If you're a fan of English football, you have probably noticed that Leicester City are on FIRE this season. In one of the most unexpected turnarounds in Premier League history, after finishing just six points off relegation in the 2014/15 season under the wing of Nigel Pearson to topping the table at Christmas after 17 games in the current 2015/16 season. Under the highly experienced and hugely successful management of Claudio Ranieri, they have been an almost unstoppable force since his arrival in July of 2015.
This complete set of shocking events has overjoyed their fans more than anyone else, as they were in the third tier of English football just seven years ago. The club known as the Foxes have never come close to winning a Premier League title and if they were to keep it up and win the title, it would without a doubt be one of the greatest and most unbelievable stories in the history of football.
Success in football requires a variety of different elements coming together as a unit. Transfers, fans, momentum, individual talent, team chemistry, a happy dressing room, and a great backroom team along with a great manager just to name a few. We've seen teams such as Manchester City 'buy' their way to the Premier League title but Leicester have done quite the opposite with their team costing less than £40 million in transfer fees.
For Leicester City this season, those elements have seemingly come together to create some absolute magic which has enlightened fans all over the world about the beauty of the Barclays Premier League. Here's our top 12 reasons why they've thrived this season.
12 Ability to Pick Up Bargains
As we said earlier, Leicester City haven't just bought their success - with some of their most talented and best performing players being snapped up for next to nothing. Let's think of an example, the Algerian sensation Riyad Mahrez was picked up for a very tidy 350k - and with him being one of the most influential players this season (we'll talk about him later...), he seems to be an absolute steal.
Mahrez is just one example of a bargain - Vardy, Fuchs, Albrighton to name just a few. Leicester seem to have a great ability to snap up some great talent with their limited resources, which has been key to their recent successes.
11 No European Football Fixture Congestion
We often hear from Premier league managers that their players are tired from their mid-week fixtures abroad in the Champions League or Europa League. Perhaps it's justified, but the point is that Leicester don't have to travel half way across Europe, then fly back and play a couple of days later. As we've seen in the past, teams who qualified for Europe in one season, really struggle to get going the following season. Everton comes to mind...
If Leicester do proceed to make footballing history and qualify for the Europa League or Champions League, don't be surprised if we see them slide back down the table in the 2016/17 season.
10 Wanting to Prove People Wrong
When a team like Leicester find their way near the top of the table in the first few months of the season, similar to Koeman's Southampton last season, one of the biggest questions people all over the internet begin to ask is: "When are they going to crash?" People are often in denial (often quite rightly) that unexpected teams can't keep it up the whole way and win the title or make the top 4.
This reaction from the media is likely driving these players to keep on winning . Can Leicester City 'do it' this season? - only time will tell...
9 Claudio Ranieri
The former Chelsea, Juventus, and Inter Milan manager (along with other European giants) made a shock return to the Premier League in July to manage The Foxes.
The experienced former Roma and Palermo defender brought his immense tactical and technical expertise to the King Power Stadium, giving Leicester a much needed boost going in to this season. Hasn't he done just that! His vast playing and managerial experience has allowed Leicester to not only pick up wins, but to play aesthetically pleasing football and excite fans across the world.
8 Momentum + Confidence
Momentum and confidence are commonly used words by football pundits, especially when giving reasons why teams are playing so well. Not only the confidence of goal-scorers (I'll talk about them later) but the confidence of midfielders, defenders, goalkeepers and even the fans.
Leicester City has used their momentum to perfection this season, grinding out wins with fans feeling confident that they can get results against anyone at anytime.
It's this sort of confidence that can, dare we say it, win you titles...
7 Closing Down + Pushing Forward
It’s often said that attack (or offense) is the best form of defense. This is epitomized by Leicester City this season. Their desire to ‘take the game’ to big teams like Manchester City by pressing up high and shutting down the opposition players with great intensity is fantastic to watch. It’s a great sight in football to see energetic strikers sprinting and hassling opposition players and Leicester City have done plenty of that this season.
Many of Leicester’s goals have come from interceptions in the middle of the park, leading to a goal-scoring opportunity, showing how it’s been a huge element of their successes this season.
6 Unexpected Players Playing Well
When you read that heading, we're sure the first thing that came into your head was Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez – but we’ll get to them later.
We were thinking players like Christian Fuchs, N'Golo Kanté, and Marc Albrighton just to name a few who have not necessarily scored all of the goals or grabbed all of the headlines, but have done a sterling job in their roles. We know there’s more to a football than goals and aside from the social media favorites, the commitment and talent of a variety of individual stars has been another key element to the success of Leicester this season.
5 The Fans
English fans are great. Passionate, emotionally attached and addicted is a few phrases which come to mind when we think of the attachment between fans and their beloved teams. This is even more apparent for smaller clubs as they don’t have ‘plastic fans’ (fans who support who’s doing well) like teams such as Manchester United do.
In English football especially, fans will let their feelings out if they are not happy with their team (we’ve seen that with Aston Villa and Manchester United this season) and will thank their players if they are happy. With the huge backing of the fans, footballers gain energy that they didn’t even know they had.
4 Unpredictability of the Premier League
It is a common debate whether the English Premier League is the best league in the world. One of the biggest arguments BPL fans use is the unpredictability – you never know who’s going to win it. 90% of the time in the rest of Europe you can predict who’s going to win the league (Bayern Munich in Germany, PSG in France etc.), but not in England. OHHH NOOOO (wrestling fans might get the New Day reference...)
We saw in 2012 that the title can go right down to the final minutes of the season, making the Premier League so great. This kind of ‘anything can happen’ mentality can drive clubs like Leicester City to thrive like they have this season.
3 Riyad Mahrez
We think he deserves his own section…
The 24 year old Algerian has set the Premier League on notice this season along with his buddy Jamie Vardy. With 14 goals in all competitions (as of 13/1/16) including a stunning solo effort against Chelsea and a hat trick vs Swansea on the 5th of December making him the first Algerian to score a Premier League hat trick, Mahrez is definitely one to watch in the Premier League.
However, it's not only his goals but his overall unselfishness, confidence, and flair which have set him apart from many other Premier League players this season. Signing in January 2014 for a minuscule fee in today’s game of 350k from Le Havre in Ligue 2, he has come in to his own in his 2nd season in English football.
Undeniably, he's a huge part of Leicester City’s success.
2 Big Teams Under-performing
In August, if you told someone that Chelsea would be 14th in the middle of January, they’d probably bite your hand off (or worse…). Not only the terribly disappointing Chelsea but Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United have come under scrutiny for their poor performances and ‘boring’ style of football.
These teams who can’t seem to get results like they did in previous seasons have opened up a huge gap for the underdog teams such as Leicester to carve their way into the top four. With Chelsea undoubtedly missing out on the top four this season, Leicester City are sure to capitalize and be in the hunt for a champions league spot come May.
1 Jamie Vardy
This former non-league striker has become an internet sensation and a national phenomenon in the space of just a few years. Since his 868k deal from non-league Fleetwood Town to Championship side Leicester City, he’s climbed his way to the top and seemingly peaked in this 2015/16 Premier League season. After scoring a mediocre five goals in 336 appearances in the 2014/15 season he has come to life this season – scoring 15 goals in 17 appearances and breaking Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record of scoring in 10 consecutive Premier League games by scoring in 11 consecutive league games.
Without his goals and passion for the game who knows where Leicester City would be right now. Great player, great story, great season.