LEICESTER CITY PRE SEASON GUIDE INTRODUCTION submitted by
As you will all be aware of by now, LCFC are a team not to be underestimated or written off, and are a team that can play with an attacking vigour that is complemented by their defensive perseverance and determination. The focus and confidence that was displayed so admirably throughout the course of last season tie together these qualities and as such, The Foxes are poised to establish themselves as a solid Premier League team this season.
LCFC could provide a number of quality options at cheap price points, many having the bonus of a small selection percentage, so put the kettle on, get your reading glasses out, and enjoy a brief summary of the selection choices ahead. THE STORY SO FAR
After the devastation of the 12/13 playoffs Damn you, Troy Deeney!
, a sensational 13/14 season in the Championship saw Leicester truly shine, netting a mighty 83 goals and achieving a phenomenal 102 points, with a mere 6 losses along the way. Promotion was assured and the 14/15 return to the PL was to be an exciting prospect, but for the longest time, a frustrating and bleak reality. After some smashing performances against a run of tough opposition, namely Everton, Chelsea, Arsenal, Stoke and Manchester United in the first 5 GWs, the team displayed dynamism and fight, direction and commitment, and the results (DLDWW) were excitingly promising. This spirit never wavered, however, after the monumental high of a 5-3 home win against Manchester United, providence turned. 2 draws and 11 losses later, LCFC sat seemingly hopeless at the bottom of the table. A brief glimmer of hope over Christmas saw 2 wins and a draw, but back again came the poor results. 6 losses and 2 draw later, a lesser side would have capitulated, and like origami, folded under the pressure. However, other than two less than average performances against Villa and West Ham, the side came out every week and played with consistent teamwork, ambition and direction that was painfully unrewarded, but will hopefully prove to be their greatest asset going forward.
Gloriously wrapping up the end of the 14/15 campaign with 7 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss (to a Chelsea side looking to bury any competition for the title by that point) Leicester City topped the end of season form tables in Europe. Over the last 9 games, scoring 17 and conceding just 9, the fight finally came to fruition and survival was at long last assured!
With a number of solid, smart signings over the summer, and potentially more to come, optimism is justifiably high going into the new campaign. OPENING FIXTURES:
- Sunderland Home
- West Ham Away
- Spurs Home
- Bournemouth Away
- Aston Villa Home
- Stoke Away
- Arsenal Home
- Norwich Away
In contrast to last season, these are fairly good opening fixtures; I would say six out of eight here are feasibly winnable.
It is worth noting, before you read any of the following, that the exciting appointment of Claudio Ranieri will have a significant impact in the team selection and squad rotation, which is going to be very hard to predict until the season is underway. Ranieri has encouragingly stated, in his first interview as LCFC Manager, that he is looking to play to the current strengths of the squad rather than overhauling entirely and attempting to fit a square peg into a round hole. He explicitly mentioned admiration of the style that Pearson had successfully worked into the team, of three and the back, and two on the flanks, which ended up being the decisive strategic move to ensure survival in the Premier League. It is also noteworthy that, over the course of his long career, Ranieri has earned the nickname ‘The Tinkerman’, for his liberal approach to squad rotation. It remains to be seen how ‘nailed on’ anyone will be in the new LCFC, but I think we will line up much like during the last couple of months of last season; pacey and attacking, utilising the wings and the speed of the frontmen, whilst relying on a tough back three and a deep centre midfield, who enable the rest of the side in from of them through initially, titanium resistance and then smart, creative forward play. GOALKEEPERS SCHMEICHEL - 4.5m:
Leicester City’s and the Danish National Team’s #1 keeper; The Main Dane, Son of the legendary Peter Schmeichel, Kasper is the same age now as when his father signed for Manchester United. A spell of injury put him out for a few months last season, which coincided with our poor run of results. An incredible stopper from close range, he has saved us on many crucial occasions when the defence was caught short. Cheap, nailed on, and will be great for bonus points from saved shots, seeing as LCFC are not quite the public transport valets as some other noteworthy teams in the Premier League are! Verdict: A solid choice for #1 goalkeeper this season. The only thing that puts me off sticking him between the sticks is that there are some strong options in the Leicester defence, and I would not advise gambling two clean sheets on one team until the season is underway and we can see who is performing well enough for that risky strategy. HAMER – 4m:
