Leicester to force their way into the top six?

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There's a sense of optimism at the King Power Stadium as the new season nears. Brendan Rodgers has a full pre-season to work out his ideas and translate his plans to the players after early signs showed his appointment as Leicester boss was a positive one. The dull, defensive football on show under the Ice Man Claude Puel is no more, with Rodgers implementing a free-flowing approach in the Midlands.

It comes after a season that saw the Foxes finish ninth, a full five points behind the best of the rest, Wolves. Had the season started when Rodgers took over the reins, though, they'd have finished sixth. Admittedly, it wasn't the best start to life as Leicester fell to a 2-1 loss at former club Watford, yet the end to the campaign had supporters looking ahead to the upcoming season.

Leicester have made a number of shrewd signings in recent months

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Following a summer of solid investment in the forms of James Maddison, Jonny Evans and Ricardo Pereira 12 months ago, Rodgers has wasted no time in adding to the squad this year. The promising James Justin offers the Leicester boss versatility at the back, with the 21-year-old, a right-back by trade, comfortable at left-back.

Ayoze Perez is a solid pickup from Newcastle too, even if the Spaniard cost £30m to prise away from St. James Park. Even in a fairly defensive Newcastle side, though, Perez managed 12 goals and two assists as the Magpies kept their head above water. 10 of those 12 league goals have been scored in 2019 and he is one of only four players to have netted double figures for Premier League goals this calendar year, another of whom is new Leicester teammate Jamie Vardy, who has managed 12 top-flight goals in 2019.

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As a replacement for the outgoing Shinji Okazaki, 25-year-old Perez as a fine addition, with the Spaniard offering additional options on the attack line given he is able to play out wide or through the middle. If he can repeat his excellent end of season form – Perez had a direct hand in nine goals, scoring eight, in his final nine Premier League outings last term – then he'll waste no time in settling at the King Power.

The marquee arrival, however, comes in the form of Youri Tielemans. Since making his Leicester debut in mid-February, only Vardy (12) has had a direct hand in more goals than the Belgian (7) of all Foxes players and to have made his loan signing permanent is a huge statement of intent by Leicester. Manchester United and Tottenham had both been credited with an interest in the youngster, but Monday's confirmation of his £40m club-record arrival will only buoy supporters.

Confidence at the King Power is rising

Tielemans made an immediate impact in England and that Leicester had such a clear run for his signature is a surprise, but the Foxes worked wonders to tie him down to a long-term deal and as the campaign approaches, confidence levels among supporters are rising.

Fans bore witness to a refined Leicester in the wake of Rodgers' appointment and even in such a short space of time, it was clear to see his gameplan coming into effect. Yes, there was the odd hiccup between the beginning of March and the end of the campaign – Leicester did win only one of their final five league matches of the season, that admittedly a 3-0 home win over Arsenal – but his was a refreshing approach with a clear tactical plan that, with a full summer of preparation, would only boost Leicester's chances of gatecrashing the Premier League's top six.

While we're unlikely to bear witness to a repeat of their 5000/1 2015/16 title success, Manchester United's dawdling under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and a lack of serious transfer activity from Arsenal thus far means there is a chance for a team to gatecrash this elite party. At the time of writing, Leicester have been backed into [5.2] to finish in the top six in the Premier League next season on the Exchange.

Top six hopes hinge on Harry Maguire

There's a solid spine to the team that provides a sturdy foundation upon which to build and there is commendable strength in depth in every position. The full-backs in Pereira and Ben Chilwell would improve nigh-on any side top-flight side, while Maddison proved his Premier League credentials as he made more key passes (100) than any other player. Wilfred Ndidi shields the backline with aplomb and there is ample pace in the final third, that before the arrival of Perez.

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That said, one of the reasons those odds aren't shorter is perhaps due to the uncertainty surrounding Harry Maguire's future. According to the Sportsbook transfer markets, there is more of a chance of Maguire moving to Manchester United at 8/11 than he is staying with Leicester at 11/4, but the Foxes' high asking price for the England international may ultimately ward off interest from those above them in the table and if they can keep the 26-year-old beyond the summer window, there is a very good chance they can leapfrog United in the table and secure a top six finish.

Rodgers may be lambasted for his Brentisms, yet he is a tactically sound manager that has the ability to bring out the best in his players and mastermind victory over the those above Leicester in the table. Much is riding on Maguire's future at the King Power Stadium, yet if they can resist the temptation to sell the towering centre-back, and convince him that his future is best served under Rodgers, then Leicester have the means to upset the Premier League's top six apple cart.



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