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Leicester City Proving themselves as “outside” title contenders

british footballer on pitch
Brendan Rodgers should be very happy with his team

Leicester City have been tipped for a top-six finish but their 9 nil thrashing of Southampton away at St. Mary’s which was the biggest margin for an away victory in the top-flight in the entire 131-year history of the Football League. The Foxes under Brendan Rodgers this season have recorded 6 victories from their first 10 matches losing just twice to Manchester United and Liverpool despite a slow start to the season which saw them draw their opening two games against Wolves and Chelsea. Friday night’s result also momentarily moved them to second spot before City won on Saturday to reclaim it. Friday’s performance was that of a team that has been built for a title challenge and it is difficult to doubt despite the points margin between them and Liverpool. We take a look at some of the factors behind their success so far this season. 

Good Transfer Businesses

Leicester City really had a solid transfer window in which they signed talented players who fit the model of the club and the style of play Brendan Rodgers wanted to implement at the club. The Foxes sold star defender Harry Maguire to Manchester United for a world-record 80 million pounds fee for a defender with Leicester not signing his replacement in the transfer market. The manager however placed his faith in highly-rated Turkish defender Çaglar Söyüncü who was signed in the January transfer window. Two important senior players in the shape of Shinji Okazaki and Danny Simpson who were part of their title-winning side that stunned the footballing world in the 2015/2016 Premier League season.

Their first summer signing who came through the doors at the King Power Stadium was promising young full-back James Justin who was signed for an initial fee of around £6m from Luton Town and as a replacement of Danny Simpson and largely provide back-up to first-choice right-back Ricardo.

The 21-year-old who is highly rated joined the Foxes on a five-year deal fresh after securing Championship promotion from the English league one with Luton Town.

Their Foxes also made exciting attacking signings in the transfer window with their main summer transfer target Youri Tielemans signed on a permanent four-year deal worth 40 million pounds from AS Monaco after his outstanding loan spell at the club in the second half of the 2018/2019 Premier League season.

They also brought in Ayoze Perez with the Spaniard making the switch from Newcastle, joining on a four-year contract and he has been impressive at the club so far.

The Foxes also wrapped up the deadline day £18m acquisition of Praet from Sampdoria who penned a five-year deal, with Leicester having held a long-standing interest in the attacking midfielder. The Belgian was brought in to provide competition for James Maddison and Youri Tielemans. However, the best transfer business they conducted was keeping attacking midfielder James Maddison who was much sort after, and has by far been their best player this season. His creativity, pace and good passing vision has seen him being involved in 5 goals (3 goals, 2 assists).

All of these attacking players have settled in quickly to the surroundings at the King Power Stadium with Perez and Tielemans contributing 5 goals out of the 9 they put past Southampton on Friday. 

Trust In Youth

One of the key feature of the Leicester City squad is the vast majority of young players in the squad. Brendan Rodgers in his short time at the club has so far been able to integrate the young players with the senior players maintaining a balance in the squad and creating a huge depth within the team. Players like Ben Chilwell, Harvey Barnes and Hamza Choudhury who are all academy graduates have been promoted to the first team and game time to impress with the biggest beneficiary being Chilwell who as a result of these opportunities is now the first choice left-back at the club and a member of the English Senior National team. Choudhury who was normally being slotted alongside Ndidi in midfield has come of age in recent times and has been very productive in the midfield. 

Players Adapting to Brendan Rodgers’ Attacking Philosophy

One of the main reasons why Claude Puel was sacked apart from the poor form they experienced under his tenure last season was the lack of attacking impetus in their play despite the abundance of creativity in their team. Their style of play under Puel was seen as negative and defensive and as a result restricted the attacking players from playing freely on the pitch. However, Rodgers’ appointment was received as a positive change from defensive football to attacking football which has been a hallmark of his managerial career especially during his managerial instincts with Liverpool and most recently Celtic with whom he won three consecutive domestic cup trebles. The team under Brendan play expansive and explosive football with stability at the back. His usual 4-1-4-1 formation he employs gives the likes of Maddison and Tielemans the freedom to move forward and join Jamie Vardy in attack with Wilfried Ndidi in the middle shielding the back four from attacking threats from their opponents. Full-backs Perreira and Chilwell are also given the “license” to join their attack going forward. Under Rodgers this season, Leicester have scored 25 goals this season (The second highest number of goals scored behind Manchester City and an average of 2.50 per game) with Jamie Vardy, the league’s top scorer. They have also created 16 big chances this season. This is a good return for a side who were battling relegation at this stage last season.  They have also been defensively solid with just 8 goals conceded this season, keeping 3 clean sheets.

Whatever Rodgers has done with the team seems to be working and has created a sense of optimism in the team. This could be another season for Leicester to shock the world once again. However, only time will tell as the season unfolds.

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