Leicester City may be worthy champions, but everything points to them struggling to make the top six next season

 
Trevor Steven
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Claudio Ranieri's Leicester are on the brink of the title but may struggle to repeat the feat next term (Source: Getty)

Leicester have shown no sign of stumbling on their way to a fairytale first top-flight title triumph, which they could clinch with two games to spare at Manchester United on Sunday.

The achievement, assuming they complete it, is extraordinary. Yet sustaining success is the biggest challenge of all, and everything leads me to think next season will be completely different for the Foxes.

Lucky with injuries

Firstly, replicating the individual performances of this term, which, through team spirit and organisation, have always been at a very high level, is going to be extremely difficult.

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Leicester have also been lucky with injury – most of their first team have played at least 30 matches. It was similar at Everton when we won the league in 1984-85: only 15 of us played 10 games or more.

The importance of having key players available shouldn’t be understated. In 85-86 we lost goalkeeper Neville Southall, who used to win us some crucial points, for months, and we ended up letting the title slip.

Extra workload

This year the Premier League has had their virtually undivided attention; next season they will have the Champions League to contend with all of a sudden, and that will be a huge distraction.

It will also add to their workload, and playing twice a week more frequently is only going to increase the likelihood of the sort of injuries to Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez that they have so far escaped.

I can actually see Leicester doing well in the Champions League – they have mastered their style and it can serve them well – but domestically I think they will do well to finish in the top six.

Stronger opposition

On top of the reasons outlined above, the competition is also likely to be stronger. Tottenham will be challenge again and you’d expect all of Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City to improve.

Leicester, too, will have to recruit well to cope with the extra fixtures. They will have a bigger budget now, but still one that will be dwarfed by many of their rivals, so should stick with the same policy of unearthing players that others have overlooked.

Their other concern will be retaining Vardy, Mahrez and the other regulars who have lifted the club to unprecedented heights, such as Danny Drinkwater, Kasper Schmeichel and N’Golo Kante.

Stars should stay

Those five may be tempted by the lure of more established sides – and possibly bigger salaries – but I can’t imagine any of them would want to abandon the Foxes at this stage.

What would be the point of bailing out now? If I was a Leicester player I’d want to stay and see how the Champions League campaign went. If it all goes south they’ll still be in demand come January.

I think they’ll stay. But if I’m wrong and Leicester are dismantled during the summer transfer window then they can forget a Champions League run and, far from top six, they may struggle to finish in the top half.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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