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Forget the fairytale - consolidation the key for miracle workers Leicester


It is seven years since any side was able to defend the Premier League title, but for most previous champions the expectation is that they will again challenge at the top of the table. One would feel a side that finished 10 points clear of any other side would follow that trend, but Leicester City do not play by the rules.

Having thrown aside all who challenged them in 2015-16, Claudio Ranieri’s squad arrive into the new campaign with as many considering them as potential relegation candidates as title challengers. In reality they will likely finish somewhere in between, but that is not to write them off.

Despite losing N’Golo Kante to Chelsea, both Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez are set to remain at the King Power Stadium, and the arrivals of Ahmed Musa, Nampalys Mendy and Lucas Hernandez have added much needed depth to a squad that will have to deal with the extra efforts that come with playing in the Champions League.

And it is that European competition that will likely derail their efforts to defend their crown. Though a number of the elite clubs have strengthened both on the pitch and in the dugout, Leicester will still fancy that they can compete on a match-by-match basis, particularly after pushing Manchester United all the way in Sunday’s Community Shield.

But combining European performances with a Premier League campaign has proved too much for even the most experienced English sides, and that is where Ranieri will have to come into his own. His stronger squad and added matches has seen him vow to return to his ‘Tinkerman’ ways that embodied his time with Chelsea.

The Foxes’s counterattacking style was too much for all levels of opponent last season, but emulating the energy levels required to repeat those performances twice a week with a team that may change from game to game may even be beyond Leicester’s miracle men. The Premier League’s lesser lights will likely sit deep and allow the champions to control possession, and it is whether they can adapt to playing against such systems on a regular basis that will determine their final league position.

So what should Leicester fans be hoping for heading into the new season? Though Ranieiri continues to insist to the media that he is concentrating on survival, in truth he would be selling his own side short if he is not eyeing another top-four finish. That may still prove beyond this squad, but consolidating their position as a team that can upset the applecart is key to Leicester’s long-term success.

Chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha does not see the club’s title win as something which should be treated as an anomaly. Contrary to some theories, the Thai billionaire has pumped huge amounts of money into the club in a bid to pull off something as unprecedented as last season’s achievements, but he is not one to rest on his laurels.

Ranieri’s new four-year contract points to the fact that he is the man Srivaddhanaprabha believes can carry the club forward, and they would be forgiven for putting the bulk of their efforts into making an impact in Europe this season. The interest in Leicester City has understandably grown massively in the past 12 months, and a run in the Champions League would only enhance their chances of one day living with the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea both on the pitch and in crucial growth markets worldwide.

Whether that would affect their league performances remains to be seen, but it is almost expected that Leicester will not be bucking the trend of recent years in terms of defending their crown. The focus for this campaign should be making sure they remain in the hunt to pull off a similarly joyous campaign in the not so distant future.