This year, Leicester City decided to soldier on with the strategy they used last year that won them the title. They bought players from peripheral or lower leagues, which means I can’t say whether Islam Slimani, their most expensive signing this year, was any good. Incredibly annoying. Anyway, for the players I can evaluate, here are their stats.
- Nampalys Mendy
Previous Club: OGC Nice
Position: Defensive Midfielder
Price: €15.5 million
Replacing N’Golo Kanté is a huge task. So Leicester signed a player from a similar background. Nampalys Mendy is a French defensive midfielder who played for Nice last year. But looking at his radar, he looks good enough to replace Kanté.
One obvious thing is he didn’t do as much work for Nice as Kanté did for Leicester last season. But when he does fulfill his defensive duties, he does it well. Mendy wins the majority of his tackles, doesn’t lose the ball much and makes sure he doesn’t give away fouls.
He has a great injury history, too. Mendy started 38 times and played 99% of the time for Nice last season. Leicester bought an excellent player close to his peak for a reasonable price.
- Ahmed Musa
Previous Club: CSKA Moscow
Price: €19.5 million
Leicester’s star striker, Jamie Vardy, is turning 30 this January and is bound to decline. Leicester bought Ahmed Musa, a new, fast striker who can play as a winger who’s moving towards his prime. Is he any good?
Musa, evidently, is a balanced forward. His scoring and shooting is quite good, and his creative contribution is pretty good for a forward. Last year, he started every game for CSKA Moscow and played over 99% of available minutes. It looks like Leicester’s recruitment team has picked a very good player.
- Luis Hernàndez
Previous Club: Sporting Gijòn
Price: Free transfer
A big reason Leicester won the Premier League last year was the fact that their defense was very good. Leicester bought Luis Hernàndez as a back-up center-back who can play as a right-back. Is he worth being paid £30,000-a-week? Not at all.
Once again, center-back evaluation isn’t all black and white, but I can certainly say that Luis Hernàndez isn’t a good player. Apart from the fact that Hernàndez doesn’t give too many fouls away, he is bad in pretty much everything else. Although he played 94% of the time last season for Gijòn, Leicester should only use him as a back-up.
- Ron-Robert Zieler
Previous Club: Hannover 96
Price: €3.5 million
Kasper Schmeichel’s performance in goal was another pivotal piece in the puzzle in Leicester’s title-winning campaign. The problem was that apart from Schmeichel and the way, way out of his prime Mark Schwarzer, Leicester didn’t have a decent keeper. This summer, they spent a meager €3.5 million on Ron-Robert Zieler – another Manchester United academy reject like Schmeichel.
I used Squawka’s Comparison Matrix once again and compared Zieler last year to Schmeichel and other top Premier League keepers. If you’re wondering why I haven’t put any keepers from Manchester clubs, it’s because these three have better goalkeeping stats.
As you can see, Zieler does very well. He is better than the other goalies in three criteria. In the four other criteria, he comes out in 2nd place.
One much-touted fact is that Schmeichel is a bad long passer. Sam Jackson has done good work about this. The ability to pass long is a crucial skill for a goalkeeper in a counter-attacking team like Leicester City. While Schmeichel’s long ball accuracy was 31.36% last year, Zieler’s long ball accuracy was 44.6%.
Zieler puts up good performances every week. He played every minute for Hannover last season. It may be hard for Leicester to play Zieler instead of Schmeichel, but that’s the correct thing to do. Zieler is a top-class keeper.
If xG overperformance is any indicator of luck, Leicester City were lucky to qualify for the Champions League last season, never mind win the Premier League. However, I think these new signings will help them strengthen their hold in the top half of the league. These players also fit in well with the counter-attacking tactical system of Leicester.
The issue, however, has been Leicester’s performance in the first half of the year. Remember when I told you Nampalys Mendy isn’t injury prone? Well, he missed 12 games this season due to a malleolar injury. The loss of N’Golo Kanté, supplemented by the absence of his replacement, has really hurt Leicester this season. Musa hasn’t received enough time this year. Another issue is Luis Hernàndez. Leicester should have bought another young center-back; Leicester has to deal with two ageing center-backs right now. The good thing is Islam Slimani looks like an improvement on Leonardo Ulloa and Shinji Okazaki.
The problem Leicester face this year is the thing that won them the title last year: using transfer funds on strengthening the starting line-up and the starting line-up only. They have holes in their center-midfield and in central-defense, two of the most crucial points in a 4-4-2 formation. Though there were futile attempts to sign Adrien Silva and Michael Keane, Leicester need to buy at least one central defender and need to loan in a central midfielder.
I really appreciate George Ball’s help with this article. The Leicester City supporter gave me a lot of insight. Read an article by him capturing Leicester City’s transfer window dilemmas this summer and another one looking at where it’s gone wrong for Leicester.