Liverpool aren’t the only losers if Premier League is null and void- spare a thought for Leicester

One would have thought that we had stepped into another dimension trying to confirm that in 2016 Leicester had actually won the Premier League, but win it they did. That isn’t to take anything away from Claudio Ranieri’s team, it was fully deserved but still even in March of that season Leicester had their doubters that they would actually push on and win it.

It was a magnificent victory from a team that had started at odds of 5000/1 to win the league title at the beginning of the season. Indeed because of them and the fact that some bookmakers were stung by that price, teams of equal standing are now quoted to win the league at around 1000/1 when a new one kicks off.

Leicester had reached their Everest and it was at this point that we could fully accept their achievements. The next part of the script was to see the fall of the team. After all surely they couldn’t hang on to the players that won them the league, maybe the manager would leave too, and what Leicester fan would mind, they achieved the unthinkable just be glad you witnessed it.

What followed over the years didn’t quite run out like that. Sure the club lost quality in the likes of N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez both going to former champions Chelsea and Manchester City respectively, indeed Mahrez would win another league with City. In the end Ranieri didn’t leave, instead with unrealistic expectations to do well in the following season he was sacked. Although it was clear that the Italian had maybe lost focus, he was being asked to try and win another lottery after just doing so, perhaps the full motivation wasn’t there.

Anyhow Leicester were supposed to just become a staple Premier League team, maybe finishing in the top 10 from time to time. But this season has been a revelation for them and it all started at the back end of last season when Brendan Rodgers left Celtic to join up with them. Leicester finished the season strong, maybe that meant they could start this season in similar fashion?

The team went for it and challenged both Liverpool and Manchester City, easily the two best teams in the league. For a time being 3rd wasn’t good enough and they passed champions City despite Liverpool being so far out in front in the lead. The season has caught up with them, and they have lost some games but with 10 games to go they are in 3rd place.

8 points separates them from 5th and they are well on course to qualify for the Champions League, though Chelsea in 4th and Manchester United in 5th have been eating into their lead. Still one couldn’t see the Foxes giving up a Champions League place at this stage. Now playing in the Champions League when they won the league was as ever expected and they did well in their debut time there reaching the knock out stages before narrowly exiting to Atletico Madrid by the odd goal.

But there seems something more fulfilling to return to the Champions League through sheer Premier League consistency. It would also say a lot about Rodgers- maybe some thought the ex Liverpool manager was spent after deciding to manage Celtic in the Scottish Premier League. But Rodgers has made a huge statement with Leicester. It is sure that his future lies away from the King Power Stadium and his achievements should land him a big job.

However despite all of the hard work, Leicester could miss out on playing in the Champions League if the league is declared null and void. That would mean that this league didn’t in fact happen. So no Champions League qualifiers needed because we would just use the four teams that qualified from last season, a reset button if you like.

Now we can have sympathy if this happens to Liverpool who have in theory won the league and could miss out. The big difference though is that we know Liverpool will bounce back, that remains uncertain that Leicester will, and playing in the Champions League for next season could have been their last in some time, who knows?

But it is important to remember that if the league is null and void it isn’t just Liverpool missing out, Leicester’s hearts would surely be broken too.

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Leicester and Chelsea the Premier League pretenders play out match that summarises their seasons

It was interesting to see Leicester and Chelsea come together at the weekend. Mostly because the teams have been so similar in the Premier League, the teams that could have, but aren’t quite there yet, that was the feeling of a game that felt like 3rd place at the World Cup, but was never going to be played like a friendly.

Both clubs are looking to qualify for the Champions League without challenge- well that is the idea anyway, which is working out much better for Leicester. The Foxes have an 8 point gap to 4th place Chelsea and Leicester will not mind that Manchester City have passed them in the league and could go 5 points clear of them if they beat Tottenham on Sunday, City the current champions are not the threat to Leicester.

This game which finished in an entertaining 2-2 draw pretty much confirmed that Leicester will be playing Champions League football next season and that is quite a magnificent achievement for the team. True they won the league in 2016, but they were supposed to drop off after that and never be heard of again. But under Brendan Rodgers the team have felt alive again and have become a very difficult side to beat, especially at home. A surprise loss to Southampton and a 4-0 defeat against Liverpool are the clubs only blemishes at King Power Stadium.

