Who would have thought it? We have made it to February and Leicester City are top of the Premier League, and after their incredible win at Manchester City, they are five points clear. But for the self-proclaimed tinkerman Claudio Ranieri, his consistent selection has been crucial in the Foxes’ incredible run.
It came as quite a shock at the start of the season when Ranieri was announced as Leicester’s manager. The Italian had struggled to hold down a job since a four-year spell with Chelsea came to an end in 2004, and lasted just four games into a two-year contract with the Greek national team before he was sacked last year.
In August, many saw Leicester as favourites for the drop and the appointment of the inconsistent - both in terms of success and team selection - Ranieri, only stirred the pot further. This season, the 64-year-old’s side have been anything but inconsistent. They have lost only two league games all season, and Ranieri has made the fewer changes to his side than anyone else in the league.
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Despite his reputation for squad rotation; five men have played a part in every Premier League game for the Foxes. N’Golo Kante, Wes Morgan, Kasper Schmeichel, Jamie Vardy and Marc Albrighton are yet to miss a league game in the current campaign, and they have made up the spine of the team.
This consistency in team selection has seen Leicester’s team spirit and togetherness grow ever further, something which was massive when they pulled off their incredible survival bid last season. Given that there have been rumours of unrest at Manchester United and Chelsea, and both those teams are struggling, it goes to show just how important team spirit is.
Obviously, Ranieri wouldn’t have banked on his side leading the way in the Premier League after 25 games, but he will now feel that they can finish the job. In recent weeks, they have proved they can beat the bigger sides, with wins away at Tottenham and Manchester City, and a 2-0 win over Liverpool at the King Power Stadium.
If they can keep their first XI fit for the rest of the season, Leicester will remain favourites for the title. There will be no need for Ranieri to live up to his nickname either, with the Foxes only playing league games between now and the end of the season - unlike their rivals. They certainly now believe, that this year is their year.