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The Toe Poke
 By Ben Jacobs

Five reasons Leicester won't sink under weight of being champions next season

Leicester City are rightly relishing being crowned Premier League champions, yet one advantage of clinching the title with two weeks to spare is that preparations for next season can start early.

The Foxes' story of being the most unlikely Premier League victors brings with it the implication that they won't repeat the feat in 2016-17. And there is a chance that a combination of the Premier League elite improving and Leicester juggling European commitments will result in the Foxes finishing closer to the bottom than top next campaign.

But that's an extremely pessimistic line of argument at this point, when it's time to simply shower the Foxes with praise and enjoy what is arguably sport's finest fairytale.

Naysayers rarely raise the fear of champions falling victim to second-season syndrome, even though 1994-95 winners Blackburn went from first to seventh and defending champs Chelsea are currently ninth in the Premier League. It does happen, but then any side who overperform one year may struggle to repeat the feat 12 months on, that's just common sense.

Leicester, though, have extremely solid foundations. They may not defend their title, but here are five reasons why the future looks extremely bright.

1. What constitutes sinking?

Ultimately, despite the media hype, Leicester won't head into next season expecting to win the Premier League again. Instead, they'll probably be aiming first to secure safety, and Claudio Ranieri will likely demand 40 points.

The club will clearly want to finish in the top half of the table, but establishing the Foxes as a stable Premier League force, not challenging for another top-four finish or better, is the more realistic aim -- one that can always be reassessed after the festive period if things are going well.

Ranieri will again tell Leicester fans to dream, but he will ensure his troops remain realistic.

2. Vardy going nowhere

Top scorer Jamie Vardy is highly unlikely to leave the club. Having scored 22 times this campaign, he will want to represent the Foxes in the Champions League.

The 29-year-old signed a new three-and-a-half-year contract in February and surely wouldn't find another side who idolise him as much or, more importantly, play to his strengths as well.

PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez and wonderful workhorse N'Golo Kante could be sold for the right price, but if Leicester have sense, they will ask both to stay until at least January and assess where City are at that point.

3. There's money to spend

Even if Leicester do lose their stars, there's cash to replace them. It's a bit of a myth that the Foxes don't have money, one fuelled by their 3-1 win at Manchester City when the financial chasm between starting lineups was a whopping £272 million, seemingly illustrating a deprived club usurping a decadent one.

Yet the Foxes really aren't poor and even turned a £26m profit in 2014-15 -- their first in almost a decade. There's a feeling Leicester's Premier League triumph was fuelled by budget buys, and in the case of Mahrez (£400k), Vardy (£1m) and Danny Drinkwater (£750k), that's very true.

Yet Leicester's ambitious Thai owners did spend significant (if not Manchester City-esque) money on Kante (£5.6m), Robert Huth (£3m), Demarai Gray (£3.75m), Leonardo Ulloa (£8m) and Andrej Kramaric (£9m).

The Foxes have never spent more in their 132-year history than under the Srivaddhanaprabha family, not just in the Premier League, but to get out of the Championship as well. With an unexpected Champions League windfall and the prospect of Europe's top domestic cup competition helping to lure a whole new class of players, Leicester should start 2016-17 with an even stronger and, crucially, deeper squad.

The likes of Dynamo Kyiv forward Andriy Yarmolenko and Sporting Gijon defender Luis Hernandez have already been linked to Leicester.

4. Young foundations

Leicester's average squad age is 28.4, making them one of the oldest Premier League champions ever. Yet the club are building a talented, youthful core.

Gray's arrival from Birmingham was a prime example of Leicester planning for the future, and the 19-year-old's impressive cameos thus far suggest he'll be a regular starter sooner rather than later.

They also have left-back Ben Chilwell, versatile defender Daniel Amartey and even potentially Kramaric, once he returns from his loan spell at Hoffenheim. Plus, with head of recruitment Steve Walsh and assistant manager Craig Shakespeare calling the shots, City are guaranteed to unearth further gems.

5. Herculean effort

It's hard to see Leicester plummeting down the Premier League table with Ranieri in charge -- which is ironic considering that when he joined, many people feared that's exactly what would happen.

The Italian's infectious energy rubs off on his players. The promises of pizza for clean sheets or rallying cries like "dilly ding, dilly dong" are delightful, but ultimately it's the steelier side that Ranieri shows behind closed doors that's key: the way he fires up his troops and ensures hunger (on the field) never drops.

With Ranieri in the dugout and a European adventure on the horizon, Leicester will be supercharged next season and thus could continue to surprise even if other teams find their form.

Will City defend their title? Probably not... but they'll continue to win plaudits and hearts.

Ben Jacobs is ESPN FC's Leicester City blogger. Follow him on Twitter @JacobsBen.


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