Leicester City doubled their tally of Premier League away wins with a 1-0 victory at West Brom. It wasn’t a vintage match of football but provided three points that all but secure the Foxes’ safety. With twelve points still up for grabs, Craig Shakespeare’s side can still crack the top ten, but there’ll be an element of planning ahead for the club.
While not mathematically safe from relegation, this win took Leicester into 11th. It’s very unlikely that with three of the remaining four games to be played at the King Power, that the Foxes won’t notch some more points to hopefully close the season on a positive note. With Jamie Vardy once again proving the thorn in Tony Pulis’ side, it lifted a side who were very disappointed to have left Arsenal with no points.
May 21st will signal the end of a rather roller coaster twelve months and give the playing staff a break. Behind the scenes, you imagine it’ll be more chaotic. There’s a small matter of us needing to hire a manager for next season and to strengthen the side. Plans for both of these things are likely already underway, and rightly so.
Since taking over from Claudio Ranieri, Shakespeare has guided the Foxes from the bottom three to almost mid-table. He’s taken nineteen out of a possible twenty-seven points in the Premier League and navigated a Champions League match to secure a quarter-final spot. We may have gone out to Atletico Madrid, but only 2-1 on aggregate was nothing to be ashamed of. He reignited the passion in our squad and guided us to safety. We’ll never know if the Italian could have matched or bettered this, but he steadied our ship when we needed it. He’s given himself the best possible chance of being offered the job full time.
Despite this, some fans remain unconvinced by him and are calling on the club to hire a bigger name. In the past, they’ve done this, but their more recent record suggests they value more than a household name and I would be a little surprised if they didn’t give Shakespeare the chance to make it truly his own squad and see what they can achieve.
Whoever takes charge for the first game next season, there’ll likely be new faces for them to bring into the side. It’s become clear over the course of the season that we need to strengthen in various areas, most notably our defence. On top of the strengthening we already know we need to do, there’ll likely be departures to factor in that will mean we need more replacements too.
Perhaps it depends on what happens to Kasper Schmeichel, but his departure notwithstanding, Ron Robert Zieler is likely one of those who’ll look to depart the King Power. He’s been incredibly disappointed by his lack of game time and unless we lose our ever dependable number one, this won’t improve for him.
Leonardo Ulloa’s future remains unclear, but given just how outspoken he was in January, it’s tough to see him staying with Leicester. There are other players on the fringes or out on loan, like Marcin Wasilewski and Matty James, whose futures are also up for speculation. Whereas we depended heavily on Danny Drinkwater in the earlier part of the season, his form hasn’t quite been up there lately and we’ll likely want to add another central midfield option who provides something a little different to he and Andy King. Should James not return, expect us to sign somebody else to add competition there.
One thing that absolutely has to improve this year is our summer recruitment. Despite the £60+ million that we spent last summer, much of it seems wasted. We’ve barely seen Nampalys Mendy play, what we’ve seen of Ahmed Musa has been utterly disappointing and we transferred out Luis Hernandez after less than six months. Of the summer signings, the most successful has been Islam Slimani, this despite his injuries and time away at the AfCoN.
We may finally have Slimani fit again now, the Algerian making an appearance on the substitutes bench this weekend. With pride and a couple of places to move up left to play for, it’s our chance to really give the Vardy and Slimani partnership a go. We’ve switched between Shinji Okazaki and Ulloa for the last couple of games and neither has been as effective as we know they can be. Perhaps Watford at home next weekend will give us the chance to put these two together again. Should it work, we’ll likely have our main two strikers for next season.
There are our younger players too. Will we finally see Bartosz Kaputska? With less pressure on the side, can we also integrate Demarai Gray more and does Ben Chilwell’s future lie more as a wing-back than an out and out fullback? The coming four games give Shakespeare a chance to change things, experiment with formations or really test some players to see if they’ll feature more next year. Should our owners still be undecided on if he is the man to take the Foxes forward, a few impressive home results may just do the trick.