Who would have thought that Leicester City would have been top of the Premier League in the early days of March? It would be a truly spectacular achievement should they go on to lift the trophy, having been on the brink of relegation this time last year. No one can discredit their fantastic season so far, but many people will have questions to whether or not the Foxes will repeat this unthinkable journey next season.
Claudio Ranieri came to the Midlands as the under-achiever at his time in London at Chelsea, but has stunned his critics in remarkable fashion. The Italian has turned doubters into believers, washing away his nickname of ‘tinkerman’ by managing to develop a squad of unity, unlike his spell with the blue side of London. With the togetherness shown with his Leicester team, they have gone on to beat the so called ‘big boys’ of the English top flight by defeating the likes of Man City, Spurs and Chelsea.
Leicester’s story has brought a new light to, not just the Premier League, but all top leagues around the world that success isn’t all about how much money a club has. Although there are still nine games to go, Leicester will fancy their chances of winning the league, having beaten Watford on Saturday at Vicarage Road with Riyad Mahrez’s sublime goal deciding the game.
Leicester sit five points clear at the top of the table, a much fancied position to go on to achieve glory, but Ranieri and his players still believe that they are not the favourites. Is this a sign of pressure, with the ‘thinkerman’ trying to push away any concern that his players may have? When it comes down to it, I would think that Arsenal would have more pressure on them, with Arsene Wenger yet to gain a Premier League title since 2004 with the North London club. Spurs, on the other hand, are in the same boat as Leicester (no where near as surprising) with that it wouldn’t be a huge failure if they didn’t lift the trophy in May. Man City fit in the same category as Arsenal, if not greater. They have been highlighted to have the best squad in the league, having spent millions of pounds on the likes of Raheem Sterling (£49m), Kevin De Bruyne (£54m) and Nicolas Otamendi (£32m).
Despite this huge amount of money being spent on the Cityzens, Leicester’s overall starting eleven comes to around £22m, with Man City’s first team at a staggering £220m. Money isn’t always the answer, with this being proven with Leicester beating Man City by three goals to one at the Etihad Stadium earlier this year. If the Foxes do go on to win the title, it will be the biggest achievement in the history of the Premier League, maybe even football.
So, here are the reasons why I believe Leicester City’s success could be their failure. Champions League football is pretty much guaranteed, providing there is no dramatic slip-ups in these last nine fixtures, given that Leicester are eleven points clear of fifth-placed West Ham. I believe that this success could come at a cost as the 2016/17 campaign gets underway. I highly doubt that Leicester will repeat this brilliance next season, with the likes of Man United and Chelsea almost guaranteed to spend big on players in the summer. Leicester don’t have this type of backing from their owners, so this may be their downfall.
The amount of games that Leicester will have to play next season will be new to most of their players, with the prospect of playing in Europe. The likes of the FA Cup and League Cup also come into the picture, not to mention another pulsating journey in the Premier League. This season, Leicester’s total number of games comes to 43. Next season, they will could have a maximum of 64 games, if they get to the last stage of each competition that they are set to be playing in. Also, if Leicester win the Premier League, they will feature in the Community Shield match with the FA Cup winners. Baring in mind the European Championships in France this summer, players such as Jamie Vardy and Ngolo Kante could feature in this tournament, meaning even more games in between this season and next.
The bottom line is, Mr Ranieri will have to sign a numerous amount of players to have that stability within each fixture. However, this can create problems in the side. The first being the chemistry of the team. This current squad have been together for the whole of this season and players also featuring in the Nigel Pearson era. Bringing in new players can affect the feel and overall mood throughout the team.
Another factor could be the competitiveness for places. The players that come in may be on the same level as the current players, so this creates that competitive edge to the squad, fighting for the right to play in the first team. This could then lead on to players becoming unsettled and unhappy with their current placement in the club, which could result in players wanting to leave. These topics will need to be addressed thoroughly by Ranieri, and I think he is the right man for this job, having come across as such a personality in the club, portraying his charm in the team. He has brought a real togetherness that we have seen this season, coming across as one big family. I fear that this could be broke up if a variety of different players come into the picture before the start of the next campaign.
All of this should be swept aside for the time being, as there are still games to play. I do believe that Leicester will now go on to win the league, but I can’t see them emulating this success next season. I hope that Ranieri has the right abilities that will be required for the future, because who knows, ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ may have another trick up his sleeve. A Champions League trophy perhaps, Claudio? Bring on Barcelona, I say.
Written by Joe Dutton
Sources: Images – Music times, Independent, Eurosport