Are Leicester City Ready To Shock The World Once Again?
Not for the first time, Leicester City are out-performing all expectations, elbowing their way into yet another shot at an improbable EPL title.
Having just passed the season’s halfway mark, the Foxes are on a seven-game unbeaten streak, while their +14 goal differential is a number bettered only by Liverpool and Manchester City.
Speaking of Manchester City, Leicester are just two points adrift of them at the top of the table, prompting yet another round of questions as to how they’ve once again crept under everybody’s radar?
Youri Telimans, Wilfred Ndidi and James Maddison constitute three of the EPL’s most unassuming midfielders, yet the trio constitute the driving force behind the Foxes’ title threat.
Telimans is the elegant fulcrum of the midfield, completing a team-high 64.9 passes per game at an astonishing 83% accuracy, while he also fired home Leicester’s mid-week equaliser against Everton, keeping their unbeaten streak alive. He sits 7th in the league for live passes leading to goals.
James Maddison in the team’s creative force and facilitator, leading the club with 1.8 key passes per game which ranks 11th in the entire EPL, while he’s also 8th in the league for goal creating chances per 90 minutes. His ability to break the lines and create from a more advanced position is a key attribute of his game, and precisely why he remains firmly in the frame where the English national team is concerned.
James Maddison scores for Leicester for the fourth game in a row.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 24, 2021
⚽️ vs. Newcastle
⚽️ vs. Southampton
⚽️ vs. Chelsea
⚽️ vs. Brentford
A great way to mark his 100th appearance for the Foxes. pic.twitter.com/cRQR5OoOut
Then there’s Wilfred Ndidi, the teams’s destructive force, with the Nigerian anchoring this brilliant midfield, supplying an EPL-best 3.5 tackles per game. It's little wonder why he's already chalked up 36 international caps before even turning 25.
This exceptional midfield balance works perfectly for Leicester, helping to compliment each other’s skill-sets, while allowing the rest of the team’s philosophy to be be realised, comfortable knowing the most important area of the park is nailed down.
And it’s that pass-heavy mind set which is at the heart of the Foxes’ identity, patiently waiting for space to develop in behind the opposition defence, waiting for the likes of of Jamies Vardy and Harvey Barnes to use their blistering speed to exploit defences.
Leicester are 5th in the league for through balls and passes between 5-15 yards which is testament to their style of play. With Barnes and Marc Albrighton either side of this midfield, the Foxes have been able to play out of their skins this season while constantly keeping opponents on the back foot.
With Ricardo Pereira being out for half the season, and Çağlar Söyüncü being suspended, many pundits were worried about Leicester’s defence, questioning whether they’d be able to stand up for the duration of the season. Factor in the departure of Ben Chilwell to Chelsea, and an air of doom surrounded the club, who on the face of things, simply couldn't afford to not be playing with a full bill of health.
However in true Foxes’ fashion, they’ve laughed in the face of external pessimism, with the signings of both Wesley Fofana and Timothy Castagne proving to be shrewd decisions, while James Justin'sgame has also had the opportunity to develop around injuries, with the Luton-born defender starting each and every match this season, while logging a team-high 1,800 minutes so far.
In fact, Justin’ star continues to rise, ranked 7th in the league for tackles and first for tackles in the defensive third. If he keeps up his fine form, then an England call-up could be on the cards for the 22-year old who achieved ten caps at youth level.
While individuals like Justin, Fofana and Castagne have shone, the team has excelled as a unit, ranked 3rd overall for tackles, 3rd for successful presses as well as 2nd for tackles leading to interceptions.
Like Leicester's midfield, its defence has benefited from continuity and cohesion allowing them to perform at its best, game in and game out.
The youth and ability of our squad is incredible.— LCFC Miscellaneous 🦊 (@LCFCshitposting) January 28, 2021
Luke Thomas 1️⃣9️⃣
Wesley Fofana 2️⃣0️⃣
James Justin 2️⃣2️⃣
Youri Tielemans 2️⃣3️⃣
Harvey Barnes 2️⃣3️⃣
James Maddison 2️⃣4️⃣
Caglar Soyuncu 2️⃣4️⃣
Wilfred Ndidi 2️⃣4️⃣
These players haven't even hit their prime years yet 😳😳😳#LCFC
So can they actually win the title?
Well.......Why not? They’ve been here before and continue to have such a strong system in place, and one that's proven it can compete with England’s best on a regular basis.
With just how absolutely crazy this season has been, anything’s possible, as evidenced by Liverpool’s recent barren run.
Obviously, they'll need everything to fall in place, but their robust goal difference is indicative of a team who hasn't lucked its way to the top.
While Leicester haven't relied on any one player to launch their run, they will have to deal with the absence of Jamie Vardy, the club's unquestionable heart and soul, and most damaging striker. So much of what Leicester does (and wants to do) is predicated on having the reigning EPL Golden Boot winner in uniform, while his 134 goals for the club over the last 8 years won't be easily replaced.
Many eyes will naturally fall upon Kelechi Iheanacho who’s yet to really play as a lone striker, starting just two games this season. The 24-year old, former Manchester City prospect might ultimately have a massive say upon just whether Leicester truly does have yet another fairytale run in them.
They’ve defied the odds before, why can’t they do so again?
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