Overachievers or Big Six Challengers: Why This Summer Could Prove Pivotal for Leicester City

With the Premier League transfer window well underway, Leicester City are yet to make a move ahead of what could prove to be a defining season for The Foxes.

A Crucial Transfer Window for Leicester City

Increased Expectations

Leicester’s inexorable rise from long-term Championship wanderers to top four disruptors is a remarkable story, one which is well-known by football fans throughout the world.

However, this feel-good tale is mitigated somewhat, especially for ardent Leicester fans, as a combination of poor transfers, the loss of key personnel and perhaps the hugely increased weight of expectation meant they failed to fully capitalise upon the unique opportunity presented to them by their 5000-1 league win, and so endured difficult seasons (albeit with moments of sheer quality throughout).

Under Brendan Rodgers though, the transformation from overachieving underdogs into bona fide top-six challengers was seemingly nearing completion prior to the start of last season: consecutive top-six finishes, narrowly, and perhaps undeservedly, missing out on the Champions League very late on both occasions, meaning that Leicester’s expectations have shifted entirely.

Many would have understandably predicted that another top-six challenge was the minimum expectation for The Foxes.  They are now regarded as a team that possesses a potent blend of youth and experience, flair and steel, able to play in multiple ways and on their day, go toe-to-toe with the best. But instead, Leicester endured a season plagued by a monumental injury crisis and regular media speculation regarding both players and the manager, limping into eighth late on.

At the Crossroads?

Such was the dissatisfaction within the ranks of the Leicester faithful, that a growing minority calling for the manager to be sacked soon appeared, a cause not entirely without merit.

This would have been unthinkable at the start of the season. Rodgers had seemingly overachieved at every turn and even delivered the club’s first FA Cup win.

But, whilst injuries played a key role, some fans were left hugely frustrated with certain decisions made by Rodgers, especially an awful and early FA Cup exit to local rivals Nottingham Forest, and the side’s inability to deal with set-pieces had become something of a dark joke.

So, Leicester find themselves at something of a crossroads. On one hand, there is a case that they had simply overachieved in previous years and that now they had found their level. On the other, it is entirely plausible that last season was a blip; a campaign beleaguered with unfortunate circumstances that added up to what was on paper, at least, a disappointing season.

There were of course huge plus points to be taken. The performances of James Maddison were a joy to witness (unless you are Gareth Southgate, apparently), Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall exploded onto the scene in incredible fashion, and the returns of James Justin and Wesley Fofana from long-term injury served to prove exactly what they are capable of.

Added to this, the season is widely viewed as a failure, but, Leicester finished just four points short of West Ham United, whom it is largely agreed had an incredible campaign – thus the importance of perception.

A Pivotal Season

This year then will prove to be decisive in the overall direction of the club and their performance will be pivotal in determining the perception of the club to players and fans alike, which will have a telling impact looking forward.

Should the 22/23 season mirror the preceding year and Leicester once again fail to secure European football, it is likely a number of their undoubtedly talented squad will start to become restless and potentially seek moves where their ambitions can be fulfilled. Maddison and Fofana are players linked with moves previously, and they won’t be alone.

Bringing players into the club as well naturally faces the same issue, and given the spending power within the Premier League, Leicester simply cannot afford to be standing still here.

The importance of this transfer window cannot be understated, and this is not lost upon Leicester fans who have become worried at the lack of activity at the club. Who can blame them? Not only have the traditional big clubs been busy in the transfer market, but rivals for that ‘best of the rest’ spot such as Aston Villa and Newcastle United also have not rested on their laurels either.

With Youri Tielemans seemingly set to leave combined with pre-existing depth issues at right-wing, centre-half and attacking-midfield, Leicester have important gaps to fill. But, if they can add the calibre of player their recruitment team have become synonymous with across recent years, then it is within reason that they can go on to challenge once again at the top end of the table.

In a league of fine margins, there are few clubs who look set to feel this quite so keenly than Leicester City.