Leicester City added another feather to their cap this season, by defeating defending champions Chelsea 2-1 at the King Power Stadium yesterday. That result lifted them back to the top of the Barclays Premier League table, consigning Chelsea to 16th place and just a point ahead of the relegation zone.
It has been a strange Premier League season alright, but the Foxes deserve recognition for where they are on the table and the consistency they have shown to get there. Mind you, it has been no fluke and that is the best part about Claudio Ranieri’s side. People can continue saying that Chelsea, who were expected to retain their title, have imploded, Manchester United have not been scoring enough goals, and Arsenal and Manchester City have not been consistent. And that, subsequently, has helped Leicester to be where they are. Such an assertion would, however, be delusional.
Read on… as we dissect the reasons for Leicester’s rise to the top, and why they can stay there.
Why Leicester City Are Potential Barclays Premier League Champions
I think it is important to analyse Leicester as a team, and not just the individual exploits of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez. Sure, this duo has been phenomenal in terms of scoring and creating goals, for each other and their team mates, but Leicester have been equally adept in other areas of the pitch too. They defend and attack as a team that is efficient in possession, however little they may have in a game. And their efficiency in possession has what helped them against two of the big sides: United and Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. Against the West Londoners last night, the Foxes had only 35% possession in a 95-minute game, and they scored two goals. Against Louis van Gaal’s side, Leicester had only 40% possession, but still scored a goal and posed plenty of problems for the Red Devils, who, in the end, were lucky to go away with a point.
Leicester’s only defeat of the ongoing Premier League season came at home against Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, who scored five goals and put a blot on what has otherwise been a solid Leicester defence. Apart from that slightly unfair result, Ranieri’s men have not been perturbed by the stature of some of their opponents. After last month’s 0-3 victory at St. James’ Park against Newcastle United, a result that took them to the summit of the Premier League table, there were doubts about Leicester staying top. Until then, the Foxes had just come up against Tottenham Hotspur, of the supposedly big sides. But following the Newcastle result, fixtures against United and Chelsea were thought to be testing and tough ones for Leicester to get anything away from.
Astonishingly, Leicester have made light work of both those games, accruing 4 points from a possible 6. What those results have done is, keep Arsenal and City from going top. More significantly, Leicester can now feel confident of taking on the big sides they will be facing from now till the end of this calendar year. Everton (away), Liverpool (away) and Man. City (home), in that order, are Leicester’s upcoming opponents who will genuinely be wary of a Leicester side that is the most in-form in the Premier League, oozing confidence and playing jaw-dropping football.
Of course, given the way this season has panned out so far, there is little guarantee that Ranieri’s men will keep winning games, just as other teams have not been able to. But from the Foxes’ point-of-view, there is not much difference to the way they play at home and away from home. They are more than happy to cede possession to their opponents and, once a turnover occurs, make quick transitions to arrive at the opposition’s goal. The pace of Vardy and Mahrez helps, again, and Leicester have been highly effective with their counter-attacking tactics.
Trips to Goodison Park and Anfield in the next fortnight will be tests of character for Leicester, who have yet to lose an away game in the Premier League. But, having said that, they have got nothing to lose and can just go out there and enjoy themselves. That, for me, is Leicester’s biggest advantage. Nobody expected them to be a gargantuan 20 points ahead of the defending champions after 16 games and, still, no one expects them to stay there and fight for the Premier League title. Again, lack of pressure and expectations can only work in their favour.
The fact that Ranieri and his players want to reach 40 points firstly, gives us an insight into Leicester City’s mindset and how their current position on the table has not made any difference to their objectives at the start of this season. They are an in-form side and have shown fortitude by digging themselves out of trouble on multiple occasions already this season. Having played well and shown no panic when coming up against the Premier League heavyweights, Leicester do have the possibility of continuing in this vein and, with a bit of luck, clinch the Premier League.