A superb first half of the season means that Leicester have a 13 point safety net not to finish in a Champions League place. If Tottenham beat Manchester City on Sunday evening that would still be a 12 point safety net. Leicester look good for it and with just 13 games remaining they should be fine.

As for Chelsea they have 41 points and have evidently slowed down, almost to a halt in recent weeks. Just one victory has been achieved by Frank Lampard’s side in the last five games where they have earned 6 points from 15. The only saving grace is that the clubs that were supposed to have caught them up have found plenty of banana skins along the way. Both Manchester United and Tottenham are finding it hard to patch wins together, though as said above if Tottenham beat Manchester City they would go four points behind Chelsea and surely at that point the Blues would start to feel the pressure. As it stands Sheffield United are in 5th and are five points behind, but not many people will believe that the Blades can push on from there.

The game played between Leicester and Chelsea was a good one. Chelsea took the lead, Leicester came back and took the lead before a Chelsea equaliser through Antonio Rudiger who had scored the clubs first goal settled the game. It was an encounter that on reflection of both sides taking a point felt like much ado about nothing. But these two teams are littered with quality and could well make inner and deeper roads next season if they can keep their best assets and add to them. For now they are the sports teams who will have to settle for nothing this season, apart from Champions League qualification, which at this time only looks guaranteed for one of them.

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Can Leicester City finish above Manchester City this season?

Just last month, all the focus seemed to be on whether Leicester and Manchester City could hang onto the coattails of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool in the title race.

Fast forward to the present day and it seems much has changed. Thanks to a Boxing Day defeat at home to Liverpool – and the manner of how The Reds dominated in that 4-0 thrashing – The Foxes’ focus now must be on keeping their place in the Premier League’s top four.

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Leicester have come up short against the better teams but it has still been a brilliant season so far for them

Leicester have had a superb season but recent results have certainly brought the club back down to earth, but this shouldn’t mask just how strong the side has been so far this season.

The recent 4-0 whitewash against Liverpool confirmed what most people already knew, Leicester are not about to win their second title in four years. As good as the club have been this season they have clear limitations. They have lost to Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool as an example. But the beauty of the club is that they are plugging away and getting the right results against everyone else.

Currently the club are in 2nd place, ahead of champions Manchester City and that should tell you everything about them. They are not just satisfied with the league either and have made in roads on the domestic cup namely the Carabao Cup where they have reached the semi-finals. The Foxes will play Aston Villa in a 2 leg semi final and it isn’t unrealistic to think that they could reach the final where they would meet either Manchester City or Manchester United. So whilst the season hasn’t been picture perfect for the club most teams would give their right arms to be at the level that Leicester are at.

It has been quite an achievement and Brendan Rodgers coming into the club last spring has worked wonders. If anything he has reinstated the belief that Leicester’s 2016 Premier League title was not a one off. Sure in terms of actually winning it again one could see it like that. But he has insured that the club are remembered not for just one amazing season. The clear objective now is to return to the Champions League which would be a magnificent achievement and the club have a 10 point safety net in doing so. That looks good but we must remember that we are only at the half way stage of the season campaign and there will be so many twists and turns to come.

Recent form is not good for Leicester too- True losing to Manchester City and Liverpool is no shame but they have also drawn 1-1 at home to Norwich in between those games. The Foxes will play West Ham at the weekend and lose that and this could be the start of the slippery slide that many have suggested could happen. After that game Leicester will play Newcastle another away game before venturing into the FA Cup.

There is all to play for then and it would be unfortunate if Leicester blew a top 4 place now.

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Jamie Vardy has ensured his legend status at Leicester City after Arsenal are beaten

At the time of writing Leicester are sitting in 2nd place in the Premier League and there are now genuine memories, hopes and wishes of what the club did in season 2015/16 and that is winning the Premier League. The clubs win over Arsenal by 2-0 just reinforced that fact that the Foxes are back.

Leading that title chase is Jamie Vardy. The striker breathes and bleeds Leicester and has been a constant within the teams most successful era of their history, simply put he installs belief, the will to win and most importantly he just keeps on scoring goals.

