisively addressed what the gaffer saw as weaknesses. He has the leaders he wanted, the goalkeeper he wanted, and, potentially, an answer to our long nightmare on the right wing.
Is there still work to do? Absolutely. As busy as we were this summer, I would expect to see us be one of the busier clubs in the January window as well. But as a first step in instituting a long-term project? I think this was a solid effort and that it bodes very well for the future.
So, what do you think? Did I overrate the incoming players? Did we do all we could do to shift the players who needed to be discarded? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.