At the end of the 2022/23 campaign, Leicester City were relegated from the Premier League, along with Southampton and Leeds United. It was a stunning fall from grace in some ways given they had made the last eight of the Champions League in 2017, having, of course, won the league in 2015/16. Moreover, they won the FA Cup in 2021/22, made the semis of a European competition and finished eighth in the PL (having finished fifth in both of the two seasons before that).
We are not here to look back though and will not be analysing where it all went wrong for the Foxes. Instead, in this feature, we look forward to the season (or seasons) ahead and consider whether or not the club can make an instant return to the top flight. And, if the answer is no, just how long might it take them to get back to the promised land of limitless riches?!
Can Leicester Bounce Back to the PL at the First Time of Asking?
The bookies rank the Foxes a 4/1 shot to win the title in the Championship in 2023/24, whilst they are 13/8 to earn promotion by any means. In both markets, they are the shortest-priced option and so the bookies certainly think they have a great chance of playing just one campaign in the second tier. Based on those odds the bookies think they have a better than 20% chance of lifting the title and around a 40% chance of going straight back up.
Those percentages may appear low but, as said, in both cases the bookmakers do not believe any other side is more likely to achieve those goals. There are 23 other teams in the Championship and only three go up, whilst as many as 10 may well feel they have at least an outside chance of topping the table come May. In terms of promotion odds, Leeds are second favourites, priced at 12/5, with Southampton at 5/2, Boro at 4/1, Norwich at 5/1 and both Ipswich and West Brom at 11/2. So, those are Leicester’s main rivals, but how are the Foxes themselves looking and can they justify pre-season favouritism?
The Foxes moved swiftly to appoint Enzo Maresca as their permanent boss following the short-term appointment of Dean Smith last term. Few in English football will be overly familiar with the young Italian but he actually began his playing career just 40 miles away from the King Power at West Brom! He made almost 50 league appearances for the Baggies and impressed sufficiently to earn a move to Juventus.
He never really made the grade at Juve and throughout his career he played for a number of big clubs without ever staying too long or enjoying too much success. That said, he won a couple of UEFA Cups with Sevilla, the side he played most games for in his career.
The former midfielder retired in 2017 and moved straight into coaching with Ascoli at the age of just 37. He fulfilled similar coaching roles with Sevilla and West Ham, then worked with Man City’s youngsters before a brief stint in charge of Parma. That was not a huge success but Pep Guardiola was happy to have him back at City, this time as a first-team coach/assistant manager.
He has a three-year deal with Leicester and fans are cautiously optimistic. He is unproven as a boss and inexperienced but the fact that City took him back says a lot. Whilst in charge of their Elite Development Squad he guided them to the Premier League 2 title and Pep is said to have been impressed. If he proves as good a manager as other Guardiola proteges Mikel Arteta and Vincent Kompany then Leicester fans will be more than happy.
Despite their poor season, it was clear that Leicester had a number of top players who would be wanted elsewhere. The vultures swooped quickly and already they have lost Youri Tielemans (to Villa on a free) and centre back duo Caglar Soyuncu and Jonny Evans, both also on free transfers, to Atletico Madrid and Man United respectively. More lucratively, they brought in around £80m from the sales of James Maddison to Spurs and Harvey Barnes to Newcastle.
Their three main signings thus far are Harry Winks from Spurs, Conor Coady from Wolves and keeper Mads Hermansen from Brondby, for fees of around £10m, £8m and £6m, respectively. More players will follow but the additions of Cody and Hermansen look especially good as they will fix two of Leicester’s big issues from last term. Cody will provide leadership and organisation, whilst Hermansen will hopefully bring the trusty pair of hands the Foxes lacked without Kasper Schmeichel. Replacing the creativity of Maddison and Barnes is the next step and will not be easy but they do at least have plenty of funds.
Stats & History
Leicester are no strangers to relegation and their last demotion was from the second to the third tiers in 2008. Then, they bounced straight back, winning League 1, but spent five seasons in the Championship before a return to the PL. At the end of the 2001/02 campaign, they were relegated from the Premier League, came back up the following season but then went straight back down again. That began a long stint out of the top flight that culminated in them dropping to the third tier.
Prior to that they were relegated from the Premier League in 1995 and promoted in 1996. Overall it has been a mixed bag for Leicester but what about wider stats and trends? Since the top flight became a division of 20 teams in 1995/96, there have been 81 relegations. Only 22 of those saw the side come straight back up the following year. That means teams that go down have a 27.16% chance of coming back up. Put another way, on average less than one of the three teams that go down will come back up at the first chance.
Conclusion: Leicester Might Come Back Up!
Sorry we can’t give a better answer but hey, we don’t have a crystal ball! The Foxes are favourites for promotion but history and the bookies’ odds suggest that whilst they have a great chance of coming straight back up, they are more likely not to.
Losing two top creative players is a big blow and much will depend on how Leicester seek to replace them in the weeks ahead. All that said, if the Foxes don’t secure promotion in 2023/24, we strongly suspect they will be back up within a season or two. History suggests this is likely, whilst their infrastructure, finances and solid ownership all mean they should prove too good for the Championship. Sooner or later!