Leicester City - Defying the Odds
As is the case with many newly promoted teams, Leicester City automatically expected to be sent straight back into the second tier of English football after their promotion to the Premier League. This definitely applies for a number of sides who find that not only the intensity of the football is too much to live with, but the strain on finances, necessary recruitment, and increased scrutiny from the media leads to a number of teams failing to establish themselves in the top flight.
Something that is proving to be an advantage for Leicester is that they certainly have a reputation for survival and resilience based on their past. In October 2002, The Foxes entered administration and it was only the intervention of a Gary Lineker-led consortium in 2003 that saved the club from liquidation. In 2009, the Midlands outfit were playing in League One and just 5 years later, they were a Premier League side. It is safe to say that Leicester City have a bit of a tendency for defying the odds.
When The Foxes first entered the top flight after a lengthy stay in the lower divisions, they were not exactly pulling up any trees with their signings. They saw the additions of many Championship players as an astute tactic. Their most notable acquisition was Leonardo Ulloa from Brighton for £8 million – a club record fee at that time. This value was seen as quite a steep price tag for a player that had only achieved one noteworthy season in English football. As it turned out, the Argentine hitman would contribute a very useful 11 league goals in Leicester’s initial return season to the Premier League, including a memorable brace against Manchester United. The Foxes also expanded their transfers outside of English football, signing the talismanic Esteban Cambiasso and also Andrej Kramaric.
Leicester City limped through the majority of the season and Nigel Pearson found himself sacked for a couple of hours before his belated reinstatement. This clearly had an effect on the former Hull City boss as he attempted to strangle James McArthur in his technical area in one of the more bizarre moments of last season. However, despite all of the numerous issues on and off the pitch, Leicester survived, and with relative ease come the final match of the season. If you offered 17th to any newly promoted sides, they would surely bite your hand off, let alone the proposition of 14th position that Leicester eventually achieved.
Despite this miraculous turnaround and once again defying all the odds, Pearson was sacked during the first summer after The Foxes’ return to the Premier League. He was replaced by Claudio Ranieri who has become something of a ‘journey-man’ manager since his tenure at Chelsea, including time at Valencia, Juventus, Inter Milan, Roma, Monaco, and even the Greek national team. There was a great deal of worry when Ranieri was appointed considering that none of his roles after Chelsea had lasted over two years. This hardly seemed to suggest that he was the base upon which a stable foundation of Premier League establishment could be built.
It is widely thought that Leicester over-achieved last season, but despite this they still saw players move on. The most notable departure was perhaps Esteban Cambiasso who left after only one season in which he was an integral component to the goings on at The KP Stadium. However, The Foxes have once again invested heavily in experience and are wisely looking for players who can make an immediate impact. The signings of Gökhan Inler, Christian Fuchs, Robert Huth, Shinji Okazaki, N’Golo Kanté, and Yohan Benalouane indicate a willingness to spend and a belief that long term Premier League security is within reach. Although it is still very early days in the latest campaign, it is fair to say that Leicester City have started very well under Claudio Ranieri. If you combine the fantastic run under Pearson last season and their start to 2015/16, they have mustered a very impressive 29 points from a possible 36.
It is hard to say exactly how Leicester will get on this season, as last term they provided the perfect example of how your form for the majority of the campaign can have no representation on where a side will ultimately finish. It is easy to say however, that if Leicester City continue putting in the performances that they are at the moment, it will not be a question of merely survival, it will be a question of whether they can replicate the achievements of Southampton in quickly establishing themselves as a Premier League side to be feared. With this realistic potential outcome on the horizon, it is all the more surreal when you remember that they have been plying their trade in English football’s third tier not so long ago.
Featured image: All rights reserved by Alex Hannam
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