The Keys To Leicester’s Impressive Season So Far.

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Leicester City

The underdog story of the 2015/16 season, Leicester City are ruffling feathers and disturbing the natural order of the Premier League. Currently tied for points with first place and title favorites Manchester City, the Foxes are second by virtue of an inferior goal difference. So far, everyone has been waiting for the other shoe to drop and reality to set in, but fresh into December, Leicester City still lie resolutely in the top four. Here, we examine the possible reasons for their impressive results and see whether they can maintain their remarkable form for the rest of the season.


“We  know very well, a lot of opponents come to try score a goal, but we are very fast in [the] counter attack. And that is a good thing for us, because we are very clever in the counter attack.” This was Claudio Ranieri speaking after the 1-1 draw against Manchester United last weekend. This was apparent in how they scored their goal on Saturday, being an end product of a corner they were defending. Averaging 47% possession this season, it’s evident Leicester are not the most technical side, but part of being successful is playing to your strengths. Of course, it helps they have the agile, fast-paced players that facilitate this philosophy. Whether consciously or not, teams underestimate Leicester, and the Foxes use this to their advantage. With an average pass length of 21 meters, Leicester play a more expansive brand of football, stretching the opponents as much as they can on the counter and exploiting the spaces with their speedy players. For me personally, and I’m sure for many other fans of the game, counter attacking football is one of the more exciting approaches. Soaking up the pressure and pouncing on a opportunity to begin an intensely rapid transition up the field. If executed well, it’s exhilarating enough to put even the neutral on the edge of their seats. And Leicester City have been executing it adequately so far.


Every so often a team comes along that seems to operate as a well-oiled machine. The team definitely consists of a group of players that realize the whole is greater and more important than the sum of its parts. Each of their players work tirelessly for each other, and no player is too big. This is something that probably began with the arrival of Esteban Cambiasso last season. The influence he had on his fellow teammates was undeniable, with then manager Nigel Pearson praising the Champions League winner for the experience and squad harmony he brought to the side. And now Leicester City are certainly enjoying their football and it’s obvious in their play.  It’s not easy to create such atmospheres, but it’s something Ranieri has managed to achieve in such a short time. An fine example of one of the ways he did this was promising to buy every player a pizza when they finally attained a clean sheet. A humorous incentive but once they did, Ranieri made good on his offer and the squad had a session on pizza making, with the video posted on the club’s YouTube channel. This in turn bolsters the good feeling among the supporters, which is why the noise in King Power stadium is deafening on match days. This combined with their results definitely keeps the spirits high and the momentum going.


“Jamie Vardy’s having a party” and the party just won’t stop. While in the previous point, I did emphasize the importance of the collective being more instrumental than the individuals, it undoubtedly does make life a lot easier when a player is in such form. Arguably the man of the season so far, the striker leads the race for the golden boot by a considerable margin, having already doubled the tally of the more traditional favorites, Kun Agüero and Alexis Sánchez. His industry and finishing have been key, showing a willingness to chase every ball down making him a target for his teammates,  who clearly appreciate all his hard work. We saw this in the team celebration after Vardy broke Ruud van Nistelrooy’s long standing record of scoring in consecutive games, against Manchester United no less. And now he has the opportunity to improve on his own record. A Cinderella story all on his own, Jamie Vardy is more or less the embodiment of Leicester City in 2015/16 season. An unlikely protagonist rising from obscurity to starring on one of the biggest stages in football, it is easy to see why the media and fans alike have latched on to his narrative.

So, we’ve attempted to establish the why and the how, but the question remains; how far can Leicester go? How much longer can they keep the dream going? Will they make history by finishing in the top four spots? As a lover of a great underdog story, it pains me to say this is almost certainly not going to happen. Don’t get me wrong, nothing would bring more joy and excitement to myself, Leicester fans and many other avid watchers of the Premier League if this came to be, but here are a couple of reasons it’s highly unlikely…


With all due respect to Wes Morgan, Kasper Schmeichel, Christian Fuchs and their fellow marshals at the back, Leicester simply can not sustain the position they find themselves in with their current defending. Having conceded 21 goals so far this season, in the region of double the teams around them (Manchester United-10, Arsenal-12), their  inability to keep out the goals is bound to catch up with them sooner or later. Despite, some individual shows of defensive bravery from the likes of their captain and their goalkeeper, Leicester’s only answer to their defensive frailty as a team is to score more goals than the opposition. While the approach is admirable, one of the most painfully clichéd statements in football comes to mind: “attack wins you games, defence wins you titles”. And who would know better than Sir Alex Ferguson, thirteen time league winner, and source of the quote. Of course, Leicester are not aiming for a the league trophy, but this applies to any hopes of them achieving either a top four spot as well.


The cream rises to the top. This is the story of every Premier League season. The teams that spend the most money on the best players, are more likely to finish closer to the top. With only 5 teams having won the Premier League since its inception in 1992, it’s safe to say this is a members only club. With the exception of Blackburn in 1995, who were led to the trophy by an outrageous 34 goals from Alan Shearer, the champions consist of the usual suspects: Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and in recent years Manchester City. Hence the formation of the traditional “top four”. Leicester unfortunately, lack the individual and collective quality to carry them through a thirty-eight game season.

Ultimately, a lot of Leicester’s good performances and results this season are down to the arrival of Claudio Ranieri. The experienced Italian hardly excited fans or pundits when he was announced as the new manager, but has so far proved himself to be a worthy appointment. Tweaking the tactical set up, inspiring his players to reach new levels of performance and generating a healthy squad atmosphere that’s conducive to success, he is certainly a big reason why Leicester currently are where they are. Whether he can maintain reasonable results for the remaining season and the seasons to come remains to be seen. Speaking after the match on Saturday, Ranieri was adamant: “our goal is 40 points. Save the team, save the club.” Maintaining humility and the underdog mentality has been essential to what Leicester have achieved this season. Perhaps it will help them continue impressing every weekend, or perhaps there will be a natural complacency that will set in after they reach the magical 40 point objective. Time will tell. But for now Leicester City’s players and fans alike have every right to enjoy the moment.