Football's fine line between love, hate and sarcasm

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It seems somewhat strange to think that Leicester City had been away from the dizzy heights of the Premier League for ten years before their return this season, and even stranger that they were in League One just five years ago. Certainly, promotion back to the Premier League didn't really look on the cards at the start of last year's campaign, but Nigel Pearson defied the doubters and built a solid, hard working team that eased their way back to the big time, and if they play their cards right, they could be set for another few years there.

PROMOTION GLORY

Nobody would have blamed Leicester for having an indifferent campaign last season after the frankly unbelievable way they were knocked out of the play-off semi finals two years ago. For those unaware, the Foxes won a 96th minute penalty with the scores level at 2-2 on aggregate. Anthony Knockaert stepped up and saw his penalty saved by Watford keeper Manuel Almunia, who then instigated a counter attack from which Troy Deeney scored to secure a final spot for the Hornets. Brutal, right?

For the following campaign, Pearson saw a need to change the culture of spending that had seen the club spend millions on players and not get the results the investment warranted. He instead built a team around young players Matt James and Danny Drinkwater, both former Manchester United academy midfielders, to great success. Their biggest strength was in attack with David Nugent, Jamie Vardy and Chris Wood forming a formidable force up front, scoring 40 league goals between them.
With a potent attack that always looked like scoring, they also had a rock-solid defence which was lead by captain Wes Morgan, with commanding performances from former Manchester City 'keeper Kasper Schmeichel.

Whilst not being favourites, Leicester powered their way to the title, finishing nine points ahead of Burnley, and 17 ahead of Derby County in third (although they thankfully, couldn't beat my beloved Reading's record of 106 points).

TRANSFER ACTIVITY

The Foxes have wasted little time in brining in some new faces for their first season back, although their fans could be a little underwhelmed by most of them.
Undoubtedly, their biggest signing has seen them smash their record transfer fee to nab Leonardo Ulloa from Brighton for a whopping £8 million. The Argentine is a decent striker, hitting 23 goals for the Seagulls last season, but I cant help but feel that they have spent far too much on him - half of that would have been about right.
Their squad last season was one of the smallest and is quite young, so Pearson has looked to add experience for the step up. He wasted no time in bringing former England defender Matthew Upson in on a free and also snapped up Marc Albrighton, Ben Hamer and Jack Barmby, also on frees.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

One player who really impressed me last season was Danny Drinkwater, and I think he will play a massive part in their battle to avoid the drop. A hard working midfielder, he can chase the ball down for an eternity, but also has the technique and the vision to pick out some good passes. He also has an eye for goal, netting seven times in the league. If he can adapt well to the Premier League, don't be too surprised to see him be on the radars of some bigger clubs in January.
Others to keep your eyes on include tricky winger Anthony Knockaert, who will definitely cause full backs headaches, and striker Jamie Vardy who never gives anything up and can score from anywhere on the pitch.

AMBITION

Leicester's main ambition is of course to be stay in the Premier League, and I genuinely think they will achieve just that. Their home form will be key, and with the King Power stadium being a tough place to visit and a packed stadium full of passionate fans, don't be surprised to see them take a few scalps. They remind me a lot of Hull City, which is actually a compliment because of how well they did last season. Solid, yet unspectacular.
They do have a very tricky start though, starting with Everton (H) Chelsea (A) Arsenal (H) Stoke (A) and Manchester United (H), but they then have a run of games that are all very winnable and I can see them climbing the table shortly after.
So, where will they finish? I think it will be tight, but I think they have enough to see off the threat of relegation and finish a few points above the drop.

PREDICTION: 16th

 

       

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