Having miraculously escaped relegation last season ,the Leicester City fairy tale has scaled new heights this season as the Foxes deservedly claim the Premier League crown.
Stop pinching yourself. Despite the fact that it is already done and dusted, it still beggars belief looking at the words ‘Premier League Champion’ immediately after ‘Leicester City’. Seeing the gold Premier League badge proudly adorned on next season’s Leiester City jersey will be a novelty, almost as much as hearing the Champions League anthem echoing around the King Power Stadium.
The magnitude of this achievement cannot be understated. Led by a manager that most critics assumed was well past his sell-by-date, a team of rejects and journeymen that most predicted would be relegated has instead reached the pinnacle of the Premier League – arguably the most competitive league in Europe. Indeed, the Foxes are the most unexpected champion since Nottingham Forest won the league back in 1977 immediately following their promotion from the second division the year before.
Back in August when the season kicked off, teams consistently underestimated Leicester City. Pouring forward in search of more goals against supposed cannon fodder, the Foxes were often able to come from behind to secure vital points. Counter attack was the name of the game as they kept producing results despite having little of the ball. Goals at both ends were free flowing with late winners commonplace as Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy powered Leicester up the table. While it took ten games before Leicester kept their first clean sheet, Claudio Ranieri memorably rewarded the achievement by taking his team out for pizza. Vardy even broke the top flight record of scoring in 11 straight Premier League games.
The rest of the Premier League soon figured out Leicester’s tactics and limited the space given to the Foxes. Yet try as they might Leicester City proved indefatigable. Best epitomized by their diminutive midfielder N’golo Kante, the unheralded underdogs showed no fear when faced with bigger opponents. Despite playing Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal in consecutive games in February, Leicester took six points from nine as they cemented their place at the top of the table.
As the finishing line nearer and Leicester City changed gears and continually ground out results. A newfound defensive resilience saw Leicester secure seven clean sheets in their last ten games. Four consecutive 1-0 wins meant that Leicester refused to buckle even as the pressure mounted and one by one their nearest rivals fell by the wayside. Along the way, Riyad Mahrez became the first ever African player to pick up the PFA Player of the Year award, with 3 of his teammates (Wes Morgan, N’golo Kante and Jamie Vardy) joining him in the PFA Team of the Year.
The footballing world waited for Leicester’s bubble to burst. It never did. Leicester City are worthy Premier League champions.