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Leicester City – A Top Table Or European Spot Awaits Craig Shakespeare’s First Season In-charge Of The Foxes?

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Can Leicester City Secure A European Return This Season?

From ‘Tinkerman’s’ tenure to Shakespeare’s sonnets – the foxes had a roller coaster ride following a miraculous Premier League 2015-16 triumph as they became the worst title defenders in league history after a 12th placed finish last term. But Leicester earned loads of applauds for a lion-hearted display in club’s maiden Champions League campaign where they progressed to the quarter final of the competition before being humbled by Spanish heavyweights Atletico Madrid despite a courageous show.

Claudio Ranieri, the veteran Italian manager who transformed them into a title winning side from relegation favourites, was ruthlessly shown the door midway through the previous campaign following some flop transfers and unprofessionalism of a few stars who turned their back to hide their own failure. Craig Shakespeare, the then assistant manager, was promoted as their first team coach and helped them survive a relegation scare and revived their campaign with consecutive victories.

Leicester, meanwhile, have shrugged off last season’s misfortunes and have dived into the transfer market to acquire their prime targets. The departure of N’Golo Kante cost them severely as Daniel Amartey failed to replace the Frenchman in the middle of the park. Although winter arrival Wilfred Ndidi stepped up in midfield, the Foxes were searching an experienced resource and concluded a deal for former Sevilla veteran Vicente Iborra. Also, their defence needed to be strengthened and Shakespeare brought in highly-rated Englishman Harry Maguire from relegated Hull City.

They have also signed his ex-teammate Eldin Jakupović who is set to replace custodian Ron-Robert Zieler who has returned to his country and joined VfB Stuttgart. Leicester City are favourites to land exciting Manchester City forward kelechi Iheanacho as well who is set to be transferred out for regular football.

Jamie Vardy of Leicester City
Jamie Vardy

The Foxes, however, are expecting a few departures as well. Riyad Mahrez, who won the PFA Fans’ as well as Players’ Player of the Year for title-winning 2015-16 season, had a disappointing season and handed in a transfer request in order to complete a bigger move to attain Champions League football. Argentine striker Leonardo Ulloa too, is set to depart due to the lack of enough game-time.

Shakespeare will rely on Marksman Jamie Vardy once more and the likes of Danny Drinkwater, Danny Simpson, Christian Fuchs, Robert Huth, Wes Morgan and Marc Albrighton must regain their consistency prior to the forthcoming season. With no added pressure of European football, the boss is counting on his youngsters Ndidi, Demarai Gray and Ben Chilwell who showed plenty of promise last season.

However, a finish in ‘top six’ will be an uphill task for them as Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, both the Manchester clubs, Tottenham and also Everton (following their sensational transfer dealings) are favourites to seal the first seven spots. Leicester City will have to compete against the likes of Southampton, West Ham United, Stoke City and West Brom to secure a top half return.

It is less likely that they will be able to achieve it, but it is not that they are not capable of doing it.