Signing from Charlton Athletic last season as a backup for Kasper, and was soon called upon to be just that. In spite of only one seasons Championship experience, he found himself facing the best in the world in the Premier League, and performed admirably. He lost his place almost as quickly as it came though, with the return of Schmeichel and the signing of Schwarzer, and he now finds himself third on the bench. Verdict: Avoid, unless you are playing the no rotation strategy of doubling up with both keepers from one team, to keep things cheap and ensure a starting keeper each week. LCFC are as good a shout as any for this; the back line has been significantly strengthened with the signing of Huth, the current formation of three at the back working as well as it does (conceding only 5 in 9 games while deploying this at the end of the season under Pearson), and the fact that there will still be more chance for bonus points for saves made than in a more established Premier League side. SCHWARZER – 4m:
After signing from Chelsea midway through last season, the 42 year old immediately replaced Hamer in goal whilst Kasper was still recovering from an injured foot, despite Hamer’s solid performances. Schwarzer’s decades of top flight experience will have bought valuable contributions to the training ground and the dressing room; however this double edge sword means that he is unlikely to keep that second spot on the bench for long, with a young, athletic, and proven backup behind him. Verdict: Avoid. Schwarzer played with Pearson at Middleborough, their previous relationship being a contributing factor to his signing, and it is unclear if Ranieri will trust the old Aussie over Hamer. I would wager he will not (he was not on the Barclays Fantasy Football website team sheet list as a selection option until a couple of days ago, so I’m sure there are others far more informed that I who were expecting the same!), but I suppose we will have to wait and see. DEFENDERS MORGAN – 4.5m:
Captain to LCFC and ‘The Reggae Boyz’ Jamaican National Team, Wes is as solid as they come in a back line. Last season the CB stopped more shots than a police bust at a college party, and led by example in a defence whose strategy (at least until the 343 formation had been successfully applied) largely revolved around acrobatic bravery in front of goal bound balls. If Kasper was Whitney Houston, Wes would be Kevin Costner. This could prove very lucrative with the new bonus points system in place this season (a bonus point for every 2 blocked shots, tackles in the box, or interceptions for a defender, rather than for every 3). I’m putting the extraordinarily high ownership (18.7%) down to the fact that he is the highest scoring 4.5m defender from last season. This is a team selection strategy for the uninitiated, and I would in fact use it as justification to avoid him, as the high ownership will inevitably see his value drop quickly if results are not instant or consistent. He will be missing the start of the season due to Jamaica's fantastic run in the Gold Cup, so expect that value to drop immediately as uninformed fantasy managers notice his absence. Verdict: I suspect that while the improvements in the new bonus points system for shots, blocks and clearances will benefit a CB with the ability of Wes, the potential for reward for a couple of our other defenders, from their attacking qualities, will probably outweigh this. However, a nailed on 4.5m defender in a team that got as many clean sheets as De Gea managed last season could prove a viable bench or rotation option. That high ownership means that he will drop in price quite quickly, especially considering he will miss the first few games of the season, as opposed to Huth, who is just as nailed on and will play in the same position, alongside Wasilewski and Morgan at CB. Certainly consider picking him up later when his price has settled at it's lowest value SCHLUPP – 5m:
Schlupp is listed as a defender despite the fact that he played LM or LW 25 times last season, and only in LB 5 times. He is frighteningly fast, strong, attacking and direct, and will launch explosive runs down the flanks, slicing defenders to bits, cutting in to shoot, or hitting it from 20 yards out. Pearson would play him as a LW with three CB, and as Ranieri claimed in his first interview as manager, he will be looking to stick to this formation that worked so well last season. Schlupp is young, came through our youth academy system and is improving in great bounds, having recently established himself as a first team player in the Ghanaian National Team and one of our most reliable attacking and creative outlets. It is entirely likely that he will utterly explode this season, and I would wager that the 3 goals and 4 assists which he tallied last season will look paltry come GW38. Verdict: Buy him. First name on my team sheet; an attacking midfielder listed as a defender is enough to justify the 5m price tag alone, but not only is Schlupp shaping up to be one of the most exciting young talents in the Premier League, he is a playmaker and goal scorer in a team that will also grind out their fair share of clean sheets. There are rotation risks with the new man Christian Fuchs, who has played very similar roles in his time at Schalke 04, at LB, LM and LWB. However, Fuchs is far more imposing in defence, and Schlupp far more direct in attack. Fuchs could play alongside Wes and Huth with three at the back, or at LB, with Schlupp in front. I see them forming a formidable partnership together on the left. Hold fire on both if you are feeling cautious and want to wait for the team selection and formation to settle down, but expect to see big things from the glorious Ghanian this season. WASILEWSKI – 4.5m:
