Friday night’s disappointing defeat to Newcastle United dented Leicester City’s hopes of a seventh-place finish. Whilst still mathematically possible, a tough run in leaves them in a trickier spot than their rivals. The fact that Leicester are even competing for the final European spot is a testament to the quick turnaround in fortune which Brendan Rodgers has brought. This positivity has led to many wondering whether Leicester could break into the top six next season. We look at the areas Leicester must strengthen if they are to challenge next season.
Add Threats From Wide
Brendan Rodgers spoke last week of the need to bring more goals from wide areas. Demarai Gray has only four this campaign, whilst Harvey Barnes has only one to his name. Barnes has flashed potential since being recalled from loan in January, but many believe Gray has run his course at Leicester. The absence of Marc Albrighton through injury since January has been sorely felt.
It is therefore essential that wide options be brought in. Some talk has emerged of a possible return for Riyad Mahrez, who continues to struggle for playing time at Manchester City. However, given the huge investment made in Mahrez less than a year ago, City are unlikely to cut their losses just yet.
Several wingers have been watched by Leicester scouts since Rodgers took charge. One such winger is Valentino Lazaro, of Hertha Berlin. A full Austrian international, Lazaro has also been watched by Napoli and Everton in recent weeks. Although he has played at right-back this season, Lazaro is most experienced in a more advanced role. Another name linked with the foxes is Swansea City’s Daniel James. Leeds failed to sign James in January, but he is likely to move to the Premier League this summer.
Youri Tielemans is a contender for Leicester’s player of the season award despite only joining on loan in January. Tielemans has contributed two goals and three assists in his nine appearances but has been even more impressive than his numbers suggest.
His awareness, passing range and high engine have made an enormous impact on Leicester’s midfield. He has already formed an impressive relationship with Jamie Vardy and James Maddison. Monaco have quoted £40 million for his permanent transfer and the wheels are already in motion.
Jamie Vardy remains the most prolific goalscorer outside of the top six. However, he continues to age and cannot be expected to single-handedly carry Leicester’s attacking threat next season. Both Shinji Okazaki and Kelechi Iheanacho have offered little to no help this season.
A name consistently linked to Leicester is Daniel Sturridge. Available on a free transfer this summer, Rodgers is keen to reunite with Sturridge. The striker played his best football under Rodgers at Liverpool and hopes his former boss can reignite his career. Although Sturridge comes with a lengthy injury history and would demand high wages, the move would be relatively risk-free and bring an international calibre player to the club.
Another player linked with a move is Salomon Rondon. The Newcastle striker, on loan from West Bromwich Albion, has bullied defenders at times this season. A vastly different player to Vardy, Rondon would give Leicester a true ‘plan b’. Similarly, a move for Fulham‘s Aleksandar Mitrovic could materialise. However, with a heftier price tag and reputation as a hothead, Mitrovic would present a far greater risk.
Replace Lost Talent
Leicester boast some of the best young talent in the league. It is therefore unsurprising that top six clubs are circling with intent.
Manchester City, in particular, are taking a keen interest in Ben Chilwell. Arguably Leicester’s best player this season, Chilwell would be a big loss. Multiple left backs have been linked as a replacement; one such player is Celtic’s Kieran Tierney. Having coached Tierney, Rodgers may be able to lure Tierney to Leicester ahead of multiple other interested clubs. The Foxes have also scouted Olympiakos left back Leonardo Koutris.
Other players who may garner interest are Harry Maguire and Wilfred Ndidi. Maguire’s form has been variable this season, as he has failed to reach the heights of last year. However, he remains a key player who the club are keen to build around. Both Maguire and Ndidi would be difficult to replace.
Leicester continue to occupy the final European spot, a position that was not anticipated when Brendan Rodgers took charge. However, the long term goal is much more than simply being ‘the best of the rest’ and plans are already well underway to build for next season.
View the original article on Last Word On Football: Leicester City Need a Good Summer to Push the Top Six