Can Leicester win the Premier League?
On December 14, 2015, Leicester defeated Chelsea 2-1 at King Power Stadium, thanks to fine goals from Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy.
The victory strengthened the Foxes’ grip at the top of the table and ultimately led spectators to take their title chances seriously. He also turned out to be the last nail in the coffin of Jose Mourinho, who was fired shortly after by his employers.
Just over five years later, history seems to be repeating itself. Leicester’s 2-0 win over Chelsea on Tuesday night was just as impressive, if not more, than their victory in 2015. The result could also lead to the sacking of another Blues manager, with Frank Lampard’s future appearing more and more evident. more uncertain.
The parallels are strange, but is it really the moment when Leicester’s current title load becomes more than a fantasy daydream? It really is.
The Foxes have now played 19 games and amassed 38 points, just one short of what they racked up midway through the impossible 2015/2016 campaign. Extrapolating their current points, they should finish on 76, a total that has been enough to secure a top-four finish in each of the previous six seasons.
This suggests that in the second half of the campaign, the foxes will need to find a few extra points to finish at the top of the pile. Fortunately, it seems achievable. In their first 19 games, Leicester have failed against some teams they are expected to beat. Both Fulham and Crystal Palace have taken points off Brendan Rodgers’ accusations and, in their current form, avoiding defeat in the second leg to West Ham, Aston Villa and Everton is not unrealistic either.
Liverpool are the only one of Leicester’s “big six” rivals to have beaten them so far, with the Foxes taking famous victories over Manchester City, Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea, as well as a draw with Manchester United. This ability to mingle her with the elite will be important as the campaign draws to a dramatic and undoubtedly conclusion.
While all of the above are promising, one thing that will temper the expectations of the Leicester faithful is the heart-wrenching and self-inflicted collapse they endure over the end of last season. By the middle of the race last season, they had accumulated 39 points. After that, only 23 more arrived, their post-lockdown form being particularly dire.
At first glance, this doesn’t bode well. However, early signs suggest the experience actually made the team more difficult mentally. Many expected Rodgers’ side to struggle with their additional Europa League commitments this season, but that has not been the case at all. According to several players, the team discussed at length its surrender over the summer, focusing on learning from it, rather than dwelling on failure.
A renewed mentality is not the only improvement Leicester have showcased. Tactically, Rodgers tweaked several things, introducing a 3-4-2-1 and a 4-2-3-1 to round out his 4-1-4-1, which became ominous and predictable last season. As a result, his team are now comfortable playing multiple systems depending on what is required for a specific game.
At the individual level, a remarkable proportion of his team have also developed personally, with flexibility being a buzzword.
This has been clearly demonstrated against Chelsea. Initially, Youri Tielemans was given the freedom to move forward, but after Leicester’s goals Rodgers let him down to form an impenetrable double pivot with Wilfred Ndidi.
Fox full-backs James Justin and Timothy Castagne followed a similar trajectory, offering a powerful attacking threat in the first half, before focusing on keeping Chelsea forwards lukewarm after the break.
In fact, across the board, there didn’t seem to be a single Blues player making their way into Rodgers’ squad in their current form. Although Chelsea spent over £ 200million this summer, plus a lot more on salaries, there was little doubt as to who was better at both collectively. and individually.
Justin looked much more at ease than former Fox Ben Chilwell and should be seen as a contender for Chilwell’s place in the England squad. Castagne, who for the most part would not even be Leicester’s best right-back, looked leaps and bounds past Reece James on the defensive end, and in midfield Tielemans and Ndidi were sensational.
Scorer James Maddison also played £ 72million against Kai Havertz out of the park, while Harvey Barnes and even unappreciated (and uncapped) workhorse Marc Albrighton were far more dangerous than the conveyor belt of offensive talent from Chelsea.
Even more promising was the amount of talent Leicester had on the bench. 2018/2019 Player of the Season Ricardo Pereira and Caglar Soyuncu, inducted into the 2019/2020 PFA Team of the Year, were the most notable names, but Ayoze Perez and Cengiz Under both showed their ability to contribute in the past. All of these players will have the opportunity to impress as the crowded Foxes season progresses, in what is one of the strongest teams Leicester has ever owned.
In short, despite struggling at home so far this season, Chelsea’s victory represented close to the perfect performance for Rodgers’ side. While they’re far from title favorites with clubs Manchester and Liverpool likely to make up the top three, these are a really special squad and as Foxes fans know, things strange happened in football.