The monstrous Polish International will likely line up alongside Huth and Morgan to complete the back three that worked so well towards the end of last season. He is, much like his two partners in the same position, a big, mean, persistent ‘no nonsense’ defender. He is prone to the odd overly aggressive challenge, and as such, is a yellow card waiting to happen every time the opposition have the ball anywhere near him. He does the job, if not occasionally with a little too much vigour, and has won the hearts of many fans with his fierce contribution to defence last season. Verdict: Formidable defender for the team, but choose Morgan or Huth (choose Huth) if you want a 4.5m Leicester CB, as Wasilewski is a little less reliable and experienced that his counterparts in the same position, and as such, may see himself rotated out of the squad by ‘The Tinkerman’. HUTH – 4.5m:
Since signing on loan from Stoke in the January transfer window last season, the gigantic German Mauer
proved to be the fulcrum in a strong, aggressive back three, alongside Morgan and Wasilewski. Signing for three years this summer off the back of his terrific influence in Leicester’s Premier League survival campaign, he has clearly established himself as a defensive staple in the line-up. He will get up into the oppositions box for corners and has a powerful head on his shoulders too, making him somewhat of a goal threat from set pieces, scoring one in the 13 or so appearances he made for us last season. Verdict: Similarly to Morgan and Wasilewski, I think that our fullbacks/wingbacks will provide more lucrative returns by way of the potential for goals and assists over the centerbacks on whom they rely. A strong 4.5m choice if what you need is a cheap nailed on starter for a team that will likely be rewarded with a medium amount of clean sheets over the course of the season. The towering head of his could net a couple over the course of the season; an area in which the set piece proficiency of new signing Fuchs will surely aid. SIMPSON – 4m:
After a successful promotion campaign with QPR, Simpson signed for LCFC last year, and eventually earnt himself an occasional spot at LB when playing the now out of favour flat back four. Only 7 appearances, stiff competition and a formation that puts others in the squad ahead of him; not a promising fantasy pick at all. Verdict: Avoid. I thought he had been sacked earlier this year for throttling his girlfriend, but apparently not. He displayed hard work, if nothing else spectacular, in his appearances last season. He is versatile in defence, and will be looking to start fresh, with a clean slate, in front of a new manager who has not settled on a formation or a team sheet yet, which should be taken into account for his potential in the upcoming season, but I would not expect to see him play much at all, other than for some squad rotation at some point mid-season. DE LAET – 4.5m:
Once a staple name on the team sheet in the Championship, De Laet inspires more in terms of a good fantasy team name (‘Ctrl+Alt+De Laet’) than a good fantasy squad selection. Starting in 20 games last season, it became clear that he was prone to making abominable errors in between his regular unassuming defensive role at RB/RWB, for which he competes with Simpson. His mistakes cost us goals last season, and once again, the current favoured formation will see him find it even harder to secure a spot in the starting line-up. The imminent and likely signing of young French RB Marcel Tisserand is an axe hovering over De Laet’s head. Verdict: Avoid. Not nailed on, nowhere near as competent or attacking as our other fullbacks, and better picks in Morgan and Huth at the 4.5m price point. KONCHESKY – 4.5m:
If you had asked a LCFC fan halfway through the 14/15 season where we need to strengthen the squad, 9 times out of 10 you would have heard lamentation for a LB. Despite the fact that, over the years, he has been a generally reliable defender who works hard and likes to get forward and take the odd shot on, I can’t help but fret and watch, for the entire 90 minutes he is on the pitch, as you would watch a film like Halloween; holding your breath and waiting for the inevitable gruesome mess. It has generally been considered that LB was our weakest position on the field, because Konchesky was our only LB. The signing of Christian Fuchs this summer has relieved that concern. Verdict: Avoid. He is past his best, and finds himself lacking the pace and vigour needed in the Premier League in that position, and despite striking the odd decent shot last season, even scoring a screamer against Villa, I don’t see much game time or potential in him this season at all. MOORE – 4m:
