Welcome to FC Yahoo’s Premier League preview week. We’ll take a look at each team in our aggregated predicted table, counting down from No. 20 to No. 1, and also reflect on some issues surrounding the league as kickoff approaches on Friday. Follow along with everything here.
10. LEICESTER CITY
Last season – The stars of Leicester’s Premier League title run the season before underperformed, but perhaps the loss of midfield fulcrum N’Golo Kante was felt the most. The reigning champions won just five times in the first half of the season and manager Claudio Ranieri was sacked in late February after the Foxes fell to 17th in the table. From there, new manager Craig Shakespeare ripped off five wins to start his tenure and Leicester comfortably avoided relegation with a 12th-place finish.
Key transfer notes – Leicester has done a tidy bit of business, bringing in Vincente Iborra from Sevilla, Kelechi Iheanacho from Manchester City, and the Hull City duo of Harry Maguire and Eldin Jakupovic. The versatile Iborra is a defensive mid who can also operate as a striker. Iheanacho, meanwhile, scored seven goals in all comps for City last season. Maguire is expected to provide cover for Robert Huth and Wes Morgan in the center of defense, while Jakupovic will be backup to goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
FC Yahoo take
Joey Gulino: Freed from the added shackles of defending the league crown and playing Champions League football, Leicester should look more like a competent top-flight side this season. Iborra might be one of the signings of the summer in stabilizing the midfield, while Vardy should pair well with Iheanacho, who will get the chance to shine he never would have gotten had he stayed at the Etihad. Even if Riyad Mahrez leaves, the Foxes will push for a Europa League spot.
Alex Baker: There was a moment last summer when Leicester City might have parlayed its unexpected title success into something lasting. Instead, the team’s most important player, midfielder Kante, was sold and $88 million was splashed out on failed signings. Shakespeare has set a return to continental competition as this season’s goal. But while the Foxes appear to have done enough in the summer transfer market to avoid another run-in with relegation, they have nothing approaching the quality of the teams expected to battle for the top seven spots. Look for another unspectacular mid-table finish from the 2015-16 champions.
Betting odds (via SkyBet)
Win Premier League – 250/1
Relegation – 12/1
Shahan Ahmed: 10 | Ryan Bailey: 13 | Alex Baker: 13 | Henry Bushnell: 12 | Joey Gulino: 9 | Leander Schaerlaeckens: 9
Last season – More turnover, both on the pitch and the touchline, resulted in a stumble out of the gate and an inconsistent season that bottomed out with six losses in seven fixtures over the winter months. The experience in the side was enough to overcome a severe lack of scoring punch and the questionable hire of manager Claude Puel, who was sacked in mid-June.
Key transfer notes – The window had been relatively quiet for Southampton, and then star defender Virgil van Dijk handed in a transfer request to start the week and detailed his unhappiness with the club in very public fashion. Additionally, the Saints just broke their record fee to spend $23 million to sign midfielder Mario Lemina, who grew into a solid contributor for Juventus last season. Needless to say, we’re in the middle of Southampton’s transfer fireworks as we speak.
FC Yahoo take
Henry Bushnell: Last season, some saw an unimaginative team that had plateaued; I saw an unimaginative team too, but also saw a top-eight mainstay that made a poor managerial hire last summer, acknowledged its mistake 12 months later, and moved proactively to rectify it. New manager Mauricio Pellegrino inherits a squad with few holes, if any; with arguably the second-best fullback duo in the Prem; with two 22-year-old midfielders (James Ward-Prowse and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg) that are primed for breakouts any season now; and with a deep stable of versatile forwards whom previous boss Puel didn’t get the most out of. If van Djik is sold, another center back or two are necessary. But if Southampton gets those replacement signings right, there isn’t a club among the other 14 that’s in a better position to challenge for a top-six place than the Saints.
Leander Schaerlaeckens: For once, the Saints haven’t lost any key players. That is to say, if they manage to hang on to van Dijk until the end of the transfer window – which seems unlikely. But with or without him, this is a team that seems doomed to a regression after a very flattered eighth-place finish – in spite of 16 losses to just 12 wins. This is a roster comprised almost entirely of solid players but devoid of difference-makers. Pellegrino has not been equipped with the tools to reach Europe.
Betting odds (via SkyBet)
Win Premier League – 1750/1
Relegation – 7/2
Shahan Ahmed: 13 | Ryan Bailey: 11 | Alex Baker: 9 | Henry Bushnell: 7 | Joey Gulino: 11 | Leander Schaerlaeckens: 10
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