What can Leicester learn from this previous Premier League surprise package?
It’s all about Leicester City isn’t it? Forget Chelsea’s mid-table struggles or Manchester United’s boringness (that is a word honest), it’s all about the Foxes. They’ve breezed towards the top of the Premier League table on the back of exciting matches and goals aplenty. They are the media darlings, the neutral’s new favourite, the nation’s footballing focus as Jamie Vardy scores and scores and scores and scores and scores. The big question is though, can Leicester sustain this form? Can they really conceivably push for European football perhaps even, as Louis van Gaal recently suggested, the title?
That’s a tough one to call mainly because I can’t tell you what is going to happen in the future. What I can do though is draw a historical comparison to try and make an educated guess as to how the future will go down. The only real comparison you could perhaps draw from the Premier League era is Ipswich Town in 2000/01. Newly promoted via the play-offs, Ipswich were given little to no chance of survival but proceeded to upset the status quo and finish fifth, securung UEFA Cup football for the following season. That’s about as good as it got though as they were relegated the following year and haven’t been back since. So, how do the two sides compare?
Note: before anyone says, “oh what about Hull in 2008/09 or Leicester themselves in 2000/01?” I know they happened but neither ended up amounting to much while this Leicester side looks like it could really be in for a special season hence the Ipswich comparison.
Newly promoted under future Scotland boss George Burley, Ipswich were not a beautiful footballing side rather a functional unit well drilled and built on cohesion rather than individual talents. That’s not to say they had bad players by any means. Hermann Hreidarsson was picked up before the season while Matt Holland and Jim Magilton were tidy midfielders and Fabian Wilnis a solid defender. It was up front though where Ipswich had a little gem in Marcus Stewart. His 17 goals got his name in the England reckoning but unfortunately for him this was an era where being a striker that is English is not enough to get a cap.
Ipswich’s season didn’t start of blisteringly, in fact the headlines went to a side that shot to the top early on. That side? Oh, just Leicester. Anyway, as Leicester faltered with Ade Akinbiyi up front, Ipswich began to churn out wins and important wins at that. They beat Chelsea along the way, outclassed Spurs and won at Anfield, reaching the heady heights of second place for a spell. A faltering spell towards the end of the season allowed Arsenal, Liverpool and Leeds to leapfrog them but Ipswich held on for fifth place, a truly remarkable achievement. Burley was named Manager of the Year and subsequently led the team down the following season.
Not newly promoted but in their second season back after battling from the brink towards the end of last season, Leicester are a well-drilled unit much like Ipswich. However, unlike Ipswich, they are a bit more expansive and more prone to using their pace and skill up front to play on the counter to devastating effect. The vast majority of the squad is a solid group of decent players but there is some outstanding individual quality dotted in the side. Riyad Mahrez has trickery and end product on the wing, Gokhan Inler has played Champions League football while Jamie Vardy is Marcus Stewart and can’t stop scoring.
Like Ipswich, the start for Leicester was not incredible by any means but very quickly, they have kept getting good results and kept moving up the table before reaching the summit recently. Claudio Ranieri’s men have quickly became the entertainers of the Premier League and their recent draw with Mancehster United can be seen as a real moment of promise and progress.
Comparitively speaking, there are many similarities between Ipswich of 2000 and Leicester of 2015 in that they have a solid spine, a decent coach and a goalscoring Englishman up top. Both took/are taking the Premier League by storm and have provided a breath of fresh air at the top of the table. And neither was ever expected to be where they are/were but whether Leicester can sustain it or not remains to be seen.
So, I should probably answer my own question then – how far can Leicester go? Honestly, I’d say top six barring any colossal slip-ups. I can’t see this side, with its positive momentum and quality players in the right areas, slipping into mediocrity in a heartbeat and like Fulham and Southampton before them, Leicester could establish themselves as a consistent top ten/top eight team with a high finish this season. I will say that, like Ipswich before them, Leicester will end up in the Europa League next season from their league finish.
Do you agree with Eion’s prediction about Leicester? Where do you think they will finish this season? Let us know @tbrfootball on Twitter or in the comments section below.
Featured image: all rights reserved by Dom Fellowes.
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