The young England under 21 International is our reserve CB, sitting on the bench behind Wasilewski, Huth and Morgan. A player with ample potential, I am certain he will become a solid defender in time. However, only 11 Premier League appearances last season and the current solid accord between the three CBs ahead of him mean that it is almost certain he will play off the bench, if at all, for the most part of the season. As Wes is out for the Gold Cup early on, he could see some initial starts, but expect to see them wane with Morgans return. Verdict: Avoid. Reserve CB, will need an injury or a poor run of form from Huth, Morgan or Wasilewski to get game time. That being said, Moore is a young player who is developing fast. This, coupled with Ranieri’s apparent favour of rotation, could see more time on the pitch that I am assuming he will get. FUCHS – 5m:
Captain of the Austrian National Team, the aptly named Fuchs is an extremely exciting improvement to the squad. With his wealth of Bundesliga, Champions League and International experience it is entirely possible that he will hit the ground running in the Premier League. A set piece specialist, he succeeded in 2 goals and 4 assists for Schalke 04 last season, and in a team set up as LCFC are it is likely that he will be utilised for his attacking prowess as much as his defensive contribution. He will more than likely take direct and indirect free kicks, and even corners. Albrighton, Mahrez (and Cambiasso… please, please, please stay with us!) will provide competition for set pieces, so again, we will have to wait and see who wins Ranieri’s confidence. Verdict: Fuchs could be an incredibly lucrative pick for 5m. Virtually nailed on in a fairly strong defensive side, with a mind for attacking play; top class crossing and delivery and a wicked long shot, he presents all the qualities needed for a top fantasy defender. The quick flank breaks that LCFC affirm great proficiency in will play to his strengths, and I am hopeful that he will prove to be one of the Premier League signings of the season. Watch for the potential of rotation with Schlupp, as discussed above; the returns from his set piece duties could offset the more direct attacking disposition of Schlupp. MIDFIELD MAHREZ – 5.5m:
The Desert Fox and now established Algerian National team staple, Mahrez is a player who is developing some incredible creative attacking skill. A little unpolished, his relatively young age and the clear improvements he has made during his time in CAM, RW and RM at Leicester City so far suggest the potential for him to become a phenomenal attacking midfielder in time. 4 goals and 5 assists in his debut Premier League season, he is poised for an exciting campaign to come. He is a wildly skilful and direct player, carving runs from midfield straight through opposition, goal-ward bound, or darting past a backline into the corner where he will swing crosses into the box. His chance creation and through ball ability is strong, and he can aptly put himself in great positions for reciprocation, making him dangerous on the break and in fluid, fast attacks. On his day, Mahrez will be the most dangerous man on the pitch, as he joyfully displayed last season, for instance, with two goals and ‘Man of the Match’ against Southampton. His shooting can be fairly wayward and is an area that needs work, but when he has his eye in, he is dangerous from 20 yards out. He takes the odd corner and free kick too, but those honours are currently under contention with the new signing of Fuchs. I see him getting a lot more assists this year, and a brilliant goal from distance during pre-season training suggessts he has been working on that tempramental shooting ability. Verdict: When he turns it on, he will be everywhere at once; shooting from distance, taking players on, charging forward towards goal, making quick and clever passes, or making distance down the wing to fire crosses into the box. He is, however, slightly unreliable as he continues to develop his game, but at 5.5m, presents great potential in a cheap attacking midfielder. Consider Mahrez one to watch. ALBRIGHTON – 5m:
Albrighton’s first season with The Foxes, after signing from Aston Villa, saw the RM succeed with 2 goals and 4 assists in 18 appearances. His strengths lie in his solid crossing ability and eye for quick, key passes. If he is not looking to find possession on the wing, ready to put a ball into the box, he will plant the ball into the path of the front runners as soon as he finds himself in space. This plays well to the strengths of the squads attacking options, and could see him utilised frequently for such contributions. He often takes corners and free kicks, but as previously mentioned, this duty could be bestowed upon Fuchs. Verdict: The only other current option alongside Mahrez for LCFC midfield coverage. His attacking and set piece potential could see good returns from the not-quite-budget midfielder, but with the addition of Fuchs in the squad and the clear ability in Mahrez, I would hesitate before lining him up in my starting 11; certainly one for the watchlist, but better options are presented elsewhere in the Leicester side. KING – 4.5m:
