Even the best bookmarkers did not see this happening. It’s November 2015, and Leicester City football club are on top of the Barclays Premier league after 13 matches played. That’s a wowing truth!
This same time a year ago, that is November 2014, this same Leicester City were at the bottom of the league, and only few people gave them the chance of survival.
What have they done right this time so far? In this Kasper Schmeichel BBC interview, Viva Naija puts out some reasons the this explosive season Leicester City have had so far.
- The way they finished last season has played a massive part in how they’ve started this one.
Leicester’s impressive form began in April when they were bottom of the table with 19 points, four points adrift of safety with eight games to go. Starting against West Ham on 4 April, they won six and drew one of their next eight games – if the league had started then, they would be even further clear at the top.
While speaking with the BBC, the team’s first choice goalkeeper, Kasper Schmeichel stated, “For starters, we came into it with a lot of confidence, in contrast to last year when we were finding our feet in the Premier League and found it very difficult to win games at all – before Christmas we went more than three months without a victory.
2. They now play an open, expansive and fast style of football
Schmeichel added, “At the end of season, we found a style of play that works – it can be a bit scruffy because we are open, expansive and fast and we concede more goals than we want to, but it is effective and we are entertaining to watch.
“Manchester United are probably still reeling from what happened to them at our place last season when we beat them 5-3 and they will want some sort of revenge.
“But we will go into the game believing we can win it and our mentality at the moment is that we will always get at least a point”.
“More than anything, though, we know what has got us here is hard work. We will not stop doing that.
Claudio Ranieri replaced Nigel Pearson as Foxes manager over the summer and added Paolo Benetti to his staff. But he also retained Pearson’s right-hand men Craig Shakespeare and Steve Walsh as his assistant managers and has not made sweeping changes to the team. Of the Leicester side that started against Newcastle, only N’Golo Kante joined since Ranieri took charge.
“It is to the manager’s credit that he did not just come in with all his own people and change absolutely everything”, the goalkeeper said.
“He saw that he had a team and a style of play that was working quite well, and he also inherited a backroom team that were very good at what they did too and who knew the players already.
“Claudio has used it to his advantage. He does some things differently, of course, but part of the reason we have got the results we have is because he realised he did not have to alter too much, too soon.”
4. A manager who speaks a language the players understand
Ranieri is known for being a hard taskmaster in training but he has given his Leicester players plenty of performance-related incentives, such as pizzas for clean sheets and, after Saturday’s win at Newcastle, beers for the coach journey home.
Kasper: “Everyone is enjoying playing under Claudio – he is a very personable guy when he talks to you and gets his message across.
“What definitely helps is that he is able to speak to each player individually in their own language, something he does in team-talks when he is addressing the whole squad.
5. A host of new and old but rejuvenated players who play as a team.
Leicester City bought Gohker Inler, Okazaki and Nathan Dyer at the beginning of this new season, and they’ve all proved to be core to the success recorded to far. Out of the squad they had, Riyad Mahrez seems to be the revelation from within. He scores, he assists, and he’s been consistent so far. This rejuvenation and gelling has been masterful so far
6. Never giving up – and coping with defeat
Leicester have picked up 10 points from losing positions in six Premier League matches this season, more than any other top-flight team. Since their only league defeat of the season – against Arsenal on 26 September – they have won five of their last six league matches, including the last four.
Kasper reiterated, “We don’t want to have to come back in matches, but it is testament to the character in our squad that we can do it when we have to.
“When we fight back, we play really well but we played really well from the start against Newcastle on Saturday and it was nice to show we could take the lead and control a game – there is no need to come from behind when you do that.
7. A Striker in the form of his life!
Jamie Vardy’s goal against Newcastle meant he equalled Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record of scoring in 10 consecutive Premier League games. Jamie Vardy has become a scoring machine, crafting beautiful goals game per game, and with 13 goals already in his rack, he is not roaring for more.
About Vardy’s determination, goalkeeper Kasper said, “At the moment, Jamie thinks he is going to score every time he plays, and the rest of the team thinks he will too.
“To score as many goals as he does, you have to put yourselves in the right position and he does everything he can to give himself as many opportunities as he can”. That is so important to the success of the team. When we are in trouble, we know we can play the ball into the channel and Jamie will run it down”, Coach Ranieri added in praise of his golden fish striker.
8. Kasper Schmeichel has also been big in front of goal
Although, he has kept only a couple of clean sheets, yet, Kasper’s string of wonderful saves this season have kept the team alive in games played so fat. He claims to derive motivation from his teammates in an attempt to keep bettering his own performances per game.
The season is still a long way to go, but, Leicester City are unarguably on a sure road to becoming a force to reckon with, if this momentum gets maintained throughout the season.
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