By Cameron Anderson
The most interesting “honor” in the English Premier League is the concept of the “best of the rest” that resides for middle of the table clubs looking for a reason to care as their season comes to an uneventful, trophy-less conclusion. It is clearly much better than escaping a relegation battle, and a top half season by definition includes many weekends of joy, but for clubs like Leicester City, Everton, Watford and Wolves the end of the season has been a relaxed cruise.
From a broader perspective, the idea that Leicester City would have a “comfortable season” in the Premier League seemed far-fetched only a few short years ago, and even after their remarkable title run some predicted they would flirt with relegation again. The club has unquestionably been successful in keeping itself firmly in the top flight, but how should Leicester fans view the 2018-19 campaign?
Leicester have comfortably locked up a top half finish as they enter Matchweek 36 with 48 points, only three points away from Wolverhampton in Seventh. After floating through the first half of the season under Claude Puel, who failed to assert himself as the right man for the Leicester job, they switched managers to Brendan Rodgers in February and secured 16 points from eight matches. Their Premier League security has never been in doubt, but they likewise never seriously threatened European football. For a middle of the table club, a season without distress is an acceptable season.
The larger disappointment may have been in the Cup Competitions where middle of the table clubs have historically looked to grasp the chance at silverware. Leicester was not very ambitious in either the Carabao Cup or the F.A. Cup under Puel, and that may have been the beginning of the end for the Frenchman. Altogether this season was comfortable, if unambitious, for the Foxes.
The future for Leicester looks unquestionably bright. The starting XI down the stretch has included 6 footballers under the age of 23: James Maddison, Wilfred Ndidi, Harvey Barnes, Youri Tielemans, Ben Chilwell, and Demarai Gray. The supporting cast around the young core still have years ahead of them as well so considering youth and potential, the Leicester side of today can be an incredible side for tomorrow. The decision going forward for the Leicester front office is about who to build into the future with, and who should be sold to further strengthen the side. The summer purchases of Championship talent in James Maddison and Johnny Evans paid immediate dividends and it could be interesting to see if Leicester raids the lower division again as they look towards next year.
The big question mark going forward is the forward position as club legend and talisman Jamie Vardy has crossed his age 32 season. While the club has tried a variety of things over the years, including the addition of Kelechi Iheanacho from Man City a couple of seasons ago, the solution does not appear to be in-house. The most important task for the offseason ahead will be seeking out a complimentary forward to pair with Vardy as he rides out his prolific Leicester career and eventually hands over his mantle to a new number 9.