Fans in other countries might have to rub their eyes in disbelief when they see Leicester City on top of the Premier League in December, but everyone concerned with English football can see they are not just a flash in the pan.
As dominant as Chelsea were last season, Leicester City are only four points off the tally the champions obtained at the same point 12 months ago. As form goes, the Foxes haven’t lost since the 26th of September at the hands of Arsenal and even since then, they have only dropped four points in the process.
Leicester’s next match is at home to struggling Chelsea on Monday night and if Chelsea lose to Porto and get knocked out of the Champions League on Wednesday, they may well be manager-less for next week’s clash.
The strange thing is, with or without Jose Mourinho in the opposition’s dugout, Leicester should be favourites. Their reign as leaders is not undeserving, it is a true reflection of how the league has gone so far and they have simply been the best.
Record-breaking Jamie Vardy and equally impressive Riyad Mahrez between them have scored 24 goals. That is more than the combined efforts of teams like Southampton (21), Man United (20), Crystal Palace (19), Liverpool (18) and Chelsea (17).
They also have two more goals scored in combination than Real Madrid’s trio of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and last but not least, Cristiano Ronaldo.
What a change in fortunes it is to this time last year. Under Nigel Pearson, bar the famous 5-3 victory at home to Manchester United, newly promoted Leicester were poor and highly tipped to go back down to the Championship, but earning significant results in the last handful of games, they managed to safely avoid the drop.
Pearson departed Leicester surprisingly, but the sophomores brought in the vastly experienced Claudio Ranieri who has managed quality sides in Italy, Spain, France and England.
Even though it is widely believed that Leicester are over-achieving, Ranieri is a man who knows how to get a team who haven’t been in contention for many years, inside the top four as previously seen with his Chelsea side at the start of the Millenium.
The real barometer to indicate if Leicester are true title contenders is in their next 12 games. With Chelsea, Everton, Arsenal, Tottenham, Man City (twice) and Liverpool (twice) all to be played between now and the end of February, many may predict Ranieri’s honeymoon period ending sooner rather than later.
This might be the case, but a win at the start of this difficult run of games next Monday at the King Power Stadium against Chelsea will evidently show how times have changed in English football.
It will also send a message to anyone in the league who hasn’t received it – Leicester are ruthless, Leicester should be taken seriously and Leicester should receive the respect they deserve.
Brein McGinn, Pundit Arena
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