Leicester City must decide to stick or twist on seven fringe players

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There will be fewer players in Leicester City’s squad in the new season than there has been in the campaign just gone.

That has already been confirmed by Brendan Rodgers, who said that without European football, there are not enough matches to keep everybody happy in what was a 27-man first-team squad. On top of that, the City boss is also hoping to bring in five or six new recruits to revitalize his group, which means there could be a significant number of departures.

Within that, there could be a couple of big names heading for the exit, with Youri Tielemans and Caglar Soyuncu the likeliest of those, both coming into the final year of their contracts at the club. But the majority of those that depart will be fringe players.

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Here, we take a look at the City players who made fewer than 20 starts this season – aside from Wesley Fofana and James Justin, who only played so little because of their injuries, as well as back-up goalkeeper Danny Ward – to assess each of their futures.

Eldin Jakupovic – 0 starts

The veteran goalkeeper has not played a senior match at City in the past four seasons, but as a third-choice between the sticks, that is not a huge surprise. Nor will it have much bearing on his future.

He has been signing one-year extensions over the past couple of years and another is possible. Rodgers likes to have three senior goalkeepers in his squad, and Jakupovic is a well-liked member of the unit.

Daniel Iversen has plenty of promise, but there is little need for him to stay as a third choice, and so if Kasper Schmeichel and Ward both remain, it makes more sense to sell or loan Iversen and keep Jakupovic in the squad for emergencies.

Ryan Bertrand – 9 starts

It is fair to say that City did not see the best of Bertrand this season, with injury ruling him out for the whole of the second half of the campaign. Before that, his appearances in competitive games had failed to live up to the promise of those in the pre-season.

The issue City have is that when Bertrand arrived, Justin was out with a long-term injury, Timothy Castagne had just had surgery on a fractured skull, and Ricardo Pereira was still getting up to speed after his own serious issue. They needed full-back cover. But come the start of the new season, all of those three will be in better places, and with Luke Thomas making strides too, there does not feel the need for a fifth full-back.

But on the back of a long-term injury, it might be difficult to move Bertrand on. His experience may also be valued by Rodgers, while there would be fewer better players for someone like Thomas to learn from if Bertrand can show the levels he did in pre-season a year ago.

Jannik Vestergaard – 12 starts

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He may have only been at City a year, but there does not seem to be a way back into the fold for Vestergaard. He did not feature in any of the final 16 Premier League matches and was not in the squad for the final nine. Once it was clear that Rodgers trusted Wilfred Ndidi to play in defense ahead of Dane, the writing was on the wall.

The signing was wrong from the start in that the Dane’s qualities are totally at odds with how City play, which only serves to highlight his weaknesses. Rodgers is not about to change styles, so it would be best for all parties if he found a new club.

Hamza Choudhury – 6 starts

It looked like there might be a new lease of life for Choudhury when he impressed as a makeshift center-back in January, but from there he only made one start in the final four months of the season. That suggests his time may be up, especially with only a year remaining on his deal.

There are qualities to his game – his energy and his tenacity in particular – that Rodgers likes, but for a team that prefers to dominate possession, it seems the 24-year-old does not quite have the right abilities on the ball. It would be a shame to see a Leicester lad who has come through the academy go, but there can be no room for sentiment.

Boubakary Soumare – 18 starts

On one hand, it feels like there needs to be patience to see if Soumare can show off the attributes he was signed for: the strength in defensive areas and surging out from midfield to start attacks. But then again, such little progress was shown throughout the season that it may not make sense to have the Frenchman take up a place in the squad.

When he played more regularly in the autumn, Rodgers said he wanted to see Soumare tracking back with more intensity, and moving the ball more quickly. That those same critics were still applicable late in the campaign suggests City may have to accept it’s a transfer that has not worked out, and to see if they can recoup some of the £ 17m they paid for the Frenchman.

Papy Mendy – 12 starts

Six months ago, he would have been the player on this list likeliest to leave, having not even been included in the 25-man squad. But his performances in the final few weeks of the season, and the trust Rodgers clearly has in him, means Mendy might now stay.

Mendy is not going to produce a sensational performance, but his positioning and his ability to retain the ball under pressure and pass it into the right spaces should not be overlooked. If Ndidi is not available, Mendy brings a better balance to the team, which was shown in the statistics. Only Jonny Evans had a better win percentage in the Premier League for City this season.

With Tielemans, Choudhury, and Soumare all potentially leaving, City’s midfield will need the most work as part of this refresh. Keeping Mendy may limit quite how much work needs to be done in the center of the park.

Ayoze Perez – 11 starts

Of the players listed here, Perez is probably the most difficult to come to a neat conclusion on, particularly after his finish to the season. His impact at PSV was superb, not only in setting up the James Maddison goal, but with how his movement created space for others. Against Southampton on the final day, he showed how good he is at finding spaces in the box to score.

But if City stick with a 4-3-3, there is not a place for him. It’s established that he is not quite what City need to play on the right-hand side, while there is very unlikely to ever be room for him up front with Jamie Vardy, Patson Daka, and Kelechi Iheanacho in the squad. The Spaniard also only has one year left on his contract, and so it may be time to cash in.

Would you like to see City keep any of these players? Let us know in the comments section below

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