Leicester City: Dare to Dream

Leicester City: Dare to Dream
May 3, 2016

Featured Leicester

Leicester City, Champions of England 2016. Who would have thought it?  Leicester City pulled off one of the greatest escapes in recent memory last season. Narrowly escaping relegation when they were seemingly doomed. 12 months on they have won the Premier League title. It still hasn’t quite sunk it yet. With some bookies offering odds of 5000/1 for the Foxes to be crowned the champions you would have been mad to think they stood a chance. But here we are. The 2-2 draw between Chelsea and Spurs has confirmed that Leicester City have won the Premier League. What have been the deciding factors in this extraordinary story?

‘The Tinkerman’
After Nigel Pearson was sacked in the summer in controversial fashion The Italian “Tinker Man”  took over the reigns at the Foxes. Many touted him to be the favourite to be sacked this season with his need to rotate constantly being questioned by the media and fans alike. However, Ranieri has been one of the main reason for Leicester’s success. His more laid-back approach and motivation have spurred on his players immensely. He took the pressure off them countless times and allowed them to play with freedom. He demanded hard work and determination from his players but let them go out and “have fun.” In my eyes, there is no doubt he should be the manager of the season and he deserves all the plaudits he gets. Raniero has unquestionably been one of the foremost reasons for the incredible rise of Leicester to the top of the table and then staying there.

Gary Lineker among many others questioned the appointment of Ranieri

Tactics and Philosophy

4-4-2 used to be the classic formation that every team used in the 2000s. Arsenal’s Invincibles Team and Manchester United’s 1999 Team both deploying the 4-4-2. Although, these days it seems to be a forgotten formation with many teams opting for the 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1 instead. This season Leicester have shown teams that 4-4-2 is extremely well balanced and if the tactics are right you can destroy teams. While teams like Arsenal and Manchester City opt for a more passing possession style Leicester have seen that surrendering pass accuracy and possession has played dividends.  Leicester average only 44.7% in possession and 70 % in pass accuracy. When you think about it that is staggering. Instead, they opted for a pressing style. Watford’s Troy Deeney described it perfectly saying – “The whole team all know their jobs, from front to back, and they all work very hard too.” This summarises The Foxes’ qualities flawlessly. They never stop running and their success this season shows that persistence and hard work pays off.

Claudio Ranieri has taken the pressure of his players all year

 

In the first half of the season Leicester enjoyed playing open and countering with pace. With Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez scoring goals for fun. However, they were also leaking goals during this period. As Leicester continued to dominate teams, other teams countered this by shutting up shop and “parking the bus.” In turn, Leicester changed their approach and sat back, letting teams come to them and pouncing on mistakes. They won 5 out of 6 games 1-0 between March and April and their defensive record greatly improved. It was refreshing to see a team mix up their tactics and adapt to the situations they are in.

The Players
While most great teams have a star-studded squad, with renown world class players, Leicester have been a huge anomaly to this. You look at Chelsea’s title-winning side from last year and they had Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa. While they were obviously all on form, they had all been known as outstanding players and have enjoyed plenty of success in the past. On the other side of things, the new champions of England don’t really have any big names.

This graphic shows the staggering difference between  Leicester’s starting XI and  Man City’s

As football seems to have become a business with most clubs’ main objective money, then it is incredible to see that Leicester has achieved so much without spending as much as the top teams. This shows the mental strength and togetherness of the whole Leicester City team. The players all play for each and so many in the team have also had standout individual performances. Three of the six nominees for the PFA Player of the season were Leicester players, showing us that they really have dominated the league. Riyad Mahrez was named as the PFA player of the year, and rightly so. Scoring 17 times and assisting his teammates 11 times. It is mind boggling when you think that he cost just less than half a million pounds. With the big teams across Europe sniffing around, it is imperative that the Foxes hold on to the Algerian international. N’golo Kante may not do the flashy tricks or score many goals, but the Frenchman is arguably the most  important player for the Foxes. He makes the midfield tick and at times seems to be everywhere on the pitch. He has averaged 4.5 tackles and 4.2 interceptions per game, showing just how valuable a player he is.

This was his heat map in last Month’s game against Southampton

 

Another player who has risen from rags to riches is the much acclaimed Jamie Vardy. Just 4 years ago he was playing for Fleetwood in the Conference and now he is one of the top scorers this season as well as a full England international. There have been whispers of a Hollywood blockbuster movie showing his rise to stardom and for good reason. Not only has he scored 22 league goals and grabbed 6 assists, but he is also a key cog in the well oiled Leicester machine. His hunger to chase down seemingly lost causes panics defenders into giving the ball away. He seems to never stop running. One of the most iconic moments this season was when Vardy broke Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record of scoring in consecutive games when Vardy scored in 12 games in a row. An unbelievable feat.

4 Leicester City players made the PFA team of the Year

 
Key Statistics
  • Leicester average the third lowest possession in the league, just West Brom and Sunderland average less. This contrasts with the other top teams as the top 4 in the list make up the top 5 in the table.
  • Leicester are also bottom of the list when it comes to pass accuracy, with just 70%.
  • Both Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have directedly contributed to 28 goals this season, more than any other players.
  • The Foxes have lost the least amount of games this season. Only being defeated 3 times in total.
  • Both Wes Morgan and Peter Schmeichel have played every minute this campaign, with the pair keeping 15 clean sheets in the process.
In conclusion, it is still unbelievable to see how far the Foxes have come. Many touting their title triumph as the greatest sporting upset ever. Whether you agree with that or not is is apparent that this season will go down in folklore. Leicester have now become the 6th team to win the Premier League and this fairytale really does have a happy ending.

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