Charting The Mercurial Rise Of Leicester City

Leicester City (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Leicester City (Credit: Wikimedia Commons) /

Leicester City are second in the league. This time last week they were first. Not even the most optimistic of Foxes fans could have predicted this would happen. It says so much about how far the club has come that fans left the 1-1 draw with Manchester United disappointed they didn’t win.

“This itself is indicative of the change in attitude we have all had this season” says ReadLeicester’s Adam Roberts, “one thing that is evident is the spirit of the lads, the fans get the impression that they are a real tight knit group and you can see it on the pitch.”

It was a weird summer in the midlands. Fans were horrified to learn that Nigel Pearson had been sacked at the end of June, and were cautiously optimistic when Claudio Ranieri was appointed not long afterwards.

“Many wanted (Pearson) gone and many wanted him to stay. The man deserves great credit for turning our club around, bringing us from league one to the Premier League” comments Roberts, a devoted fan of Pearson who was upset when the unique Englishman was given the sack.

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The Italian Ranieri took charge amidst doubts about the club’s ability to survive the drop this campaign after a miracle-esque late season revival that saw the Foxes beat the drop and finish 14th despite being dead last at Christmas.

This is what puts the club’s success this season in serious perspective. Less than 12 months ago, this club was last in the English Premier League. Now they aspire to finish top half minimum, with the City fanbase dreaming of European football at the King Power Stadium next season.

#FoxesNeverQuit is now a trending hashtag on Twitter thanks to the Foxes never say die attitude, which began last season under Nigel Pearson. This campaign 10 of the 29 points they’ve won in the league have been from a losing position, a phenomenal achievement in itself.

At this point though you also have to wonder how sustainable the club’s run is. The Premier League is a brutal 38 game onslaught, and their run in December will be a true test of their top half and European credentials when they host Chelsea and Manchester City, whilst trips to Swansea, Everton and Liverpool await.

However we are now heading into December and are 14 games into the season, so credit must be given where it is due. Jamie Vardy symbolises the team’s incredible rise, and no words can be spoken about his achievements that have not been said already.

Vardy’s playing style suits the fast paced attacking play his manager employs and he has reaped the rewards thus far, and may do so further with a new contract or big money move in January or the summer.

Riyad Mahrez’s brilliant season has flown under the radar since Vardy’s sensational scoring run began, but only Vardy (15) and Romelu Lukaku (14) have been involved in more goals than the Algerian this season (13). His mesmerising dribbling and chance creation are a key feature of the team’s attacking set up.

N’Golo Kante has also been crucial thus far since his £5.6m move from Caen in the summer, and has proven to be a shrewd acquisition since his arrival. His ability to break up play via tackles (3.9 per game) and interceptions (4.3) has been key to protecting an often fragile defence.

He is partnered by the increasingly impressive Danny Drinkwater, whose passing range (3 assists so far) and continuous strides forward as a player could see an England call up in his future. Marc Albrighton, a free transfer from Aston Villa has bagged a goal and 4 assists. Everything is clicking in the midlands at the moment.

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So where is a reasonable expectation for the club to finish the season? Title dreams are perhaps a stretch across 38 campaigns but in such an open Premier League campaign and so many big clubs faltering, is European football out of the question?

“Ranieri remains adamant that the 40 points is the current objective. Once we hit that, then he will reassess. I don’t think there is any reason we should fall far from the Europa League. However, a top half finish would still be a great result considering last seasons antics” proclaims Roberts.

They’ve earned the right to be optimistic. What started off as a fast start has become more than form. If injuries don’t derail them and the Vardy/Mahrez combination can stay consistent and productive, they should certainly aim for the top half of the table.

The rise of the Foxes has been equal parts fast and fascinating, whilst the higlights have been too many to name already. 6 different comebacks stand out as much as Vardy and Mahrez’s red hot form. In a month’s time we will know how high they can climb.

Quotations obtained firsthand. 

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