So heading towards the end of November and City are top of the Premier League table, no not the big spending club from Manchester, but the affable Midlands outfit Leicester City, who are simply flying this season.
Leicester claimed a comfortable 3-0 win at Newcastle yesterday with the usually suspects again big influences for the Foxes, as Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez both had a big part to play in the victory.
While Claudio Ranieri’s men strolled to a win at St James Park on Saturday, their mega-rich counterparts from Manchester were taught a footballing lesson by Liverpool, as Jurgen Klopp’s Reds went to the Etihad and emerged with a 4-1 win.
If anybody was asked yesterday which team was the one that cost hundreds of millions to assemble on yesterday’s performances, most people would be say the team from the Midlands.
The Foxes are absolutely flying (if Foxes can fly!)
This time last season Leicester City were bottom of the Premier League looking doomed for an instant return to the Championship. Then boss Nigel Pearson kept the faith and kept positive when most neutrals saw Leicester as a dead team walking.
However an extraordinary run towards the end of last season saw the side from the Midlands comfortably survive the drop and Pearson win acclaim. They have continued this season where they left off last season and have incredibly lost just one of their last 17 top-flight games.
That is less defeat’s than the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United have suffered in the same period. In the aforementioned Vardy and Mahrez they have two of the most improved players from last season.
Vardy has now scored in ten consecutive Premier League games to match the tally of Manchester United hero and Premier League legend Ruud van Nistelrooy. The 28-year-old’s performances this season have been remarkable and he is currently top scorer in the top-flight with 13 goals.
The strikers almost rags to riches story is now well-documented, but the striker deserves his current success because he works his socks off for the team. He will play through injury and chases lost causes. In many ways Vardy and Leicester is a match made in heaven.
Mahrez is another who has flourished this season. The Algerian was superb in the Foxes promotion season, but for much of last season flattered to deceive. However this season he has been one of the league’s most influential stars.
The winger has now contributed seven goals and six assists in the top-flight, contributing to more goals scored than Arsenal’s record-signing Mesut Ozil. Mahrez has only failed to produce a goal or an assist in one of the Foxes last six Premier League games.
The pair’s performances have inevitably led to interest from elsewhere, with even Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona being linked with moves for the pair, now that is a massive compliment. No doubt their respective forms will dip, just like any player, but at the moment they are two of the league’s most in-form players.
Doubts about ‘The Tinkerman’
I have to admit that when the Foxes replaced the bullish Nigel Pearson with former-Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri I thought they would struggle to survive this season. Boy how wrong was I.
The Italian famous for his tactical changes, as his nickname suggests, has built on Pearson’s good work and produced an even better brand of football. He has surprised many with his performance as Foxes boss and the most surprising thing is he has not tinkered with his team that much.
The Italian has to be praised for his work so far in the Midlands. The team were on the crest of a wave on his arrival form wise and he has been able to maintain that good form.
What is realistic for Leicester?
At the start of the campaign I am sure most Leicester fans would have been looking to collect 40 points first and then push on from that foundation.
The fact that just 13 games into the campaign and the Foxes have collected 28 points already is remarkable. Ranieri’s side are now odds of 80/1 to win the Premier League title this season.
The side from the Midlands form shows no sign of abating at the moment, but the question how long can they keep collecting victories will be at the back of everybody’s mind at the King Power Stadium.
This season’s Premier League title race is very open, but it looks unlikely that Leicester have a bigger enough squad to maintain a realistic title bid, although that would be fantastic. It is very early in the campaign, but if they can keep collecting points then there is no reason why they cannot achieve a top six finish.
The Foxes have shown this season, and at the end of last, that they are a very capable team and in Vardy have a striker capable of being prolific. They deserve immense credit for their good start to the campaign.
They are fast becoming the neutrals Premier League favourites and should they clinch a place in the top six this season, then it will be a major achievement considering the amount of money the teams around them have spent on building their squads in recent years.
What is a realistic expectation for Leicester this season?