Where Caleb Okoli fits in Leicester City line-up with Steve Cooper to hand new signing key role

Caleb Okoli is Leicester City's third signing of the summer
-Credit: (Image: Plumb Images/Leicester City FC via Getty Images)

There's still six weeks to go until the Premier League campaign begins but Leicester City's starting 11 is beginning to take shape.

Three signings are through the door so far, and the latest new recruit, Caleb Okoli, is perhaps the most significant so far. While there's still plenty of times for new arrivals, and plenty of pre-season friendlies for Steve Cooper to assess his squad, it feels like the Italian defender will be a starter.

With Bobby De Cordova-Reid and Michael Golding signed, and with Abdul Fatawu on the way, we've taken a look at how Cooper's City could set up on the opening weekend as things stand. Are there any areas of the team that need strengthening? Let us know in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

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Back three

Cooper got Nottingham Forest promoted playing with a back three and it was a system he used frequently in the Premier League too. With the strength in depth City have in defence, it could be the route Cooper takes at the King Power Stadium as well.

In goal will be Mads Hermansen, who is perhaps the easiest choice in the starting line-up after his excellent maiden campaign with the club. In front of him, there are choices.

The signing of Okoli is significant in pointing towards Cooper opting for a back three. While the Italian is right-footed, he played on the left of a three on loan at Frosinone at times last season, and that’s the one spot City would need to fill in such a formation.

Jannik Vestergaard and Wout Faes would be the frontrunners for the other two spots in a back three, operating as they did last season. But Cooper also has Conor Coady, Ben Nelson and Harry Souttar to consider as well.


James Justin was a regular in City’s back three last season, the England international shuffling into the left-hand spot when Enzo Maresca’s team had the ball. But in Cooper’s system, there are wing-backs, and Justin may seem much more at home there.

The 26-year-old is perhaps at his best when he can use his athleticism and dynamism to full effect, getting up and down the flank. He had a few brief moments on the right wing last season and looked effective.

On the left-hand side, the spot seems open to Victor Kristiansen if he wants to stick around. The Dane had been playing there for his country at Euro 2024 and looks to have the energy and drive to get up and down the wing.

There are a number of players who could also be options there, albeit they wouldn’t be as natural fits as Justin and Kristiansen. Ricardo Pereira is perhaps more of a midfielder than a rampaging wing-back these days, but has the technical quality to do well wherever he plays. Luke Thomas is returning to the club and is a natural left-footer.

Equally, Fatawu and Kasey McAteer, while mainly playing as wingers last season, both showed they know how to defend, with Maresca regularly asking them to track the opposition’s left-backs. Fatawu was spirited in his defensive work, while former boss Brendan Rodgers was training McAteer to be a wing-back before he left the club.

Central midfielders

Harry Winks is an obvious choice in the centre of the park and would provide plenty of Premier League know-how as well as expertise in keeping possession. Having played as Winks’ team-mate in the middle when City were on the ball last season, Ricardo looks to be a great option there too, allowing their partnership to continue.

That would provide City with a technical duo in the centre of the pitch, which may help connect with the attack, but may leave the defence light on physical protection. Wilfred Ndidi, should he sign a new deal, would be an alternative, as would Hamza Choudhury and Boubakary Soumare.

For new signing Golding, it will be interesting to see where he fits in. He looks to be a forward-thinking midfielder and so it may be, if he is going to be a first-team option, that he would play further forward.

Front three

The front three is the most changeable part of Cooper’s preferred system. At Forest, he started with a number 10 behind two strikers, but once in the Premier League there were tweaks, with two attacking midfielders and a sole forward sometimes used, or wingers brought in to flank one striker.

At City, given the options they have right now, it seems it’s worth sticking with wingers. Fatawu and Stephy Mavididi were two of City’s most dangerous players last season and they have proven they know how to deliver goals and assists. Plus, playing as inverted wingers, they can shuffle inside at times to allow the wing-backs to overlap.

That would leave City with one striker, and Jamie Vardy, even at 37, is the go-to man there right now. It feels like he will be preferred to Patson Daka and Tom Cannon, and only a new striker could depose him.

De Cordova-Reid would be pushing for a starting spot. His versatility means he could play as a winger, as an attacking midfielder, or as a striker, and so becomes a serious option no matter how Cooper sets up his front three. But right now, Mavididi, Fatawu, and Vardy have earned their place in the side.

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