Leicester City are proving to be almost everyone’s bogey team this season. They’re flying high on confidence and in great form, sitting second in the Premier League.
They haven’t exactly done it the easy way either. Rather than sit back and and wait out draws, they’ve approached each game with attacking intent and sought to score goals. The Foxes have just two clean sheets but have scored in every single league game.
Watching Claudio Ranieri's side is like watching the Fury - Klitschko fight; Leicester’s quick and aggressive style just proves too much for their opponents to fathom.
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But can they keep it up for the next 24 games of the season?
The key to sustaining a successful campaign is having decent cover for each of the 11 men on the field, along with also having options for tactical changes.
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Jamie Vardy is on fire, scoring for fun and recently broke the record for scoring in consecutive Premier League games, previously held by Manchester United’s Ruud van Nistelrooy. But who can back him up?
Leonardo Ulloa certainly can’t. Sure, he carried some good form following his transfer to the King Power Stadium from Brighton & Hove Albion, but has struggled for the most part.
And then there’s Nigel Pearson’s big money buy in January. Andrej Kramaric cost the Foxes £6.3 million and has failed to impress since, making just 19 appearances.
Finally, they have Shinji Okazaki who, whilst an excellent creator of goals, couldn't carry the burden of goalscoring should Vardy ever succumb to injury.
Leicester are sorted on the wings. Riyad Mahrez or Nathan Dyer on the right and Marc Albrighton, Jeffrey Schlupp or cup sensation Joe Dodoo on the left is a pretty good assortment of wide players; Okazaki could even fill in on either side if necessary.
The central midfield situation at the King Power can be summed up by the class act of Gokhan Inler struggling to break into the team. Centre of the park has often been manned by Danny Drinkwater and N’Golo Kante, but their back ups - Andy King, Inler, Dean Hammond and the currently injured Matty James - are all decent midfielders.
Ranieri has a vast variety of midfield talent to utilise in his roster, which will prove very useful during tough spells.
Christian Fuchs has been instrumental to Leicester’s success at left-back, providing a strong defensive presence and an incredibly long throw. His back up, Schlupp, provides more of an attacking outlet but is also strong enough to fend off opposition attackers.
Leicester’s right-back situation is not very strong, however. Danny Simpson has pace and can put in a decent tackle every now and again, but he and Ritchie De Laet are not good enough to be playing for a top half team.
Captain Wes Morgan and Robert Huth man the centre-back roles and both are formidable man-mountains. They can outmuscle nearly any attacker in the league and are excellent man markers, but their lack of able cover makes for worrying reading.
Kasper Schmeichel has only two clean sheets all season, with 21 goals against in just 14 games. To an extent, the whole team is to blame for this, but fingers are often pointed at the 'keeper.
Even during their Championship years, the son of legendary Manchester United shot-stopper Peter Schmeichel was a bit erratic and made many simple mistakes. He has improved since their promotion and great escape last season, but can still be suspect between the posts.
On the bench is 43-year-old Mark Schwarzer and Ben Hamer. The latter managed to keep three clean sheets in his eight Premier League games last season, but he did concede eight goals in the five games that he didn’t earn a shutout. Leicester only won when he kept a clean sheet during his spell in net.
Leicester are riding the crest of a wave in the Premier League, largely thanks to the goalscoring exploits of Vardy - but they will struggle when his form inevitably dies down.
The Englishman runs non-stop every game, which may prove to be his downfall over the busy Christmas period, highlighted by a three game stint in just eight days.
If Ranieri were to sign an experienced and trusted striker to come on if Vardy picks up an injury, is marked out of the game or loses his form, it would give Leicester the extra option needed for clubs contending in the top half of the table.
If possible, an improvement on their current goalkeeper would also help. When their strike force goes through dry spells, the defence and keeper need to step up and earn the points - unfortunately, Schmeichel isn't reliable enough.
The Midlands outfit can compete for a place in a European competition providing they keep the goals coming or, at least, their defence and keeper can step up to the plate.
The Foxes will need some added personnel in the January transfer window to keep their incredible season running into the new year.
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