Leicester City’s incredible journey this season has put them on the brink of Premier League history. The Foxes need just three more wins from their remaining five games to be sure of the title. Before the start of the season, Leicester were 5,000-1 to become champions according to England-based bookmaker William Hill. In what has surely been the most astonishing season since the league’s inception in 1992, Claudio Ranieri and his men can now clearly see the finishing line. Leicester City’s story has been a quite remarkable one.
Leicester’s rise to the top of the league is incredible considering where they were this time last year. The Foxes were rock-bottom of the table between late-November and mid-April, which included a 13-game winless streak. However, Nigel Pearson’s side remarkably managed to escape relegation by winning seven of their last nine matches. The signs were quite clearly there, but nobody thought Leicester would carry that form into this season. In fact, most bookmakers and pundits had them fighting off relegation again this year.
According to William Hill, the odds of the Foxes winning the Premier League at the start of the season were the same as the Loch Ness monster being proven to exist. In fact, you were better off placing a bet on David Moyes to become an X-Factor judge or David Cameron to replace Tim Sherwood as the new Aston Villa manager. However, now it is a very different story. If Leicester do manage to win the biggest prize in English football, it is expected to cost bookmakers an estimated £10 million in pay-outs.
Vardy and Mahrez
Leicester City’s dream season is largely down to the incredible efforts of their two most influential players, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez. The pair have scored 37 goals and made 17 assists between them this season and both have been shortlisted for the PFA Player of the Year Award along with another of Leicester’s key players, N’Golo Kante. Vardy, who joined the Foxes from non-league Fleetwood Town in 2012, has been a revelation this season with 21 goals and 6 assists. Mahrez arrived at Leicester in January 2014 from Le Havre of Ligue 2, the second tier of French football. With 16 goals and 11 assists during this campaign, the Algerian is now one of the most coveted wingers in world football, with Spanish giants Barcelona reportedly watching him closely.
When Claudio Ranieri was announced as the new Leicester City manager in July 2015, many people were astounded that the Foxes had chosen a man who had just been sacked as the Greece national team manager following an embarrassing defeat to the Faroe Islands. Current Match of the Day presenter and former Leicester favourite Gary Lineker tweeted:
“Claudio Ranieri is clearly an experienced coach, but this is an uninspired choice.”
Ranieri hadn’t managed or coached in the Premier League since 2004 when he was in charge of Chelsea, before eventually being pushed aside for Jose Mourinho. The Italian was nicknamed “The Tinkerman” by many journalists because of his desire for constantly changing line-ups. However, twelve years on, the 64-year-old has proved to be the perfect fit for Leicester City. His side play with tremendous confidence and he has continued to play down talk of becoming champions. He knows full well how close his team are to making history, but insists that they still cannot afford to get carried away. The Foxes have kept five consecutive clean sheets in the league and are on course to become only the sixth team to win the title since the competition began twenty-four years ago.
When could they win it?
Leicester are currently seven points clear of second place Tottenham with five games to go, and require just three more wins to be certain of the trophy. If they beat West Ham who they host this Sunday and then win their next match, at home against Swansea, the Foxes could win the title when they play Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday 1st May. The impossible is looking increasingly possible. Leicester City’s incredible journey is almost complete.