With an emphatic victory over Everton FC at home, Leicester City were able to complete their fairytale season and earn their first ever top flight trophy in their 132 year history. For what can be seen as nothing short of remarkable, ‘The Tinkerman’ Claudio Ranieri was able to manoeuvre the criticism and mocking of his appointment to perform what could be seen in this money ladened league as a miracle. With the achievement of what is a club first in qualification for the UEFA Champions league, Leicester face a more significant test in trying even maintaining much less repeating that they did in the 2015-2016 Premier league season. The club needs to get a few things right in the off season in order to avoid the inevitable drop that small teams encounter once entering Europe.
The first and most common thing people will point out is that the club will need to keep their current set together. However, an alternative to that is Leicester should look to improve on the quality they have in their squad. While it is true that the likes of Jamie Vardy, N’Golo Kante, Daniel Drinkwater and Riyad Mahrez have done admirably this season and beyond all expectations, the fact remains that this season can be seen as a one off and despite their great form, are far from close to matching the elites of the world. Leicester could look to keep these players as the core and build around them if they look to maintain themselves as a potential top half team. However, this also depends on the cash to spend, the revenues earned over the course of the season, and of course their billionaire owner’s kindness which may catapult them into becoming one of the Premier league’s big boys. A manager with a good reputation, money to spend, being Champions, and with Champions League football certainly puts them in a position to compete in the transfer market for quality players.
Another talked about aspect which can be continuously explored by the club is the quality of scouting used to put together this team. Finds such as Mahrez and Kante take not only precise scouting but a bit of a gamble on the part of the club, they are inexpensive as well and if they work out not only saves the club money but allows them to remain competitive. If the club intends to bring in proven quality with big money, they can continue to utilise their scouting methods to reinforce their team with good enough squad players who will assist in the maintenance of the squad depth.
With Claudio Ranieri at the helm, Leicester have a manager who has shown over the years that he knows what it takes to carry teams through transitions while having a very spotty history with maintaining a top teams dominance, he has shown he can help teams establish and settle themselves in the upper echelons of a league as seen in his first stint at Valencia, Chelsea and even in his short spells in Italy at Parma, Roma and Juventus. While he has mixed results during his managerial travels, he has the necessary experience to help guide the team effectively through a relatively successful league and European campaign. Additionally, as a tactician, during his early years he was known to tinker a lot, earning the name ‘The Tinkerman’. However, during his stint at Leicester he seemed to have put faith into what was working. Now while that may be down to lack of competitions and squad depth, experience gained over the years will surely guide him as to how best to manage and rotate the squad as they take on their toughest season in the club’s history.
Leicester’s owners set out on a five to six year plan to get the team into the top five, of course this season’s massive over-achievement may have taken them by surprise however the decision they have to make this summer is whether to go big and go home in terms of spending & building the club off the back of their league title triumph or should they stay the course and seek stability as a top 5 team before taking on the task of once again becoming Premier League champions. Building steadily in the long run would guarantee a steady revenue stream from continuous top half finishes and consistent European competition qualification. It could see Leicester dedicate funds to either an expansion of their stadium or even building a new one entirely as the fan base would grow and better sponsorship deals from kit providers and main sponsors on the jersey. While this could also be achieved through going big as Chelsea and City have shown, there is a level of volatility that comes with it as the bigger the leap, the higher the risk. Financial Fair Play being one of the concerns, Leicester would have to ensure they can cover their expenditure, with the growing expectations would see a revolving door of managers and players as the club look to achieve the ultimate prize and with the heavy competition within the Premier League, Leicester wouldn’t only be outgunned on the field but also financially in terms of spending and revenue. However the chance of glory remains at the end of such an approach and as mentioned Chelsea and Manchester City have built their legacy on such an approach not to mention PSG.
Ultimately, Leicester have put themselves in a fantastic position by securing the league and it is simply down now to the administration to get things right in the off season as the players who can get some rest, take a well deserved one. Regardless of if the club feels being frivolous or being careful is the approach at the end of the day, they need players in and they need quality in order to at least show consistency in both the league and to earn a good result from the group stages of the Champion’s league. The hope for this club in the 2016-2017 season should be a top 6 finish as the top dogs will be looking to bounce back stronger than ever however all fans will be looking to see if Leicester’s fairytale can continue.