It isn’t too far-fetched to whisper that Leicester City, one of the three remaining unbeaten sides so far alongside Liverpool and Manchester City might have what it takes to be in the top four come the end of the season. It might just be four games gone but Brendan Rogers’ side have looked promising this time around and it’s looking like glimpses from their memorable 2015/2016 title-winning season.
That campaign, of course, saw their miraculous Premier League title triumph under Claudio Ranieri – spearheaded by their phenomenal top man Jamie Vardy who was instrumental with 24 goals in the course of the season.
Unfortunately, the Foxes have not been able to replicate those standards as they have finished 12th and ninth twice in subsequent campaigns since their title-winning season.
However, their bright start to the season under Brendan Rogers has brought about a fresh air of optimism. Aiming for the title once again will perhaps be the ultimate challenge of the century with a near-perfect Manchester City and Liverpool around but well enough the top four could be within their reach and realistically achievable.
The fact that the remaining natural members of the so-called top-six in Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and United have not been assuring this term is even more reason for further optimism in the Leicester City camp.
Getting to the top three at this stage might be “easy” but the question now is how long can they keep up the momentum? Apparently they might have what it takes to do so and it is those reasons we will be watching closely.
So let’s take a look at the possible reasons that could see them maintain their early statement and perhaps break the top-six monopoly once more?
A bright start
As earlier said, it’s still early days in the Premier League but one doesn’t have to look so far down the table before you spot Leicester City in third place, only behind the inevitable teams in Liverpool and Manchester City.
They fired a blank in their season opener against Wolves and held Chelsea 1-1 – a match they should have won – but have been highly impressive in victories at Sheffield United last weekend and over Bournemouth on Saturday.
Though the Cherries levelled at 1-1, Leicester maintained their composure, sticking to their game plan and responding with two further goals for a 3-1 victory.
So assuring the Foxes were that Bournemouth coach Eddie Howe had to pay some respect to his opposite counterpart and the Leicester City side. As per Leicestermercury, Eddie Howe was quoted as saying:
“Leicester have started very well,” he said. “They are a very good team with good players. They have a great manager and will have a great season.”
Brendan Rogers’ knack for winning
Brendan Rogers is not new to “almost” as he went close to Premier League title triumph himself with Liverpool but fell painfully short in the 2013-14 season.
He then moved to Scotland where he had serial success with Celtic but one could tell he had never ruled out the possibility of a return to the Premier League. That feeling one has when you have unfinished business left to do.
The temptation of making a comeback to England proved too much when Leicester came calling in March and the game against Bournemouth saw him take charge of his 500th career game as a manager (via Transfermarkt).
The Northern Irishman has implemented a possession-based style of play LINK DOESN’T WORK which is easy on the eye but he also showed the ability to tweak it tactically like he did against Bournemouth with a more direct approach.
Brendan Rogers is, without doubt, a coach who knows how to win and while that attribute might not be substantial enough to go for the title, it could well be good enough to warrant a top-four spot. Time will tell if that’s too exaggerated to imagine.
Absence of European football
Leicester City will be boosted by the fact that they have only domestic competitions to worry about. As it stands, the Premier League, Carabao Cup and FA Cup will be their only focus for silverware.
It is here where they hold a huge advantage over their possible rivals in the race for the top six.
Assuming Liverpool and City already have the two top spots, Chelsea face a struggle to finish in the top four again under new manager Frank Lampard with a youthful squad who have Champions League football to contend with and without the services of talisman Eden Hazard. The Blues showed their fragility on Saturday by surrendering a 2-0 lead against Sheffield United to draw 2-2.
Arsenal’s defensive shortcomings as always came into full evidence in their 3-1 defeat to Liverpool earlier in the season. The Gunners might also have a hectic schedule as the Europa League they play in will mean Thursday fixtures and the squad might have to be stretched to the limit considering they’ll want to compete on all fronts.
Last season’s Champions League finalists in Tottenham have not been assuring as well. Pochettino’s men have shown their own defensive issues of their own and are currently winless in their last three games. The manner in which they surrendered their 2-0 lead to Arsenal shows they could have some major cracks in their setup this season as well.
United have also not won since the opening day of the season and currently have a squad that looks light in midfield and up front. To make matters worse, a nightmare Europa League draw will see a 6,000-mile round-trip to face Astana in Kazakhstan, as well as a hostile trip to Partizan Belgrade.
All these fall in Leicester’s favour – scenarios Brendan Rogers has properly noticed already and will be looking to capitalize on them when he gets the chance.
No Harry no problem – able replacements
When Leicester City sold their most valued asset in Harry Maguire to Manchester United, many expected the Foxes to struggle defensively but step in Caglar Soyuncu – who has done a good job so far and has eased the wounds of Harry Maguire’s departure.
If anything, Brendan Rogers even now has able replacements to call upon in vital positions.
Caglar Soyuncu joined last summer for £19m from Freiburg but played just six league games, yet he has started all four this term. A tall, elegant centre-back who has so far shown confidence and composure on the ball and ability to stay calm under pressure.
His performance against Bournemouth highlighted a signal of many more good things to come from the 23-year-old.
Çağlar Söyüncü had more touches, made more passes and made more tackles than any other player on the pitch at the King Power Stadium today.
He also won every single one of his seven contested duels. ? pic.twitter.com/gSmq2llvZQ
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 31, 2019
England international Chilwell returned to the starting line-up against Bournemouth after three games out, replacing the experienced Christian Fuchs, who played such a vital role in the title-winning season.
England U21 international Hamza Choudhury dropped out despite an excellent start to the season with the destructive Wilfred Ndidi coming in alongside Belgian Youri Tielemans, whose range of passing is a joy to watch.
Youri Tielemans’ game by numbers vs. Wolves:
31/38 forward passes
7 ball recoveries
3 key passes
2 through balls
Dynamic midfielder. ?? pic.twitter.com/mmaVgKFHcl
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) August 11, 2019
A nice headache for a manager to have.
Consistent standout players
To round it off for Leicester, their two key players in the final third of the pitch have been in brilliant form so far.
Maddison’s confidence at the moment means his numbers tell us simply that he’s been among the top-performing midfielders for a while. Not just a blip in form but he’s been consistent since last season.
James Maddison has created more chances than any other player in the Premier League since the start of last season (107).
On the verge of his first cap. ? pic.twitter.com/tG5pCZCE8c
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 29, 2019
His free-kick against Newcastle in the Carabao Cup was a joy to watch not to mention the audacity in his cheeky ‘Panenka’ spot-kick in the shootout. Maddison might not have a lot of things but confidence is clearly not one of them.
The former Norwich player showed his maturity with his defensive work against Bournemouth, winning the ball back eight times (via Squawka) but it was Vardy who stole the show.
Jamie Vardy has now scored 11 Premier League goals since Brendan Rodgers took over as manager, more than any other player in the competition.
What a finish. ? pic.twitter.com/BHo8XGLhNE
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 31, 2019
The evergreen striker put in an all-action display with two goals and an assist in the 3-1 win, with Rodgers declaring afterwards that he is “a dream to work with”.
As quoted via leicestermercury: “For a manager and a coach it’s amazing. He showed his quality, not just in his goals but if you look how hard he works, how he sets the team off and his hunger – everyone follows behind him.”
Should Leicester continue in this form, it may be that many of the Premier League teams will be following them behind.