After overcoming Southampton last weekend, Leicester City proudly sit seven points clear at the top of the Premier League and are putting the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City to shame.
With only six games of the campaign to go, the previous whispers and murmurs of a potential title challenge have developed into a bellowing roar, especially on the terraces of the King Power Stadium. Despite this, many neutrals and pundits still seem inexplicably unconvinced by Claudio Ranieri’s team.
However, is there any reason to suggest that they couldn’t kick on? Could the boys from LE2 really become a top-flight giant? Could they break apart the untouchable ‘big-four’ for the foreseeable future? Well, Manchester City did it, why can’t plucky, little Leicester?
It’s clear that there is talent coursing through the corridors of the King Power Stadium, there is no doubt. However, players come and go. What else could make Leicester City a footballing giant of the Premier League like their Eastland-based couterparts?
Drive and determination
If you’d had asked any Leicester City fan if they thought that their club could possibly lift the Premier League trophy when they were dwelling in League 1 as recently as 2009, the answer would be a resounding no, and justifiably so. Having stereotypically become a club constantly yo-yo-ing between the top two tiers of English football, a potential title tilt is the stuff of dreams.
Well, the whole attitude of the Midlands club has changed in recent times. With a collection of talented individuals buoyed on by a partizan home crowd, there has been an unwavering positivity at the club (even during the seemingly doomed relegation battle of 2014/15), and it is this that could set Leicester City up for years to come.
There were calls at the start of the campaign that the Foxes were simply riding their wave of euphoria having dramatically escaped relegation just under 12 months ago. However, it seems that this wave simply does not want to crash. Even after disappointing losses, the players have at no point sat back and dwelled. As a matter of fact, they have not suffered two consecutive losses in the league since February 2015.
Regardless of what they might say to the assembled media, those within the home changing room at the King Power Stadium genuinely believe that they could lift the trophy come the end of the season and they show no sign of apprehension or doubt on the pitch. Going toe-to-toe with the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea, Ranieri’s team seem to possess no fear going into the crucial part of the season.
It is this positive approach that has enveloped the club. Continue this for the foreseeable future (even when things get difficult) and the Foxes’ should be in a great position to not only continue their ascent in English football but in Europe also.
Something to prove
Now, most would say that a Premier League title could be dependent on the amount of money spent and talent purchased (just look at Manchester City). Nevertheless, Ranieri’s men appear to be going about their business a different way. Just look at some of the players on their books: Jamie Vardy, former Non-League striker; Riyad Mahrez, wiry winger rejected by most second-tier French clubs; Danny Drinkwater, doubted about his Premier League quality; Christian Fuchs, released on a free by Schalke. The list is endless.
All of these players have something to prove, and they’re doing it with aplomb. Most, if not all players have really contributed to the Foxes’ unlikely title tilt this season and it would be the best way to silence the nay-sayers if Ranieri’s team were able to lift the trophy come May.
Take the central defence of the Foxes for example; Wes Morgan and Robert Huth. One was seemingly not cut out for Premier League football and look destined for the lower tiers of English football, and one released by Stoke City after supposedly being “past-it”. It is this will to prove the doubters wrong that has set the Foxes up in a great position to lift the Premier League title.
A main reason as to why this attitude has been installed at the club is Italian manager Claudio Ranieri. After being appointed following the removal of Nigel Pearson, fans (including myself) doubted the Italian and wondered whether he was in fact the man to take the club forwards. In fairness, looking at his recent record with the Greece national team, these doubts where probably with foundation.
Nevertheless, the former Chelsea boss has really silenced the naysayers by taking the Foxes seven points clear at the top of the Premier League. If the club can continue to recruit in the same way and uphold this attitude to go against all the odds, why should they fall away?
Consistency is key
Consistency, it’s a word not usually associated with the Premier League. After Arsene Wenger, Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe is the next longest-serving manager, having presided over the Dean Court hot seat for just over three years. Nevertheless, consistency at the King Power Stadium could see Leicester City go a long way.
Now, there may be calls suggesting that Ranieri has not yet got that consistency having only been appointed in the summer of 2015. Whilst this is true, there seems to be an aura surrounding the enigmatic Italian that he’s in it for the long haul. Stating that he intends to remain at the club for a “very long time”, the Italian looks to be going nowhere (there are even some rumours circulating that the former Inter Milan boss could soon be rewarded with a new contract).
It’s not just that however. Look at the minimal changes that the 64-year-old has implemented since he arrived in the East Midlands. Retaining players, staff, training methods and the all-important style of play of his predecessor, the Foxes have been able to uphold their magnificent form of last season, seamlessly propelling them to the very top of English football. As a matter of fact, an outstanding total of only 25 changes to his first team personifies that very well.
Look at the examples of other clubs who have gambled on swift changes and the ever-revolving door of player recruitment - the once immovable Manchester United are a prime example. Constant pressure has been laid at the door of the Red Devils boardroom to remove Louis Van Gaal from his job. This surely cannot be the way to go, Sir Alex Ferguson can vouch for that one. The success that he achieved at Old Trafford with his constant training methods and faith in the same reliable players identify that change isn’t always necessary.
It’s not to be said that Leicester could emulate the domination of English football that the Red Devils have enjoyed but for the club just to experience a portion of that would be utterly astounding.
It goes without saying, Leicester City have made massive strides within the last decade. Once a club on the borderline of extinction, they’ve powered towards the pinnacle of football. Once a club seemingly without direction dwelling in the third tier, the evolution of the Foxes’ has been astounding.
Since that record-breaking campaign in League 1 in which the club finished outright champions, the progress and ascent up the English football pyramid has been a marvel to behold. Constant improvement season upon season has seen the Foxes lift silverware, reach the play-offs, gain promotion and consolidate their position within the Premier League. Now they could astonishingly win it all.
With the backing that the club has got from their affluent Thai owners and if this amazing trend of progress is to continue, we could see Leicester City establish themselves at the top of the Premier League.
Since taking control of the East Midlanders, the Srivaddhanaprabha family have invested heavily and it’s under their stewardship that the club has ascended into their unbelievable position. The progress at the club has been breath-taking and if this is to continue with the help of the financial muscle of the owners, we could see the rather unfancied Leicester City challenge for yet further Premier League titles.
So, can they do it?
Whether the club actually do achieve this feat and establish themselves not only at the top of the league but in European football as well, remains to be seen. Even the last club to do it, Manchester City, still have their doubters.
However, in 2011, the Citizens went on to lift their first top-flight title in over 40 years and have since established themselves as a footballing superpower. So, there is no reason why Leicester City couldn’t do the same. Do you think the Maine Road faithful ever predicted their team’s dominance when dwindling in the lower reaches of the English football ladder? Why can't the Foxes be the same?