Leicester City are looking up and are ready for an assault on the top six.
After three years consolidating following their whirlwind title success, Leicester now have a squad and manager capable of a sustained challenge to the top order.
Over the final nine games of last season, Leicester had the third best form, behind only Manchester City and Liverpool, the club re-energised by Brendan Rodgers’ appointment and the arrival of Youri Tielemans on loan.
The Belgian midfielder is back for good and if Leicester are to be successful in their objectives, he will have a huge role to play.
Tielemans slotted seamlessly into City’s young and improving squad last term, building relationships with Ben Chilwell, Ricardo Pereira, James Maddison and, most importantly, Jamie Vardy.
He may be 32 but Vardy is still Leicester’s talisman and the club still rely on his goals, even if Ayoze Perez has come in to carry some of the load.
After a summer-long saga, Harry Maguire is leaving for Manchester United and while Leicester will miss his barnstorming charges with the ball and his ability to start attacks with incisive passes from deep, the experience and defensive know-how of Jonny Evans will ensure they retain their sturdiness at the back.
Maguire, Iheanacho, Choudhury.
The permanent signing of Tielemans, even for a club-record £40m, ensures Leicester have had a fine window, such was the Belgian international’s brilliance last season.
A steep £30m has been paid to bring Perez in from Newcastle but he adds versatility across the front-line and playing in a more creative should see him surpass the 12 goals he scored for the Magpies last term.
Taking the expenditure up to £76m is young full-back James Justin, who will be back-up to both Ricardo and Chilwell this term.
But still, Leicester are in profit after holding firm on their valuation of Maguire and receiving £80m from United, a world-record for a defender.
While Leicester have again lost one of their star players, just as they did with N’Golo Kante, Danny Drinkwater and Riyad Mahrez in the three previous summers, their recent transfer business suggests it will be invested wisely, with a replacement centre-half and an attacking midfielder expected to arrive before the deadline.
Tracked for two years, Leicester could wait no longer to sign Justin after his barnstorming showings helped Luton to back-to-back promotions. A forward-thinking and versatile full-back, £6m Justin made the League One team of the year for his performances as a left-sided defender, despite being right-footed. At 21, he is raw, but Leicester have a reputation for developing youngsters, and Ricardo and Chilwell are perfect players for him to learn from.
The task for Perez is to replicate his end-of-season form from last term, in which he scored eight goals in nine games to help seal Newcastle’s survival. The Spaniard has a reputation for being hit-and-miss, so £30m is a huge outlay, but Leicester feel confident he can grab goals from anywhere, whether he is played out wide, as a support striker, or leading the line.
A wonderkid at Anderlecht, Tielemans lost his way at Monaco before rediscovering his world-beating form at Leicester. Three goals and five assists in his first 13 games in a new country is excellent, but his influence went way beyond that, the 22-year-old proving to be the missing piece of the jigsaw as he linked play expertly. He could prove to be one of the signings of the summer.
The dismal end-of-season form and summer struggles of Arsenal and Manchester United, as well as the transfer ban and inexperience of Frank Lampard at Chelsea, gives Leicester three targets as they try to break into the top six.
Leicester are well-set to put up a good challenge, provided they can find an answer to teams who sit deep and play on the counter.
They are unlikely to have it all their own way either. Minimal summer changes will stand Wolves in good stead as they look to build on last season, while Everton and West Ham are making investments that could see them make moves towards the top.