Can Le­ices­ter win the Premier League?

CityPress - - Sport -

More than half­way through the Premier League sea­son, Le­ices­ter City re­main top of the stand­ings.

Their ti­tle bid, con­sid­ered an im­pos­si­bil­ity in its early-sea­son in­fancy, has en­dured and shows no signs of fizzling out.

The ar­gu­ments against Le­ices­ter be­gin with their small-club sta­tus. His­tor­i­cally speak­ing, the best the Foxes have fared in the top flight was a se­cond-place fin­ish back in 1928/29, while they reached the FA Cup fi­nal four times be­tween 1949 and 1969, but have never won it.

This is only their se­cond sea­son in the Premier League in re­cent his­tory, with the 10 cam­paigns be­fore that spent mostly in the Cham­pi­onship, Eng­land’s se­cond tier, along with one sea­son in League One. Af­ter earn­ing pro­mo­tion as win­ners of the Cham­pi­onship in 2013/14, Le­ices­ter spent most of last sea­son fight­ing rel­e­ga­tion.

De­spite now hav­ing the guile of vet­eran Ital­ian man­ager Clau­dio Ranieri at the helm, Le­ices­ter would have started this sea­son with the am­bi­tion of avoid­ing the drop in a more com­fort­able fash­ion, but they won their first two matches and never looked back.

The poster boy for Le­ices­ter’s suc­cess, and pre­sum­ably a vi­tal com­po­nent for the rest of their sea­son, has been striker Jamie Vardy, who still tops the scor­ing charts with 16 goals. Romelu Lukaku, Odion Ighalo, and Manch­ester United man­ager Louis van Gaal re­mains un­der pres­sure at Old Traf­ford, with last week­end’s 1- 0 loss to Southamp­ton do­ing lit­tle to set­tle the nerves. Re­ports claim the Dutch­man of­fered to re­sign fol­low­ing that de­feat to the Saints, al­though that story was swiftly de­bunked as United re­main ret­i­cent with re­gard to their man­ager. In the wake of his ru­moured of­fer of res­ig­na­tion, and its re­jec­tion by ex­ec­u­tive vice- Harry Kane fol­low close be­hind, with Le­ices­ter team-mate Riyad Mahrez com­plet­ing the top five.

With 29 goals be­tween them, Vardy and Mahrez have scored al­most 70% of Le­ices­ter’s goals this sea­son, so one might as­sume their ti­tle am­bi­tions are chair­per­son Ed Wood­ward, it has been re­ported that the only thing keep­ing the for­mer Barcelona and Bay­ern Mu­nich boss in the job is the lack of an ideal suc­ces­sor at this stage of the sea­son.

And yet, with re­sults still not pos­i­tive enough to please the club’s rest­less fans, who have spent all sea­son lament­ing the club’s “bor­ing” style of play, they have also not been neg­a­tive enough to force Van Gaal out. He re­mains tee­ter­ing near the exit. tied to their goal-scor­ing form.

That be­ing said, a point was sal­vaged from their re­cent 1-1 draw with As­ton Villa thanks to Shinji Okazaki, while de­fender Robert Huth scored the cru­cial header for the 1-0 win over Spurs a few days ear­lier.

Most of Le­ices­ter’s play­ers will have given their trans­fer value a mas­sive boost this sea­son, but started the cam­paign as one of the cheap­est squads, and that was ex­pected to re­flect in their league po­si­tion. With a squad cost­ing just £52.8 mil­lion (R1.2 bil­lion), Le­ices­ter were ahead in trans­fer value to only the freshly pro­moted Nor­wich City, Wat­ford and Bournemouth, yet re­main three points ahead of Manch­ester City, whose squad cost about £411 mil­lion.

Re­cent sea­sons had Le­ices­ter la­belled a Cham­pi­onship-qual­ity side fight­ing to keep it­self in the top flight with a cheaply-as­sem­bled squad rel­a­tive to most of their ri­vals. Yet here we are, at the end of Jan­uary, won­der­ing if they can take the Premier League tro­phy back to the King Power Sta­dium.

There’s no need to ques­tion whether they can win games, pick up points and go toe-to-toe with the Premier League’s finest, be­cause they’ve been do­ing that all sea­son.

– TEAMtalk Me­dia

PHOTO: PA IM­AGES

POSTER BOY

Jamie Vardy

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