Scouting Report: Leicester City

by Paul McNamara

Mark Schwarzer crowned a 20-year career in English football by spending a magical campaign with Leicester City.

The former Australia international goalkeeper played for Bradford City, Middlesbrough, Fulham and Chelsea before being signed by former Foxes boss Nigel Pearson in January 2015.

Schwarzer played six top-flight matches as Pearson masterminded the club’s remarkable relegation escape and then acted as understudy to Kasper Schmeichel when Claudio Ranieri’s 5,000-1 outsiders became the most unlikely English champions of all.

Leicester have lost dynamic engine-room duo N’Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater from their title-winning team but otherwise remain a similar unit to the one that shocked the football world 18 months ago. asked Schwarzer for some insight on his former team-mates – and a few of the Foxes' new boys...

Mark, Jamie Vardy scored 24 league goals when Leicester won the Premier League and appeared to have a telepathic understanding with Drinkwater. His creator in chief has gone to Chelsea… so does Vardy still concern opposing defences to the same extent he once did?

He is probably the most likely of Leicester's players to put the ball in the net – but they have quality all over the pitch.

Riyad Mahrez stands out, he can create something from nothing. What is impressive about Leicester is how well they have performed over the past two years.

They returned to form towards the end of last season by going back to a style of football that everyone knew about. They hold no secrets but every team finds it difficult to contain them because of the individual talents they possess in players like Mahrez - and that pace of Vardy up front.

And I think people underestimate how important Shinji Okazaki is to that side. His work rate is exceptional.

Okazaki's contribution to Leicester does go under the radar. He appeared 36 times in the championship-winning campaign and has already scored four Premier League goals this term. Can you tell us about the Japanese forward's qualities and what makes him such an effective operator?

I think it is difficult to keep a specific eye on him as an opposing team because he is not one of those players who can create something from nothing.

His impact is a direct result of his work rate - the distance he covers in a game is phenomenal. He is constantly at the heels of the players in his opponents’ backline, not allowing them any time on the ball and he forces mistakes time and time again.

If he does not force a mistake, he gets in a tackle and wins possession high up the pitch, which is where Leicester are really dangerous – in those phases when the opposition are building an attack but Leicester pinch the ball, catch them unaware and catch players out of position.

They are so quick and ruthless in those situations.

Kante was phenomenal when Leicester won the league and then went and repeated the trick with Chelsea, where his former partner in crime Drinkwater has now turned up. Has trying to replace those two been the cause of an enormous headache for Leicester?

They showed last season how long it took to plug the hole when Kante left.

He is a phenomenal player and the minute he arrived we were all blown away by how good a player he was – and surprised Leicester got him in the first place for so little money (£5.6million from Ligue 1 outfit Caen).

It was no surprise to see him move on to Chelsea, who won the league with him because he is such a good player. It was always going to be difficult to replace a player like him.

They finally found someone in Wilfred Ndidi, who is not at the same level as Kante – he is a slightly different player, more physical but less mobile – but has slightly plugged that gap.

Danny Drinkwater is a very talented man, a very good ball player, exceptionally good technically, and has great vision.

It may take a little bit of time to replace him. Vicente Iborra came in from Sevilla during the summer but initially had a bad time with injuries. He is getting back to full fitness now (Iborra started Leicester’s last two Premier League matches after making his debut as a substitute against Bournemouth on 30 September) and is another one who is a good ball player.

He has a good football brain, he knows how to find a pass but lacks Drinkwater’s mobility.

One significant change for Leicester this season has seen the injured Robert Huth’s place in the middle of defence claimed by big-money buy Harry Maguire. He received rave reviews in a struggling Hull side last season and made his England debut earlier this month. How has Maguire fitted in at the King Power Stadium?

He has made that transition into the national team, so Gareth Southgate has clearly liked what he has seen in him – and he has done well since he has been at Leicester. He is a natural replacement for Robert Huth, who has been out long term, and it was vital for Leicester to have that extra cover behind Wes Morgan and Huth.

The way Maguire is playing, it is very unlikely Huth would regain his place if he were fit. Maguire has performed too well to take him out of the team.

Neither Everton nor Leicester have really got their respective Premier League seasons going just yet. The Toffees signed a number of players during the close-season. When you have been in a dressing room with a host of new faces has it typically taken a while for them to all settle in?

That is always the case when you make wholesale changes. Players need time to adjust and that is very obvious at Everton, but they have a group of talented footballers, with some excellent youngsters coming through, as well.

Normally there are a core of experienced players at a club who know the division and can help the new players adjust to the pace of the Premier League.

It is proven time and again that it does not matter which player comes in, from which country, or how good the player is, more often than not they need time to adjust to the pace of the game and the physicality of the Premier League. They need that help from the players around them.

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