IT IS certainly strange to see Leicester City at the top of the Premier League after 15 games, but as each week goes by, the Foxes show no signs of faltering. The last team outside the established new order to win the title was Blackburn Rovers in 1994-95, although you could argue that Chelsea’s first Abramovich-era win broke a long-running trend. Blackburn’s moment in the sun was fleeting, but built upon the money of the late Jack Walker.
The Midlands is long overdue a successful team. The last team from the region to come out on top was Aston Villa in 1981. There have been 15 post-war champions and the last “new” one was Walker’s Blackburn. So, it is also about time we had a new champion and a shift in the balance of power.
Wouldn’t it be good to see Leicester City emerge as Premier champions in 2016? There’s a long way to go, and everyone is waiting for Claudio Rainieri’s side to “blow up”. December was supposed to be the month where it might all go wrong, and looking at the fixtures, it is clearly going to shape the rest of Leicester’s season.
December 14: Leicester v Chelsea
December 19: Everton v Leicester
December 26: Liverpool v Leicester
December 29: Leicester v Man.City
But should Leicester really fear what’s ahead of them? Their next game, at home to Chelsea, could be very symbolic. Rainieri was, after all, the man Roman Abramovich sacked to make way for Jose Mourinho – after leading Chelsea to second place in the Premier in 2003-04. How the Stamford Bridge politburo would settle for that in this troubled campaign. Chelsea are languishing in 14th place and there hasn’t been a credible explanation for why they have slumped so alarmingly this season.
Each week, another player is put in front of the press by Chelsea’s PR machine to stress the support for Mourinho and also express some degree of mea culpa. It’s so orchestrated it is painful. Chelsea are lost for ideas and their ambitions are being eroded by the week – now Mourinho has admitted that a top four place is looking doubtful.
Leicester, meanwhile, should be ultra-confident, but the only question mark against getting a result against Chelsea will be expectation. They will actually be expected to win, and that may be a problem for a club unused to being in the limelight.
Similarly, when Leicester face Manchester City on December 29 at home, the fans, and the media, will be looking for a result. City have been clumsy at times this season, as four defeats in 15 games suggests. City were beaten by Stoke City, but they have also lost to Liverpool, West Ham and Tottenham.
Where Leicester may find the bubble could burst is on Merseyside. They travel to meet Everton and Liverpool in the space of eight days and you sense that it will be a big ask to come through that unscathed. If Leicester gain seven out of the next 12, their title bid will be intact, and that will take them into 2016 with confidence high and their credentials impressive.
But, and it is a big but, they will need to keep their squad intact. Jamie Vardy is already in the sights of bigger clubs and Riyad Mahrez is also becoming a target – especially after hitting a hat-trick at Swansea. Ranieri, typically, is playing it all down, claiming that “survival” in the Premier is the objective. After the next four games, he’s halfway through the campaign – that should provide the evidence people need as to Leicester’s staying power.
Can they do it? It will be astonishing if they do, but equally, a Champions League spot will be a huge achievement. The Premier League has longed for a tale of the unexpected, so we could all do with a Leicester City title triumph. Remember, nobody tipped Forest to win the League in 1978…