Foxes fight back: How Leicester have made the best of relegation humiliation

Leicester City lead the championship comfortably after their surprising relegation last season

Arthur Ferridge
13th November 2023
Image: Twitter- @LCFC
Leicester’s relegation from the Premier League was one of the biggest shocks of the 2022/23 season. Despite a 2-1 home victory over West Ham on the final day of the season, results elsewhere signed the Foxes’ death note, damning the club to return to the Championship just seven short years on from 2016's against-all-odds Premier League title.

Relegation is the worst feared fate of any Premiership club, a bottom three finish often signals something of a death rattle as players jump ship, matchday attendance tumbles, and sponsors leave. Aside from the monetary pitfalls of demotion to the Championship, navigating the icy waters of the post-relegation transition period can sink a club, unless you happen to be one of the yo-yo teams with an uncanny knack for getting promoted, like Fulham or Norwich.

Sunderland’s 2017 relegation is a perfect example of just how damaging relegation can be. The Black Cats endured a difficult final season in the Premier League, before a misguided transfer window and change in administration saw the Black Cats tumble to League One, suffering consecutive relegations.

Leicester, though, have laughed in the face of these concerns. With 39 points from their opening 14 matches and just 8 goals conceded, the Midlands outfit are sitting comfortably at the top of the table, making a fantastic case for immediate promotion back to the top flight.

They have handled the relegation transition with assured grace and class. There was clearly a plan coming into this season, with every step of preseason preparation looking deliberate and thoroughly thought out.

The first major change at the King Power came in the form of a squad overhaul, as those players who considered their level to be above that of the Championship left for greener pastures. Departures unsurprisingly included such stalwarts as James Maddison (Tottenham), Harvey Barnes (Newcastle United), and Youri Tielemans (Aston Villa), among others.

Leicester was lucky enough to retain, however, Jamie Vardy, Kelechi Iheanacho, and Wilfred Ndidi, who last season recorded 33 goals and assists between them, as well as Ricardo Pereira and Wout Faes, a top-flight quality defensive pairing worth £35 million.

With these five names on the team sheet, Leicester’s squad already looks to be a level or three above the Championship, and their summer shopping has only widened the gulf between them and their promotion competition. Highly experienced midfielders Harry Winks and Stephy Mavididi have been added to the mix, as has the loan signing of Chelsea’s Italian wonderkid Cesare Casadei. Also arriving in the Midlands was Conor Coady, another centre back with just under 200 Premier League appearances to his name.

Adding a mix of experience and youth, the Foxes have spent just shy of £40 million, an amount worth more than the reported squad values of nine Championship rivals, including that of the currently second-placed Ipswich Town.

Despite finding themselves outside the top flight for the first time in nearly a decade, Leicester City have continued to invest at Premier League level, with a pay-to-win approach indicative of their disinterest in contesting the lower tiers and impatience to return to the Premier League, where they obviously feel they belong.

Credit must also be given to Leicester’s new manager, Enzo Maresca, who has communicated his high-possession style in no time at all, earning the Championship Manager of the Month award in August. His side’s dominance in such early stages of the season is indicative of his class as a manager and understanding of the game, acting as something of a statement of intent that he is planning to stay at the King Power for the long haul, though if promotion is achieved he will be wary of going the same way as Kompany’s Burnley, languishing second from bottom of the Premier League after racking up 101 points in their 2022/23 promotion campaign.

Of course, Leicester have a long way to go. At the time of writing, just 14 of 46 matches have been played, and who knows what might happen in the subsequent 32? All one can say for sure is that the building blocks are in place for the Foxes to enjoy what could be one of the more dominant Championship seasons in recent memory. Whether they can carry that momentum to the finish remains to be seen.

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AUTHOR: Arthur Ferridge
Head of Sport, 2023/24. @rthur_ferridge on Twitter/X

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