How Leicester City Saved Football: The Fairytale, the Men Who Made it Happen and What Happens NextPublished May 3, 2016
Leicester City, Premier League champions 2015/16…
It’s a shock that not even Nostradamus could’ve predicted and if you placed a bet on the Foxes last summer then it’s fair to say you will be beaming this morning.
As well as making a few people rich and giving the collective city of Leicester City the mother of all hangovers today, it’s fair to say that the fairytale triumph has in some way saved football. Let me dig deeper to better justify an arguably loaded statement.
The rise of popularity football has enjoyed over the past two decades plus may have served to bring the beautiful game to an even bigger audience than previously but in many ways it has perhaps led to an era of the game that is very much finance driven.
Of course money has always been at the forefront of the game, professional football is of course an industry like any other, but the attraction of billionaire owners and global reach beyond anything experienced before has meant that pretty much universally the ‘big boys’ always win.
Success breeds success. This has led to a fair amount of predictability across European football and Leicester City’s triumph can be held as a beacon to all. Proof that a well oiled machine, unrivalled team spirit and a never say die attitude can sometimes win out.
Leicester City’s mentality over the season has very much been a case of 11 vs 11. A sense that when all is said and done. A game of football is just 11 players versus another 11. Sure the Premier League has in recent seasons been labeled as the one major European league where on any given weekend any side can defeat another. Claudio Ranieri’s side have just magnified this in disputable fact.
The Foxes have romped to the title at a canter and quite rightly the likes of Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy and N’Golo Kante have been held up as the key performers but one can not overlook the other 20 members of Ranieri’s squad who have featured in Premier League action in 2015/16.
Leicester City are very much the sum of their parts. A team that plays to their strengths who have barely put a foot wrong.
Let’s not down play this. Leicester City winning the Premier League is without doubt one of the biggest shocks in world sport, perhaps even the biggest.
A cup giant-killing of epic proportions. Essentially, up to this point, 36 weeks of giant-killings.
Without wishing to be considered something of a killjoy it would be fair to say that part of the reason Leicester City have secured this unprecedented title is down to the fact that the ‘usual suspects’ have floundered in a big way.
Last season’s champions Chelsea pretty much hit the self-destruct button before Guus Hiddink’s arrival provided a steady hand at the tiler. Manchester City’s decision to announce Pep Guardiola as their next manager predictably led to Manuel Pellegrini’s charges taking their eyes off the prize.
Arsenal did what they do best. Flattered to deceive, leading Gunners fans to believe this ‘could be’ their year before enduring a traditional slump that was of course partly down to the club’s unwillingness to invest big money in the transfer market whilst Manchester United bored all and sundry with their ‘avoid defeat and keep it tight at the back’ mentality.
None of this should take away from Leicester City’s efforts but more a fair assessment of how the big guns fired blanks in a big way in 2015/16.
5000-1 – The odds offered on Leicester City to win the Premier League title last summer are the longest odds on any successful single event in sporting history.
The non-possession game – Leicester City rank 18th in the table based on possession, they also have the lowest pass success rate in the Premier League this season.
Riyad Mahrez – The first African winner of the PFA Premier League Player of the Year Award
Robert Huth – The seventh player to win the Premier League title with two different clubs, the German having won two titles at Chelsea
Jamie Vardy – Lethal finisher scored in 11 consecutive Premier League fixtures, a league record.
[Leicester City Twitter shortcode=”Leicester City Twitter”]
3 – The number of Premier League defeats suffered by Leicester City (two of these inflicted by Arsenal)
The Key Performers
A successful meme doing the rounds states. 70% of planet earth is covered by water and the other 30% is covered by Kante. That just about says it all. The 26-year-old arrived at the King Power Stadium last August and it would be fair to say he was a relative unknown. The tireless runner is now likely to be part of Didier Deschamps’ Euro 2016 squad.
Another player brought in from Ligue 1, the Algerian international is a joy to watch. One wonders if next term the cultured performer will play with quite so much inner freedom. Rightly won the PFA Player of the Year award.
No doubt after he’d notched up those goals in 11 consecutive games there would have been many who would have uttered ‘he won’t be able to keep this up’. The former Fleetwood Town man proved many wrong. 22 goals in 34 appearances have proven invaluable and national team recognition has rightly followed.
32-year-old club captain has been near flawless alongside Robert Huth at the centre of Leicester City’s defence. His goal at Old Trafford was perhaps the moment when the club’s fans could truly believe that the impossible was indeed possible.
26-year-old failed to make the grade at Man United but has battled back to make a name for himself at Leicester City. Has now collected his first national team cap and the England man has been the perfect foil to Kante in the centre of the park.
Claudio Ranieri seems like a nice man doesn’t he? He’s pretty much universally loved. Even by fans of clubs where he hasn’t delivered the goods. This title triumph is, perhaps amazingly, the first top flight championship the 64-year-old has secured
Even the most fervent Leicester City fan, and there will be many more of those than there were a year ago, will probably begrudingly that their Premier League title success can not be replicated, let alone by themselves.
The East Midlands based side will of course get to enjoy Champions League action for the first time and it’s been estimated that the club stands to make as much as £150m from this season’s success and it’s crucial Ranieri retains his best players whilst also being able to expand his squad and no doubt the Italian will be given a big chunk of change to invest in his playing staff.
It’s highly likely this was a one-off and it’s this fact that should be at the forefront of the club’s fans thinking.
So Leicester City fans, enjoy it.