Leicester City fans entered wonderland when the Foxes achieved the improbable in 2016, winning the English Premier League with one game to spare. Leicester’s fairytale journey of just circumventing relegation in 2015 to pulling off a shock title win with 5000 to 1 odds easily stands out as Haley’s comet moment.
Claudio Ranieri, then manager, engineered the impossible with Leicester City, doing more than enough to make the authorities think of building a statue of him at the King Power stadium.
Sadly, the following season was Leicester’s harsh return to reality with the club’s inadequacy to repeat even a fraction of what they did a season before resulting in Ranieri’s emotional farewell. There have been five temporary or permanent managerial changes since the Italian but none of the managers could imbibe a sense of consistency in terms of results.
Brendan Rodgers arrived at Leicester City in March following the sack of Claude Puel and was charged with stabilizing a sinking ship. Rodgers left a comfortable throne in Scotland which was yielding him golden eggs.
Celtic had achieved two back to back domestic trebles under Rodgers’ guidance and were on course for the third treble when the Premier League side came calling. The former Liverpool manager returned to England and spent most of the last season mending the damages that had occurred during Puel’s reign. Rodgers changed the formation to a more rigid 4-1-4-1. The new system bore sweet fruits and a sense of positivity was restored in the camp.
Rodgers was backed tremendously by the club’s financial department this summer after the manager gave a glimpse of what achieve with the resilient Leicester team. He not only mended cracks in a short span of time but infused the team with abundant energy and creativity. When the Premier League began no one would have placed their bets on Leicester competing for a European spot.
Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Chelsea struggled in their respective campaigns giving a sizeable advantage for Foxes to seize. Leicester had the momentum and favourable results and there was a buzz around the club that, is Leicester preparing for another miracle?
Their third place during the initial phase of the league was judged to be a fluke and a matter of luck. Then came the game against Tottenham Hotspur, the game that put the Irishman’s team on the map of Excellency. The Foxes came back from behind to win the game showcasing unbelievable determination and never say die spirit.
Their vibrant performance shifted the narrative from the Foxes being plucky upstarts trying to challenge to status quo, to Brendan Rodgers’ team being a de facto member of the Premier League’s new elite who were capable of beating the last season’s Champions League finalists.
No one now dares to think Leicester’s rise to be a stroke of luck. More domineering performances followed from the 2016 champions. When notching five goals against a bleak Newcastle United was supposed to be the limit for the Foxes, they did the unthinkable (again). The Foxes inflicted hell on poor Southampton as they scored 9 goals past the Saints defence last weekend.
Leicester ran riot in front of goal and wrecked Southampton to their misery. The nine goals included hat tricks from club icon Jamie Vardy and new signing Ayoze Perez. The team have made it a habit of breezing into the history record books as Leicester City recorded the biggest away win in the league’s history.
There’s a saying – “Fire refines Gold” and that is what Rodgers’ counsel has done to an already impressive team. Under the Irishman, Leicester players have reached new levels of productivity and have taken the Premier League by storm.
How many 32-year-old players are capable of scoring hassle-free goals and have the capability of bending the match to their own will? One has Five Ballon D’Or’s to his name and is called the Greatest of all time, while the other is Jamie Vardy. The English striker just like finely fermented Pinot Noir keeps on getting better with age and scores goals with charming ease. Since Rodgers joined Leicester, no player has scored more League goals than Vardy’s 19.
Leicester’s full-backs Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell come a close second behind Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson as the best full-back pairs in the league. The emergence of Caglar Soyuncu has made Harry Maguire a distant memory in the minds of Leicester fans. James Maddison continues to be as imaginative on the field as a six-year-old who fancies flying dragons in the real world.
The mayhem at Saint James Park was a sign of what is still to come. Rodgers insisted his purring side can improve and, on this evidence, that is a frightening assertion. The high flying Foxes are ready to break the myth of the top six and have a realistic chance of cementing a top four position.
On paper, Leicester don’t match up with Manchester City or Liverpool but belief and desire often compensate for a lack of talent. Late Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s dream was to build a team that can challenge on all fronts and with Rodgers’ tutelage and squad’s aplomb it is safe to say that Vichai’s dream lives on.
Where do you think Leicester will finish in the 2019-20 Premier League season?