IT IS heartwarming to see an unfamiliar name or two at the top of the Premier League even though it may only be a temporary stay in the upper echelon. Leicester City have surprised everyone this season, winning six of their 11 games and losing only once. It’s refreshing to see the ever-grinning and humble Claudio Rainieri at the top end of the table, and how ironic given the man who replaced him at Chelsea, Jose Mourinho, is having such a difficult time.Leicester City are unused to their current surroundings, make no mistake, but they have the potential to bring a genuinely decent midlands side to the Premier, something that is long overdue.
The sceptics will argue that Leicester are just a poor run away from dropping down the league table, but Ranieri’s side have shown they have incredible levels of endurance. In six of their 11 league games, Leicester have come from behind to get a result, and in six away games, they are unbeaten. Their only defeat was at home to Arsenal.
But Arsenal aside, have Leicester really been tested yet? The fixture list has been relatively kind to them. Of last season’s top four, Leicester have faced one club – the Gunners. Of the teams that finished fifth to 10th, they have come up against four. And then from 11th onwards, including newly-promoted clubs, six. Their most credible victory was at West Ham, given their good start to the campaign.
That said, Leicester are certainly faring better against these clubs than they did in 2014-15. They have secured 18 versus 11 points in games against the opposition they faced last season. It took them 30 games to reach the same points total they have in 2015-16!
Vardy’s elevation to the bigger clubs’ shopping lists is premature
Leicester’s form and results have elevated a number of players onto the shopping lists of bigger clubs. Jamie Vardy, for example, has already won four England caps on the back of his form for Leicester, just four years after playing non-league football. Vardy is 28, so in some respects a late developer, but his performances this season have been a revelation. Now we hear that Liverpool may be eyeing the Sheffield-born striker on the strength of his displays over the past few months – let’s not forget he scored five goals in 34 Premier games last season. Algerian international winger Riyad Mahrez is also catching envious glances from Manchester United with a view to a January move.
It’s still early days and we have seen players and teams have purple patches that cannot be sustained, so it could be that Vardy and Mahrez will stay at Leicester. It would be a great shame if the club was to lose these players just as it looks as though they have a team that could achieve something relevant. However, despite Ranieri’s insistence that Leicester will not be selling their “prize assets”, the bean-counters at the club may decide to cash in while they are still in the ascendancy.
One thing’s for certain, Leicester are popular party-poopers. Football gets tired of the status quo, so their presence at the top end of the table is welcome. Almost as much as seeing Ranieri – dignity personified – enjoying life in England again.
Leicester’s results 2015-16
1. Sunderland W 4-2
3. Tottenham D1-1
5. Aston Villa W3-2
7. Arsenal L2-5
10. C.Palace W1-0
2. West Ham W2-1
4. Bournemouth D1-1
6. Stoke City D2-2
8. Norwich W2-1
9. Southampton D2-2
11. WBA W3-2
Goals: Vardy 11, Mahrez 7, Albrighton 1, de Laet 1, Dyer 1, Okazaki 1, Schlupp 1