A first name in the starting line up in CM since 2008, the Welsh International has been a reliable player for LCFC in the middle of the pitch for years now. Whilst you would not necessarily label him an attacking midfielder, he certainly has an eye for goal, and will take a shot on from distance if given the space. In fact, as Leicester’s all time highest goal-scoring midfielder, bagging only 2 during last season’s Premier League campaign was disappointingly lower than his normal season average. He did not play consistently, however, and the team in its entirety found it difficult to score in front of Premier League opposition. As LCFC have strengthened the defence and forwards over the last year, it has left the midfield in noticeable need of similar talent acquisition. King is by no means head and shoulders above the likes of James and Drinkwater, and does not supply the same kind of creative forward play that Albrighton and Mahrez offer. Read this either way. The lack of options in CM could necessitate game time for King, but formation, squad rotation and potential new signings could push him even further away from the team sheet than he was last season. Verdict: Avoid. At 4.5m, with his forward minded disposition, he is certainly one of the best midfield options out there at that price point if he plays. However, far from nailed on, and proving last season that he found it far easier to score in the Championship, I would wager that his time as a LCFC midfield pillar is being weathered away. JAMES – 4.5m:
Currently suffering from a knee injury, it could be a number of months before he returns to the squad. An aggressive and hard-working midfielder, he will be fighting to create attacks for those in forward positions, or taking the initiative himself and hitting (usually unsuccessful) efforts in from distance, if he is not risking a sending off by throwing himself into heady tackles from deep. Verdict: Avoid. Injured, and not expected to be back by even Christmas. I couldn’t tell you where he would line up in the midfield roster anyway, as for the CM positions, Cambiasso has really set the bar so high it’s seeing pink elephants in the wallpaper. DRINKWATER - 4.5m:
Another solid mainstay on the team sheet during the Championship promotion campaign of 13/14 season, Drinkwater scored 7 and made hard work look easy in the midfield. He has seen strong competition for the CM spot in the Premier League; as with King and James, none of whom shined, they all suffered from rotation whilst Pearson was figuring out the formation and best squad for each game. Drinkwater has a very good eye in picking out forward through balls, and takes tackling seriously. However, a Premier League first team position is far from guaranteed. Verdict: Avoid. He was brilliant in the Championship promotion campaign, but this from did not really translate to a difficult first season in the Premier League. I would certainly expect a lot of rotation, and if we do not sign a new midfielder to dominate in the role that King, James and Drinkwater have struggled somewhat with in the 14/15 campaign, we will certainly suffer. Here’s to hoping that a stronger team with a year’s experience behind them will see our CMs look as good as they did a couple of years ago, but I would not hold my breath. HAMMOND – 4.5m:
Older and far more defensive in midfield than the aforementioned CMs, Hammond saw only a handful of games last season, but still displays good control and a great talent for reading play. He may get more game time if Cambiasso does not stay, but I would expect to see him used as an occasional substitute, especially if we sign another much needed CM. Again, this is our weakest area on the field, in anxious need of a new signing to relieve the mighty defensive back line and to enable our rapid forwards. Dean Hammond can do neither. Verdict: Avoid. Will not be used much this season I would reckon, and generally used to playing more defensive roles, he is not a good fantasy pick. The CM spot will get strengthened eventually with a new signing, and I would then call time on the first team LCFC career of Hammond. KNOCKAERT – 4.5m:
I don’t know why he is still listed on the website, as he was sold to Standard Liege this summer. Verdict: Does not play in the Premier League anymore. Buy only if you want to prove a point to your mates that you can beat them with a squad of just 14. FORWARDS ULLOA – 6m:
Signing from Brighton & Hove at the start of last season, the powerful Argentine centre forward was then our record signing. He justified the ~£8m we paid in the first month of his Leicester career, scoring 5 in 5 games, displaying a fantastic work ethic, great positional aptitude and a strong defensive contribution. He quickly became my favourite player in the side for this quality effort and attitude. Unusually nimble with the ball at his feet, Ulloa can hold the ball and play others in as successfully as he can make the six yard box his own. He excels with his head, and is our only real target man; the pace in our wingers and the set-up of the squad as it was when we shined during the last couple of months of last season will play very well indeed to the strong centre forwards strengths. The swift price rise he saw last season attest to the fantastic contribution he can make to the team, but his value subsequently plummeted when the entire side suffered a mirage inducing goal drought that began immediately after the riotous performance against Manchester United, in which Ulloa netted a brace. During the terrible, sustained run of losses, the side played good attacking football consistently, and were never short on creating chances. Had Ulloa had a more clinical finish, this run could quite possibly have ended sooner.
