League position: 9th (52 points)
FA Cup: 3rd round
Carabao Cup: quarter-final
After all the hustle and tussle and huffing and puffing and writhing and wrenching, another tortuous – and sometimes torturous – season comes to an end for Leicester City.
For the second season running, Leicester’s campaign was a story of three discernible halves: a start that was comforting and satisfactory, a mid-season implosion followed by a managerial change, and finally, an outro to appease the fans and leave them salivating over what is to come.
Call it an unpopular opinion but a lot of the credit for the current sanguinity and optimism has to go to Claude Puel. Ben Chilwell didn’t develop himself – Puel did; Wilfred Ndidi didn’t improve himself – Puel did; Hamza Choudhury didn’t morph into a first-team player from an academy prospect himself either.
The foundations for the possession-based football that the fans are preaching today were also laid by Puel. It’s fine if you think that the Frenchman left the club in dire straits only if by dire straits, you mean that he left behind one of the best squads in the Premier League and a clear idea as to what the next manager is supposed to do. He had his flaws, too; perhaps the biggest of them was not being able to gain a control over the dressing room.
And that is where Brendan Rodgers has succeeded. He has been able to make the players and the fans buy into his philososophy and the rewards are already being reaped. One of his most significant and clever decisions yet is extending Wes Morgan and Christian Fuchs’ contract by a year. Let’s be honest, this isn’t a footballing decision. It’s a way of completely taking the dressing room into favour, given what influence Morgan and Fuchs have.
The players are on his side, the fans are on his side, the backroom staff is his – that’s a very solid base. A couple more marquee signings and Leicester are ready to go for the jugular, or put a different way, the top six. You have to look no further than the 1-0 defeat to Manchester City last week to realise how fabulous the Foxes really are.
They didn’t get a win but not too many times has a team gone to the Etihad Stadium, given Pep Guardiola’s side a taste of their own medicine and still not got humiliated – as is the norm. But for a ridiculous Vincent Kompany strike, Leicester could have ended the Citizens’ title hopes and they know it.
With Chelsea now facing a transfer ban at a time when they desperately need new additions, Manchester United a shambles as they have been for some time, Tottenham Hotspur still unpredictable and Arsenal much the same, there’s no real reason why Leicester would not represent real danger when the Premier League kicks off again. Don’t be surprised to see an awful lot of Jonathan Liew panegyrics about Leicester next season.