Vardy opened the game up against Arsenal with just 15 minutes left to play in a match that was terrifically entertaining and end to end stuff but ultimately one that looked like Brendan Rodgers side would end up dropping 2 points at home. It was headed for 0-0 until Vardy’s great goal which crushed Arsenal and then Leicester went onto score a 2nd moments later through the impressive James Maddison.

Vardy’s rise to top goalscorer in the Premier League has been stunning given that he was playing non-league football at the beginning of this decade with Halifax Town. But he is Leicester through and through. He has 11 goals already this season from 12 games and is on course to beat his best Premier League total of 24 goals when the Foxes won the league.

At the weekend he scored his 111th goal for the club in the league and there looks like no signs of the player slowing down. What is remarkable is that his career in the top flight did not kick off until he was 28 and it would felt to him that his football career had simply passed him by. He is an exception to the rule that you can still make it at the very top. One can count on your hand the amount of players that have risen from the ashes to perform well when they have gotten older, Ian Wright would be one of those players too.

Perhaps the British media have given the striker scant praise over the years, and it’s true that he isn’t the most prolific striker in England or Europe for that matter. But he does score goals, and does get himself in the right places in the area- he’s simply always there and always a threat.

Vardy is 32 but at this rate he has another 2-3 seasons with Leicester to keep on proving how important he has been at the club. Surely whatever happens now he has his foothold in the history of the club and also a staute will be awaiting him at King Power Stadium. How long can Leicester keep pushing Liverpool and Manchester City is anyone’s guess.

They remain the league’s outsiders and you get the feeling that Vardy and Leicester will love it that way.

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Can Leicester win another Premier League title?

No one associated with football will ever forget the Premier League season of 2015/16 when Leicester City at odds of 5000/1 won the Premier League. It was the biggest shock to grace the league since becoming the Premier League in the 1992/93 season. That season the usual suspects were supposed to be winning it, namely Chelsea who were the current champions and the ever present Manchester City. Tottenham also had their say, but it was Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester side who deservedly won it and in stunning fashion.

When the Foxes won the league, one suspected that was it, some players would leave, some would stay, some would write biographies and so on. But Leicester’s moment in the gleaming success of the football elite would be over. They had had their time, what a time it was of course, and see you later, perhaps in another 100 years time. But 3 years on from that success the team are shaping up to have another successful league campaign.

This time it is under former Liverpool and Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers, who himself came very close to winning the league with Liverpool in the 2013/14 season. The Reds had an infamous 5 point lead with just three games left to play that season. Rodgers has been around and proved to be a very capable manager and since taking over at Leicester in March has turned the clubs fortunes around, more importantly he has made the players believe once again that the club were champions very recently and should be proud of that fact.

Rodgers record since taking over reads like this; He has a 54.5% win rate and from 22 games managed he has earned the club 41 points. On average then that means that in 38 games he would have pulled in around 70 points. That is probably Champions League football.

But here’s the thing, can Leicester win the league again and really put everyone on their backsides? The answer is most probably no, because they have the mighty two teams to challenge who are also in front of them in the shape of Liverpool and Manchester City. Liverpool are 8 points in front and City the current champions are 2 points in front of them. But then again all it takes is for Liverpool to have a bad run and Leicester simply to keep consistency. It would still be very difficult, but the Foxes do have a great chance to return to the Champions League, if they finish in the top four surely that is rubber stamping what has been a fantastic era for the club.

Their recent 9-0 thrashing of Southampton will be rightly remembered for some time and it will be fascinating to see how far the club can go and how many points they can accumulate at least from now up until the Christmas period. If anything it is brilliant to see the club right up there, determined not to simply fade away on the horizon after their fantastic league win. Rodgers is proving to be a very special manager indeed.

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Brendan Rodgers is creating small miracles at Leicester City

A glance at the Premier League table shouldn’t hold too many surprises, Liverpool top with a 100% record, Manchester City close behind, whilst Norwich and Watford are struggling. But look closer and you’ll see a team that you wouldn’t expect to be so high up, and that is Leicester City.

True Leicester stunned everybody when they won the league title in 2016, but since then they have reverted back to, well, just being Leicester, a decent team who try to finish in mid table with relegation never quite far away.

However that thought process seems to have changed since the arrival of ex Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers was at Celtic where he had been incredibly successful in Scotland, although with the transistion of Rangers it could be argued that Celtic did not really have any proper competition- still you can only beat what is put out in front of you and Rodgers did do a superb job with the legendary Glasgow team.