*Verdict: A quality centre forward, I trust that Ulloa will enjoy even more success this season than he achieved in the last, with 11 goals and 4 assists. His size and strength and dexterity with the ball at his feet give him opportunity for hold up play, quick lay-offs and passes in to enable assists. The whole team is shaping up strongly for this season, which should help Ulloa’s goal tally increase. Kramaric, Vardy and Okazaki all play similar styles of forward play, and as a straight up centre forward, Ulloa has a role of his own to fill in a team that is prone to pounce on the Premier League and score far more successfully this season than in the last. VARDY – 6m:
Delightfully deft with the ball at his feet and frighteningly aggressive at pace, Vardy earned his debut England call up off the back of some terrific displays in the Premier League last season. Not necessarily gifted with the most skilful ability or poise, what he lacks in finesse, he more than makes up for in aggression and tenacity. Vardy will ungracefully run hard at a defence, often from deep, and will tear them to pieces for it. Formations fail, players are pulled out of position, fouls are drawn, and nerves are wrecked when he takes it upon himself to blaze forward. His style of play works well to enable the centre forwards and attacking players by way of the space he can create, as defenders fight to keep up with his ferocious runs down the flanks. Here, he will tally assists by flinging crosses in towards his team mates. When he is hot, Vardy is microwaved jam. 4 assists, a wonderful solo goal, drawing two penalties and baiting a red card in a 5-3 victory, he terrorised the Manchester United back line into such dissolution I almost started to feel bad for them. Almost… Verdict: 12 assists and 5 goals scored last season, he is more than capable of repeating this in the forthcoming campaign. More competition for his position with the signing of Okazaki and the improvement in Kramaric mean that rotation is almost assured at some point during the season, but Vardy is a player who, even off the bench, has ability in his wild and antagonistic approach that can change games. A bonus point and yellow card magnet in equal measure, but a threat from anywhere on the pitch, consider Vardy one to snap up if he nails a starting spot. NUGENT – 5.5m:
Basically the poor man’s Austin. He was invaluable in previous seasons, and his partnership with Vardy in the promotion campaign of 13/14 was devastating; he scored 20 of their combined 36 league total; his cool and happy disposition once belied a vicious goal scoring capacity, however, in the PL, he has failed to repeat the success he saw in the Championship, and I imagine he will sit last in line on the bench. Verdict: Avoid. He will not likely get game time, and will hit the post or scuff it wide if he does. KRAMARIC – 6m:
The super sharp Croatian International, tipped by many in his home nation to be the next Davor Suker, was an astonishing, and club record breaking ~9.5m acquisition to the side in January. Kramaric was to shun persistent interest from Chelsea in favour of The Foxes and the promise of game time and development, signing during our time floundering at the foot of the table. This attests to his desire to accept a challenge, and shines light on a very humble and hardworking attitude. 35 goals in 27 games for Rijeka in the 13/14 season, he excels in poaching at close range, chip shots and flair. A skilful and creative striker, one who can move and run with swift intelligence, his potential is monumental. Wisely eased into the side by Pearson, extravagant efforts that may have worked well for Rijeka in the Croatian league have been easily countered by Premier League defences, and he has been caught in possession and muscled off the ball far too easily. This is clearly improving, and he scored his first home goal on the last day of the season. A summer of training with the squad will have hopefully stoked the fires further, under a firework whose fuse is ready to ignite. Verdict: He still has some work to do to translate his game to the necessary quality to contend in the Premier League, but it is surely only a matter of time before the Croatian starts to turn heads all over Europe. Until then, Ulloa and Vardy present safer bets, but as soon as he starts scoring, he may not stop, so keep your eyes on his progress. OKAZAKI – 6m:
As exciting a prospect as Kramaric, Okazaki could adapt to the demands of the Premier League fairly quickly due to his ample Bundesliga experience with Stuttgart and Mainz 05, with whom he has scored an impressive 15 goals last season, becoming the most prolific Japanese player in German League history. Good with both feet and a genius first touch, he will appear in the middle of the area like a flash, and with a keen eye, will fire goal-wards. He can control a wayward cross with the most nimble of touches, and has a potency for on-target shots from tight angles or difficult positions while under pressure. A forward who knows how to be in the right place at the right time, any loose ball in the penalty area is one touch away from goal with Okazaki in the box, if he can stand up strong to pressure.
