Claudio Ranieri led the Foxes to the Premier League crown last season in one of the greatest sporting shocks of all time. It was the first league title in Leicester’s history, and also a first for Ranieri.
The title win is beginning to prove itself as the most unlikely achievement in sport and also highlights the luck Leicester had during their success. They are without doubt the world’s luckiest team and this season they are clearly showing that this statement is indeed a fact.
The Foxes were confirmed as champions after Tottenham failed to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in May, despite – famously – starting the campaign as 5000/1 underdogs by bookmakers. Ranieri himself believed Leicester should be considered as 6000/1 underdogs to retain it as everyone would be out to beat last season’s champions and prove a point.
But were they lucky? Yes they were. It’s hard to remember a team with the injury record Leicester had last season. Not one player who started over 25 games for the club was out longer than a month as they went in pursuit of an historic Premier League title.
Not one of Leicester’s key players players suffered an injury for any length of time which surely would have completely disrupted their counter-attacking tactics. Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, N’Golo Kante, Wes Morgan and Robert Huth sum up Leicester City last season as they relied on pace up front and a strong defence to soak up pressure before breaking to hurt teams in devastating fashion.
Most teams are now able to work their tactics out and set their own accordingly, therefore a new approach is required. Teams are aware of their style of play with the vast majority finding a solution to preventing Leicester from breaking. If plan A fails, Leicester have no tactic to unlock the door with another approach.
Class is permanent they say but where are these key players this season? Mahrez looks anything but the player that won the PFA Player of the Year award last May and Jamie Vardy is still evidently struggling with a hangover from last season followed by a turbulent summer for the England national team.
As good as Leicester were, they still finished the season with a lower points total of a Premier League champion than normal. Historically teams tend to finish with 83+ points as they claim title but Leicester finished below average as rival sides slipped up in the poorest Premier League campaign witnessed in recent times.
Despite this, Leicester were great at times but again it should be noted how bad their rivals played. Manchester City and Arsenal massively underachieved and finished a whopping ten points behind the eventual champions. Now this campaign, both City and Arsenal have recaptured their title chasing form and Leicester are nowhere to be seen.
The Foxes are currently ten points of the top of the league with just two victories thus far. Their fortunes have been vastly different from last season, in which they only lost three league games all season. This time around, they have already lost three games and that isn’t all down to the loss of Kante – it’s also partly because Leicester were lucky last season.
Their points total is the joint-second lowest by a defending champion at this stage of the season – equal with Chelsea last season and one point better off than Blackburn Rovers in 1995/96. They also became the first defending champions to lose their opening game of the following season, losing to newly-promoted Hull City.
Leicester have returned to their natural level. The demand of playing in the Premier League and the Champions League is new to Ranieri and the Foxes are certainly struggled to cope with the mixture of fixtures and traveling across Europe.
Don’t get me wrong, Leicester totally deserved their title win as does anyone who finishes top of the table but they certainly were lucky. They didn’t suffer injuries, whilst devastating injuries weakened their opponents. They had key players in the form of their lives. And that’s what made Leicester unlikely champions, the likes of which will never be seen again.
This season is simply showing the luck Leicester had last season – they shouldn’t be considered a great side.