Leicester City’s late-season collapse can’t mask an encouraging first full campaign under Brendan Rodgers, as the Foxes qualified for the Europa League and Jamie Vardy won the Golden Boot.
Ben Chilwell has since departed, but the club have retained the services of Wilfred Ndidi, despite regular rumours linking him with teams higher up the food chain.
There were also reasons for encouragement from Kelechi Iheanacho, who appears to be benefiting from working under Brendan Rodgers, but can he prove he’s the man to one day step into the shoes of the evergreen Vardy?
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The story of last season
Ndidi continued to establish himself as the most effective midfield destroyer in the Premier League, particularly following Idrissa Gueye’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain and N’Golo Kante’s shifting brief at Chelsea.
He averaged the second most interceptions (2.5) and the second most tackles (four) per match of all the players in the top flight, and Leicester were noticeably weaker in games when he was absent.
For Iheanacho, a return of five league goals was the best of his professional career since his breakout campaign with Manchester City.
However, it’s a fairly poor return considering he played 20 times in the Premier League—with 12 starts the most of his career so far—and he is yet to convince that he can come close to matching Vardy’s consistency.
During the off-season, Iheanacho’s former Nigeria youth coach Manu Garba questioned whether bad influences were to blame for the striker failing to realise his potential; at 23 can he finally come good?
Any transfer rumours?
Surprisingly, considering how many major clubs apparently need an elite defensive midfielder, Ndidi hasn’t been the subject of any intense transfer rumours during the offseason.
In June, the Express suggested that Manchester United had added him to their shortlist, but the arrival of Donny van de Beek renders that speculation moot.
Local sources suggested that Iheanacho could have also been cast off in order to raise funds to overhaul the frontline, but there’s been limited public speculation about a move away from the King Power Stadium.
One hope for 2020-21
It would be terrific if Iheanacho could continue the progress he made last term, prove Garba wrong and demonstrate that—before too long—he could help ease the burden on Vardy.
If he doesn’t surpass—or at least threaten—double figures, then Rodgers may look elsewhere for solutions.
Ndidi appears primed to spend another season at Leicester and should relish another shot at European football, but barring a major decline in form, he needs to be looking at taking the next step in his career next summer.
One big fear for 2020-21
Leicester, as a club, are under pressure to prove that last season’s collapse was a mere blip, while Rodgers must manage his resources in light of the dual demands of the Europa League and weekly Premier League competition.
Against these demands, there are concerns that they may regress, particularly considering the recruitment of some of the clubs around them.
It’s not too much to say that it’s a make-or-break season for Iheanacho, and a worst-case scenario would be Rodgers giving up if his striker can’t tangibly improve on a return of five goals and three assists.
Ndidi, a player whose consistency has underpinned his successes to date, isn’t likely to disappoint, assuming he can avoid major injury.
Goal’s prediction for the season to come
The Europa League should ensure Iheanacho has ample gametime and guarantees a fresh challenge for Ndidi.
However, Leicester are in danger of slipping domestically unless they can compete on multiple fronts, and that will surely require recruitment over the coming weeks.
With more opportunity, Iheanacho should get more goals, although his prospects of improving a goalscoring ratio of one in four will depend largely on those around him.
For Ndidi, expect more of the same, hopefully, with a big transfer to a European giant at the end of the season.