What was surprising about Rodgers joining up with Leicester was the timing, he came in February last season and Celtic’s loss has been Leicester’s gain. The Foxes look rejuvenated and started to bring about solid results and ended up finishing the season on a high.

That high has continued and the team are in great confidence going into this season. They currently sit in 3rd place and have not lost a game, only Liverpool and Manchester City are the other unbeaten teams so far.

The statistics are very interesting since Rodgers took over also. He has a 47.5% win rate with the Foxes which doesn’t look that great, but it is a win rate only and so when the club draw that isn’t included. The wider picture is that from 15 games since Rodgers has been in charge the club have only lost 3 times. They have gained 26 points in that time and if we took that as an average throughout the season then Leicester would finish on 65 points, their highest in Premier League history not counting their league win.

There is a good attitude around the club and they won’t be easy to beat this season and won’t be pushovers for the bigger teams. Look at how they came away from Stamford Bridge against Chelsea and got a 1-1 draw. That was impressive given that the team were 1-0 down and it was Chelsea manager Frank Lampard’s first game at home in charge of his beloved team.

That type of spirit shows that this team have a lot of quality this season, and whilst thinking that they can go on to win another title feels too wishful, Rodgers is creating small miracles with the club, and they are aiming to finish high in the league this season with a deep cup run to boot. Back against them at your peril.

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Big season ahead for Leicester’s James Maddison

Leicester City’s James Maddison has a very, very bright future ahead of him.

Now 22, Maddison has a season of Premier League experience under his belt at the King Power Stadium and will be looking to build on that with Brendan Rodgers’ guidance in the next couple of years.

Maddison joined Leicester City last July from Norwich City for around €25 million. The creative midfielder had impressed at Carrow Road in the Championship and Leicester’s then-manager Claude Puel felt Maddison was ready for the step up to English football’s top tier. Continue reading

Why is Leicester City’s Harry Maguire worth £80m?

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Leicester City’s Harry Maguire is being chased by both Manchester clubs with City, the current champions looking the favourites from the two to get his signature. But the asking price seems incredibly inflated. The Foxes want £80m for their defender- the genuine question is, how did they get to this figure?

Maguire has won no major trophies in his career and he is 26- he has never played for a top 4 side, not even top 6. Though he did join Leicester the season after they were declared champions. Has the price been inflated then because he is a current England international player with 20 caps- it does seem so.

The reality of the situation is that in the current price market Maguire is worth no more than £35m, and teams valuations of players has gone through the roof. Sadly for Premier League clubs selling on English players it has always been like this, when a few extra million seems to attach onto any fee.

City and United have the money but City have taken over United now and they will most likely get his signature. No one is denying that Maguire could become a better all round player at City and put in good displays, but City will not be making any money on the player in the future- indeed his value if sold for £80m will start to decrease the moment he puts pen to paper.

The reality of it is is that Leicester have no right to ask so much for the player, the price compared to what Maguire has achieved has no justification, plain and simple.

England’s manager Gareth Southgate hasn’t helped the situation, he once ill advised that Maguire was one of the best defenders in the world. Again totally unjustified. Maguire is a good defender and would never have made it in England’s set up otherwise and starred of course in a World Cup which saw England reach the semi-final stages. But one of the best makes little sense for a player who has played in his career for the likes of Hull and Leicester and we need to be realistic of that fact.

For now United have lodged a £70m bid which is ridiculous in and of itself, and Leicester had the bravado to turn that down and then ask for £10m extra. The fear for United is that their rivals will seriously start sniffing around and come in for the player. But no team is getting a good deal or bargain here.

 

 

Leicester and Rodgers to push for Premier League top six next season?

Leicester City

As a club, Leicester City has had more anguish to deal with this season than most.

Back in late October, the club’s 60-year-old Thai owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, along with four others, including the pilot, died when his helicopter crashed to the ground shortly after takeoff from the King Power Stadium.

Srivaddhanaprabha had just watched his team draw 1-1 at home to West Ham United before then attempting to make his usual helicopter trip back to his home in London.

A grey cloud covered the club over the following weeks with the playing staff all attending their previous owner’s funeral in Bangkok. Continue reading