The 2013/14 Championship winners will be desperate to show that they’re going to be no walkover in the Premier League this season. They have a really nice mix of a youthful team guided by a few experienced players which should set them well for their first season in the Premier League in 10 years. They are returning the Premier League after having spent nine seasons in the Championship and one year in League 1 (third tier of English football).
Leicester currently has four goalkeepers in their squad but it’s Kasper Schmeichel who is the favourite to start, having played all 46 league games last year. However, even though he contributed an assist for the team last season I’m not expecting Schmeichel to prove to be a fantasy goldmine in 2014/15. Leicester will likely struggle to consistently keep clean sheets, meaning Schmeichel is un-useable at the start of the season but is potentially someone that could develop into a match up-based keeper for your fantasy squad. During the summer Leicester added Ben Hamer who I expect to contest Conrad Logan to play the role of back up to Schmeichel with youngster Adam Smith likely going back out on loan to one of the lower divisions.
The club have added experience to their defensive ranks this season with the addition of Matthew Upson on a free from Brighton. Upson has years of experience in the Premier League but that doesn’t mean he’s a guarantee to start this year. Leicester has three other central defenders who will compete with Upson for the centre back position; Wes Morgan played 45 games at centre back last season and you would think that he’ll be pencilled in for the first spot. The other two defenders who split time at centre back last season are 34 year old Marcin Wasilewski, and 21 year old Liam Moore, but they also saw time at right back occasionally. Who will get the job is an interesting debate but it’s not one that’s fantasy relevant for drafts, as I expect very little from this Leicester defense in terms of consistent clean sheets. They will become a group to observe during the season that may be relevant on a match up basis.
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At right back the favourite to start is former Manchester United man Richie de Laet who contributed two goals and three assists last season for the team. The potential for assists and goals means de Laet is the most fantasy relevant of the Leicester defenders, but even he remains a late round pick at best. On the left side of defense they have the experienced Paul Konchesky and the young Jeffery Schlupp. Konchesky is the favourite to start but whoever it is that gets the nod, neither are particularly fantasy relevant.
Leicester have an intriguing midfield group led by Danny Drinkwater, who features later. The other central midfield spot alongside Drinkwater will likely be occupied by Matthew James, who did a superb job of protecting the back four last season and contributed five assists and a goal himself. Further forward, I expect to see Andy King in the more attacking midfield role after he scored four goals in 30 appearances last season, though his inclusion could very much depend on whether Leicester go with one or two strikers. The final central option is Dean Hammond, but he’s most likely to feature off the bench as he did last season. Of the central midfielders Drinkwater is probably the only draftable asset until it becomes clear what part King will play this season. James is too deep lying to be a fantasy relevant.
Looking out wide, the obvious name to Premier League fans is Marc Albrighton who I will discuss later, but they have some interesting names who are a little less known. Anthony Knockaert played a part in 42 league games last season on the right side of midfield and contributed five goals and five assists. He is the man whom Albrighton will directly challenge, so what Leicester decide to do there could be interesting for fantasy.
On the other side we have Riyad Mahrez who is the most recognized left-sided midfielder on the squad, but he only played a part in 19 leagues games last year. It is possible that either Knockaert or Albrighton could shift out left and Mahrez could end up as a reserve option. And, because of this, those three guys are hard to put much stock into in preseason and probably aren’t worth taking the risk on right now.
Moving upfront, we encounter the team’s leading goal scorer in the Championship last season in David Nugent who seemingly has experience beyond his 29 years (I will discuss him more in a minute).
Jamie Vardy was another man who lit up the Championship last season with 16 goals in 37 games, as well as contributing four assists. I expect him to be given a shot to show what he can do in the top flight, but preseason has seen him shift out to the left and this is something we could see happen if they only want to play one up front. Vardy is a good bet as a late round flyer in my opinion because he could contribute double digit goals at a discount price.
Leicester also has another new signing in the shape of Leonardo Ulloa who they paid £7million for this summer, and Gary Taylor who is another man with experience in the Premier League from his Blackpool days. But, having only started two games in the whole of last season it’s likely he will mostly feature from the bench, negating his fantasy value.
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The two young strikers on the squad are Chris Wood and Tom Hopper but their presence is likely to be limited with the addition of Ulloa in the offseason.
David Nugent: Nugent scored 20 goals and assisted a further 12 in his 46 appearances in the league last season, taking 3.1 shots per game on average and winning more than 2 aerial duels a game along the way. I expect Nugent to feature heavily for Leicester again this season, therefore making him the most fantasy relevant player in the squad. However, I have been told that Leicester fan’s see Nugent as potentially a back up to Ulloa, so that is something to be aware of. Personally I see him starting the season as the first choice and if he gets off to a good start he could easily put up a double digit goal tally through the season.
Key New Signing’s
Leonardo Ulloa: A big price tag means you would expect to see Ulloa feature heavily this season, and after scoring 14 goals for Brighton last season he’s a good addition for Leicester. The issue to his fantasy value is that I expect Nugent to be the number one choice upfront to start the year making, Ulloa basically undraftable and waiver wire fodder this season.
Marc Albrighton: Albrighton is a player who burst on the scene five seasons ago for Aston Villa with five goals and four assists in 29 appearance back in 2010/11. However, since then his career has meandered rather than marching on, and last season he spent time on loan at Wigan as well as only playing 19 times for Villa. In total he has started 50 games and appeared as a sub in 40 games over his career, but has only contributed seven goals and 10 assists in that time. Leicester will be hoping that his Premier League experience combined with his youth will allow them to use him as their right sided player for the foreseeable future. However, unless he is more productive this year than he has been in the past, he’s not going to be fantasy relevant. Don’t draft him, but he is worth keeping an eye on him as a potential waiver wire pick up.
Danny Drinkwater: Drinkwater is someone that when I say his name to people they look at me and say: “cool name, but who is he?”, and that’s why he’s my underrated player for Leicester even though their fans would probably have him as their key player. Last season he scored seven goals in 45 games while taking 1.5 shots per game. He controls the midfield for Leicester and his goals are normally of the wonderful variety, but unless he can score double digit goals he can’t be recognized as their key player from a fantasy aspect – where goals are king. However, he is a solid mid to late round pick this season who could return amazing value for where he can be obtained.
Liam Moore: Having played a part in 30 games last season including 18 at his preferred centre back position, Moore is a name known to many Leicester fans. I expect him to feature somewhat this year, but it probably won’t be enough to be fantasy relevant. Instead, he’s a player who could definitely be one of their centre backs of the future.
Jeffery Schlupp: Another man who featured last year, having played a part in 26 games. Two of his 15 starts were made in attack but he’s being converted from that position into a left back, and has made superb progress in that conversion. It is likely they will lean on Konchesky’s experience this year so he may not feature heavily, but he’s a player they are cultivating to be their starting left back.
Chris Wood: The young striker from New Zealand had a reasonably successful 2013/14 season, appearing in 26 games while scoring and assisting each four times. The addition of Ulloa moves him down the pecking order this year, meaning that he’s not going to be fantasy relevant this season.
Tom Hopper: Has yet to make an appearance for Leicester’s first team but is definitely a talented striker who is well worth keeping an eye on for future seasons.