It’s been hailed as the biggest upset in the history of British sport, if not sport the world over. A 5,000/1 shot to win the Premier League at the start of the season, Leicester City have done just that, with two games to spare. While pundits were tipping the Foxes for relegation at the start of the season, Claudio Ranieri has managed to do the impossible, take a relegation candidate from the bottom half of the Premier League and turn them in to champions.
When the Italian was appointed manager, it was met with huge scepticism by the English media, who questioned the decision of Leicester City. This was a manager who led Greece to a 1-0 home defeat at the hands of the Faroe Islands after all. It’s safe to say, that no one, not even the Leicester fans, players or employees, could see this title winning season coming.
So how did it happen? Some shrewd business in the transfer market paid off. Robert Huth was signed on a permanent deal from Stoke City, Christian Fuchs and Shinji Okazaki joined from the Bundesliga and perhaps the best deal of all, was bringing in N’Golo Kante, from Caen. It was Steve Walsh and his recruitment team, who persuaded Ranieri to part with £5.6 million for Kante’s services and what a player the Frenchman turned out to be. His performances in central midfield have earned praise throughout the season and he may yet go on to star for France at Euro 2016.
Leicester started the season with the momentum still behind them from their successful bid to avoid relegation the season before. Ranieri made some changes, including moving to a 4-4-2, in place of the three at the back system employed by Nigel Pearson. Come Christmas, it was clear Ranieri’s system was working and with Leicester at the top of the Premier League, it was up to the manager to control expectations in the media, which he did superbly.
Inside the dressing room, Leicester had a group of players, all whom were offering something different to the team, both on and off the pitch. Yes, in many respects they are a team who go out on to the pitch and work hard, in a system which they trust but there is also individual talent in there, which can make the difference in games. The likes of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy, the former providing a great cameo of his season in the win at Manchester City, providing the flair, skill and finishing a team needs, if they are to challenge at the top of the Premier League.
While the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal have all been looking at themselves, wondering what’s going wrong, Leicester have got on with their business and built a lead at the top of the table, one which cannot be over turned. Although Leicester deserve time to celebrate and reflect on their title winning season, thoughts have to turn to what’s next for the club. Leicester are 40/1 with BetWay to retain their Premier League title next season and 25/1 with SkyBet to be relegated. Odds like this have never been seen before for a Premier League winner and reflect the enormous scale of the upset Leicester have caused this season.
With Manchester City currently at 7/4 with William Hill to win the Premier League next season, based in large part to the fact Pep Guardiola is going to be in charge, will Leicester be able to challenge them? Will Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool all up their game next season? There is also Tottenham Hotspur to think about, can they go one better and take the title? Then, there is the Champions League to consider. Big, important mid-week matches, which will add to the schedule and exertion on the players, despite the fact they will enjoy the opportunity to play some of the biggest teams in Europe. This will surely take its toll on the team, which will have to be strengthened during the summer. Leicester are currently 100/1 with Coral, to win the Champions League next season and who’s to say the fairy-tale cannot continue in to European football’s biggest competition?
For the moment however, Leicester City need to enjoy themselves and celebrate their 2015/16 Premier League winning season.
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