*Verdict: If Leicester’s problems last season stemmed from a lack of clinical finishing in front of goal (they did), then Okazaki looks set to remedy that. Once again, I would hold fire on selection as of yet, we do not know how well he will perform in new colours in a new league, or where he will line up on the team sheet. If he settles in fast, the potential for points in this 6m forward is huge, and if he nails a starting spot in front of goal, the likes of Kramaric, Vardy, Mahrez and Albrighton could very well feed the Japanese forwards appetite for goals. SUMMER TARGETS TISSERAND (DEF):
A young RB who has worked with Ranieri in the past and looks set to be on his way to The King Power soon. Verdict: Could replace De Laet, and will probably be used in squad rotation until he establishes himself. CAMBIASSO (MID):
Our talisman last season, his experience and influence, on and off the field, provided strength and concord throughout the squad. He was our platform in CDM, creating play from deep and dictating the pace of the game and the direction of play with acute positional and tactical awareness. Arguably the signing of the season, Cambiasso was utterly indispensable, and it is more than likely that we would be playing Championship football this year had it not been for his magnificent contribution. Verdict: Can take free kicks and corners, will poach goals from out of nowhere with his thunderous striking ability, and makes more forward passes than a drunk single Aunt at a wedding. ‘He’s maaagic, you knooow; Esteban Cambiassooooo!’ A CENTRAL MIDFIELDER:
Watch this space… We narrowly missed signing N’Zonzi, and if we can re-sign Cambiasso and supplement him with another secure signing in this position, then watch out Europa League! We are coming for you!
Thanks for reading! This was a lot of fun to write, and I am so ready for the start of the season by now, I may go mad before kick off on the 8th August! Comments and edits welcome, any feedback and input will be much appreciated.
FOXES NEVER QUIT EDIT Cambiasso
has sadly decided not to re-sign for the Foxes. He will, without a doubt, go down as a squad Legend for his immense contributions and influence last season. Thank you, Esteban, it's been glorious
:') This only intensifies the need to sign another CM/CDM soon, and will present a good opportunity for Hammond, King
to get on the team sheet. Hamer
has been loaned full season to Nottingham Forest, with a recall clause. Good luck to him, he is a fine keeper and will benefit and improve further from game time, waiting to return and reclaim his second spot as the clock ticks on Schwarzer's
ageing career. (As Hamer has been loaned out, Schwarzer has the second spot under Kasper now. With the dismissal of Adam Smith for the incident in Thailand and the expiry of Conrad Logan's contract a short while ago, we have no third keeper. Perhaps Ranieri has a keeper in his crosshairs?) Pre-Season stand out players so far, after two games, multiple formation changes and 22 substitutions... Mahrez
has impressed greatly, with flair and creativity in attacking midfield roles; Schlupp
has displayed characteristic pace and power down the wing, stoking the fires of my high expectations for him this season; Albrighton
has supplied a brilliant array of accurate, smart crosses into the box; Schmeichel
has been on point, in solid form, and has made a couple of wonder-saves; Kramaric
looks to be linking up well with his attacking partners, looked sharp, keen and scored a phenomenal goal from the edge of the penalty area. Fuchs
will need more time to settle, but both displayed glimmers of their potential amidst a somewhat temperamental and confusing baptism into the squad.
In the latest Nottingham Forest news, Kenny Jackett's odds have significantly dropped for the vacant managerial role at the club. Bet £10 Get £40 in Free Bets T&Cs apply. New customers only – £10 deposit using promo code "RACING" - First bet must be placed on any market - Minimum stake £10 at odds of 1/2 (1.5) - Free bets credited upon qualifying bet settlement and expire after 7 days - Free bet stakes not included in returns - Deposit balance is available for withdrawal at any time. Forest, meanwhile, have been in good form under new manager Sabri Lamouchi, unbeaten in all competitions since the opening weekend. This should be an entertaining encounter in South Wales. Swansea City v Nottingham Forest Betting Odds* Swansea City 10/11 Draw 13/5 Nottingham Forest 3/1 Gary Rowett and Gus Poyet are the betting market favourites to be in charge of Derby and Nottingham Forest in 2016/17 Barnsley have reaped 6 wins in the last 10 games, beating Brentford, Nottingham Forest, Queens Park Rangers, Hull City, Middlesbrough & Fulham. 2 draws against Wigan Athletic & Millwall and defeats to Cardiff City & Birmingham City has seen them score 9 at an average of 0.9 goals per game while shipping 4.