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Ranieri’s Leicester – Defying the odds

Ranieri’s Leicester – Defying the odds

2nd May 2016, a day that will always be remembered not only by the Foxes, but football fans across the world. Leicester City were officially crowned the Premier League champions, completing a remarkable turnaround. From a team that seemed destined to go down in 2014/15, they will be making their Champions League debut in 2016/17 as Champions of England. 5000:1 was the odds, so congrats to anyone who placed their money on the Foxes to win the league at the start of the season.

They are the first team since Nottingham Forest in 1977-78 to win their maiden top flight title in England. This is a welcome surprise since Blackburn Rovers won the title more than 20 years ago in 1995. Unlike other champions, Leicester are not a heavily bankrolled team, operating on limited resources compared to the English giants.

The man of the hour has been their manager, Claudio Ranieri.

A surprising appointment, a man who was not even their first choice . His appointment was not met with much enthusiasm. Yet, the manager who was ‘never going to win a top division’, would finally do it after nearly 3 decades as a football manager.

In the build up to the 2015/16 season, the foxes spent £37.62 million buying players. Some key members included Huth, Okazaki, Fuchs and Kante among others. There was also a mass departure of many players such as Woods, Cambiasso and Gallagher among others.

A fine managerial career, has seen Ranieri win the title as the greatest underdog achievement.
A fine managerial career has seen Ranieri win the title as the greatest underdog achievement.

The Foxes had ended the 2014/15 campaign on a strong note with 22 points from their final nine matches. The momentum did not wane. What changed was Ranieri’s ability to instil strong work rate and bring about a feeling of collectiveness amongst the squad. The confidence in each other showed as they went on long unbeaten runs, which include two streaks of at least 10 matches unbeaten.

The core of the squad was mostly the same, with the addition of Huth and Fuchs really changing the defensive prowess of the team. The mind-set of a collective spirit that he instilled in the team paid dividends.  Vardy, Morgan, Mahrez andDrinkwater had their best seasons to date. The new additions of Fuchs, Huth, Okazaki and Kante all played their key roles. The team have the third best attack in the league behind Tottenham and Manchester City with 64 goals scored, and the joint 3rd best defence in terms of goals conceded.

While Ranieri always played down their chances, it’s only from Match Week 34 that he acknowledged their title ambition, when Champions League football was secured. Even when the pressure was intense, he never let them falter in the crucial crunch stages. The lead they built up ensured the title will be theirs only and Tottenham, who have had an amazing season in their own right, started to pressure the runaway leaders too late.

Now, he has finally done it and the Foxes have their first top flight title and will be tasting elite European football in 2016/17. Its inevitable that other teams might try to take their stars, but if Ranieri can keep the happy men and invest into squad depth, its highly likely that the Foxes could be a regular challenger for the European places.

A fairy tale ending for the minnows of English football. Imagine if they hadn’t appointed Ranieri.

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