If someone told you last August that Leicester City, the club that narrowly avoided relegation in 2014/15, was to win the Premier League this season – you would have laughed at them in the face (and probably avoided them in the street next time you saw them). Their start of season odds to win the league were after all, 5000 to 1. But that is the beauty of football, you’re only as good as your next 90 mins – reputations mean nothing. Leicester City, incredibly, are the Premier League champions. So how did this happen? What were some of the factors and stats at play with this miraculous and momentous triumph?
What Made Leicester City Premier League Champions?
1) Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy
The attacking duo of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy were ruthless in-front of goal all season, as a pair scoring 41 league goals for the season. To put that in perspective, six EPL teams failed to score more goals as a whole team, than both Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy. What is even more incredible is that the pair only managed 9 league goals between them in Season 2014/15. The pair were t he two highest points scorers in the Fantasy Premier League this year, and with both priced below £7.5m, I can’t recall a cheaper top scorer in recent Fantasy Premier League. Keeping these two goal machines is essential for Leicester to continue to press for European honors next season. Leicester’s attack was the third best in the league, scoring 68 league goals at an average of 1.79 goals per game.
2) A Growing Defensive Force
While Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy and co. were banging the goals in at one end, at the other end Leicester defense was evolving into a force as the season progressed. With Daniel Drinkwater and N’Golo Kanté tirelessly providing cover from midfield, Leicester managed to keep 11 clean sheets from the second half of the season (19 matches). This was a massive improvement on the 4 kept in the first half of the season. This maturing showed that they could play both open attacking football, as well as conservative with a deadly counter attack. In 2014/15 Leicester managed 10 clean sheets for the season, but in their season as champions they had the fourth best defense in the league finishing with 15 clean sheets.
3) Big Guns Found Missing
While Leicester City throughly deserve their EPL champions crown, the declining power of the traditional ‘big clubs’ as they transition, was surely a factor here. Chelsea massively underperformed with their player in-fighting leading to the sacking of Jose Mourinho. Louis van Gaal was still trying to bring life back into Manchester United. Liverpool parted ways with their manager too, and Manchester City failed to play the type of attacking football we’ve come to expect from them. This was a big missed opportunity for Arsenal, who will feel this was their year to deliver, given the quality of their squad. With Tottenham & Leicester both in the Champions League next season, the dynamic of the Premier League is changing – gone is the strangle-hold on the top places.
4) Claudio Ranieri (Tinkerman to Thinkerman)
It’s not completely known how much of Leicester’s success this season was down to their manager Claudio Ranieri. Many critics raised an eyebrow when he was appointed manager last year, but Claudio Ranieri is a high performing manager with a cv of massive European clubs. Don’t forget his last time managing in Premier League was a second place finish with Chelsea. His rotation policy during his time at Chelsea earned him the nickname “Tinkerman”, at Leicester this season he settled on his preferred lineup early and only mage changes when necessary. Ranieri worked hard with the press to keep expectations off his players, keeping things lite to reduce the pressure. This calming influence was crucial as the season progressed and Leicester’s bubble failed to break.
5) Lady Luck
Was luck on Leicester’s side this season? Sure, definitely. But isn’t it with any team that wins the EPL? Certainly Chelsea has their fair share as Champions in season 2014/15. Leicester won 7 league matched by a scoreline of 1-0, and a further 7 more league wins by a margin of 1 goal. That’s 14 matches that could have ended in draw’s has things played out slightly different, 42 points could well be just 14 points or fewer next season. Importantly Leicester finished 10 points clear at the top of the table, which means they are well clear of some one-off fluke result.
Well played Leicester City, champions of the Premier League for 2015/16.