EXCLUSIVE: Leicester City Correspondent Rob Tanner Talks Leicester City’s Transfer Window & More

EXCLUSIVE: Leicester City Correspondent Rob Tanner Talks Leicester City’s Transfer Window & More
Jun 22, 2017

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Ahead of the upcoming Premier League season, we spoke to Rob Tanner, Leicester City correspondent for the Leicester Mercury and author of ‘5000-1: The Leicester City Story‘ to gauge his opinion on the current squad, what transfers are most urgent and where they should be aiming to finish this season.

Q – Firstly, last season was certainly eventful, with Leicester finishing 12th in the Premier League and defying their detractors to push Atlético Madrid all the way in the Champions League quarter-final. Did Leicester match your pre-season expectations? Do you judge the campaign as successful or disappointing?

Rob – “Retrospectively, it wasn’t far off what I expected. I thought they would prioritise the Champions League to an extent because it was so special and unique. I believed they would get through to the knock-out stages and thought a top ten finish, possibly top six, would be a good season.

They weren’t far off that in the end. However, it was a traumatic season and it didn’t feel like a good season for long spells. City took some heavy defeats on the road, struggled desperately in the league and the sacking of Claudio Ranieri was a sad moment. That led to plenty of vitriol towards the players and Shakespeare. That may have galvanised them because under Shakespeare they rescued the season.”

Q – Following their recent success, where do you think Leicester now stand in the footballing hierarchy (i.e relegation battlers, safe mid-table etc) and what expectations would be realistic in terms of league position?

Rob “Although they have fought relegation battles in two of their last three seasons, I don’t believe that is an accurate reflection of where the club stands as a whole with their Premier League rivals. Leicester are a well run and well-financed club. They are the eighth richest club according to Forbes and as a general rule how much you spend on the playing budget is rewarded with a similar table finish. City must aim for a challenging for European football this season.”

Q – The rumour mill has been busy already, but at the time of writing City have only signed a young defender from Chester. How many players would you see join the club ideally, and which positions are most in need of strengthening? Anyone, in particular, you would like the club to move for?

Rob – “Harry Maguire has now arrived and I believe they are looking for one more central defender. They have released Marcin Wasilewski and were already a centre-back light, hence their move for Molla Wague in January, so they need to recruit two centre backs in this window. They also need another recognised right-back to challenge Danny Simpson. There are several players who can play there, like Daniel Amartey, but putting round pegs in square holes is not ideal.

The club also need a player who can play in the hole behind Jamie Vardy. Gylfi Sigurðsson would be ideal but it will be difficult to sign him. Captain Wes Morgan has stated they need a striker to share the burden with Vardy and City have been strongly linked with Manchester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho. He would be an excellent signing but there will be many clubs looking at him.”

Q – Marcin Wasilewski has been the only senior player to leave the club so far, do you expect many players to follow him out of the club?

Rob – “There is interest in Papy Mendy from France and Ahmed Musa from Europe and within the Premier League. Both of them had tough first seasons and they could move on. Leonardo Ulloa has demanded to leave but that was under Ranieri and his situation and prospects may improve under Shakespeare.”

Q – The club’s transfer record was fairly underwhelming last season, with Musa/Slimani coming under scrutiny in particular – do you expect that Leicester may look to cut their losses or is it a case of them settling into the league and its demands?

RT – “There are obviously question marks over Musa and Mendy. Mendy was unlucky to pick up the ankle injury on his debut that has wrecked his season. Musa has shown glimpses of his capabilities, like at Everton in the FA Cup, but overall he has struggled to settle. Islam Slimani has also been hampered by a reoccurring groin issue, which interrupted his season and stopped his momentum.

Having spent £30 million on him I don’t think City will cut their losses so soon and will give him more time. Luis Hernandez simply didn’t fit in and returned to Spain, while we hardly saw anything of Bartosz Kapustka. Overall, last summer’s business has not paid off yet.”

Q – There are a few talented young players on City’s books, with Chilwell & Barnes impressing in particular, how big a role do you expect them to have this year?

RT – “I expect Chilwell to kick on this season and challenge Christian Fuchs for that left-back slot. He has shown he can step up to first team level with some encouraging displays, but he still needs to be patient and learn from Fuchs, who in my opinion is an excellent full-back. It is the same with Demarai Gray. He was frustrated at his lack of starts last season but he must be patient as he still displays the inconsistencies of a player of his age, especially with his final ball and decision. We will see Harvey Barnes in pre-season but I suspect he will go out on loan again. He has demonstrated that he is too good now for under-23s football and needs senior experience.”

Q – A couple of players have rejuvenated their careers with excellent loan spells; Tom Lawrence won Ipswich’s player of the year, whilst Matty James was excellent at Barnsley – do you expect them to be fighting for first team places?

Rob “James, yes. A fully fit Matty James will provide a good option in central midfield, where the competition for places is fierce. Danny Drinkwater struggled with a hip-flexor problem towards the end of the season but had to play on. James is an underrated player and excellent at game management and positioning. As for Tom Lawrence, he needs a strong pre-season to impress Shakespeare.

Lastly – although a lot will depend on transfers, what is your prediction for Leicester’s final league position?

Rob – “If they recruit well this summer I believe City will be equipped to push for a Europa League spot but even if they fall short a top half finish and perhaps a good cup run would be a decent season. City have never won the FA Cup, so that would be nice.”

 

For more Leicester City news and views from Rob Tanner visit the Leicester Mercury website here.

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