Claudio Ranier
Claudio Ranieri is ready for his second season at Leicester City Getty

Leicester City fans will be praying the transfer window closes as soon as possible. Waking up on 1 September with Arsenal target Riyad Mahrez still in Claudio Ranieri's ranks is likely to be crucial in determining just how abrupt their return to reality is following last season's fairy-tale.

The question for the Foxes looks to be not whether they will manage to defend their title but how far from the top four they will fall. Their transfer business to date is not the most inspiring for Premier League champions, though it could have been much worse – and still could be.

Of last season's stars, Ranieri has lost N'Golo Kante to Chelsea but managed to keep Jamie Vardy out of Arsenal's clutches even though the Gunners were ready to meet the striker's release clause.

Recent disputed reports from French daily L'Equipe suggested that Arsene Wenger is now in hot pursuit of Mahrez, having made an offer worth £35m ($45.5m) to lure the PFA Player of the Year to the Emirates Stadium. This is a battle the Foxes cannot afford to lose if they are to make an impression domestically and in their first-ever season in the Champions League.

Ranieri, however, has also made some interesting additions to improve the depth of the squad. Ahmed Musa's arrival from CSKA Moscow in a club record deal worth around £16m is especially exciting as the pacy forward could serve both as a back-up for Vardy or as a luxury partner for the Englishmen.

Nampalys Mendy is expected to replace Kante in the middle of the park while Bartosz Kapustka, Ron-Robert Zieler and Luis Hernandez can help the club cope with the busy fixture list.

Last season

Premier League: 1<sup>st

FA Cup: Third round

League Cup: Fourth round

Top Scorer: Jamie Vardy (24)

Manager – Claudio Ranieri

The Italian boss replaced Nigel Pearson last summer after the Englishman led Leicester to an heroic escape from relegation in the final weeks of the 2014-15 campaign. Ranieri's appointment was under huge scrutiny following a long but latterly unfruitful career.

He had coached a number of top European clubs – Napoli, Roma, Inter Milan, Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and Valencia – during more than three decades as a manager, without ever winning a league title. Furthermore, he arrived at the King Power Stadium at an all-time low, having been sacked by Greece following a humiliating defeat to Faroe Islands.

But the Tinkerman proved the doubters wrong to lead the Foxes to the Premier League title in one of the most remarkable stories in the history of the European football.

Key player – Riyad Mahrez

Riyad Mahrez
Riyad Mahrez was the PFA Player of the Year in the 2016-2016 campaign Reuters

Nobody can dispute the 24 goals scored by Vardy or the tireless work of Kante in the midfield. Yet, Mahrez is the real thing. That's why rumours of a big-money move to the likes of Arsenal or Barcelona have rarely abated in the months since he succeeded Eden Hazard as the Player of the Year.

The 25-year-old winger is at the perfect age to keep progressing and to become an even bigger star. He has pace, amazing dribbling skills, is unselfish with teammates, as his record of 11 assists proves, and has a special ability to find the net. He ended the last campaign with 17 goals, as well as those 11 assists, in 37 Premier League appearances and could even improve those stats this season.


Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal have spent fortunes during the summer transfer window to ensure the Leicester fairy-tale is a one-off. Few will expect a successful title defence but they should manage to be among the top 10, perhaps battling it out with the likes of West Ham or Everton to make the Europa League the following term.

IBT prediction – 9<sup>th

The Foxes benefited from their lack of European football last season. This time, the pressure of being champions, and that place in the Champions League that comes with it, could be too much for them. Expect the newly strengthened 'big clubs' to reassert the traditional order and step over them in the hunt for glory next May.