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Five factors behind Leicester's title success

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It is seen as the greatest achievement in British sport. 5000-1 odds to win the title at the start of the season, Leicester City performed a sporting miracle: they became champions of England.

In an accomplishment that almost defies belief considering they were on the cusp of relegation just over a year ago, manager Claudio Ranieri and his men are now being lauded as heroes for their herculean effort in securing their first ever top flight title.

Whether or not they can defend their title is another question. No team has retained the Premier League since the dominant Manchester United team of 2008-09. Nevertheless, Leicester winning such a tough league is a triumph of epic proportions.

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So how have they done it? Here are the five key factors behind their success.

Belief

For any team that are underdogs, belief is a quality that is needed in abundance. Leicester have more than shown it this season, coming from behind in numerous games to secure vital points.

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The 3-2 wins at home to Aston Villa and away to West Brom, as well as 2-2 draws at Stoke and Southampton were all games at the start of the season that involved Leicester recovering from losing positions and in doing so, gave them the belief to go on and produce the kind of solid and resilient displays that has kept them at the top for so long.

In addition, during the few occasions where Leicester did not have things going their way, Ranieri's men somehow found late winners against title rivals Tottenham, Norwich and a crucial equaliser at the death against West Ham to maintain their position at the top of the table when it could have so easily slipped away.

Once more, the belief and determination that the team possess got them over the line in important moments. It proved significant.

Leicester City v West Ham United - Premier League

Astute Additions

Many people believe that you need to spend big to win the title, and in many cases, that theory has been proven right. Yet Leicester have shown this season that big money doesn't always end in big results.

Leicester's most used starting XI cost £23 million. Compare that to the prices of the squads of the previous title winners in Chelsea (2014/15 - £200 million), Manchester City (2013/14 - £174 million, 2011/12 - £194 million) and Manchester United (2012/13 - £158 million), then the numbers show that money isn't everything in terms of winning a league title.

Instead of throwing millions and millions on flashy names, Leicester, with the help of scout Ben Wrigglesworth, now at Arsenal, decided on bringing in players under the radar, for cheap prices and developing them into the stars they are today.

FBL-ENG-PR-PFA-AWARDS

Tough tackling midfielder N'Golo Kante and PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez are perfect examples of the club's impressive scouting system.

Even top scorer Jamie Vardy, who was bought for £1 million by previous manager Nigel Pearson, was a rough but very talented diamond, but the club put their trust in the England striker and he is paying them back handsomely. The impressive additions brought in over the past few years has no doubt helped Leicester climb to where they are now and it would be wise to think the approach will reap even more benefits in the future.

Ranieri's Philosophy

“I never expected this when I arrived," said boss Claudio Ranieri after the title win.

"I’m a pragmatic man, I just wanted to win match after match and help my players to improve week after week. Never did I think too much about where it would take us."

Manchester United v Leicester City - Premier League

Nor did many Leicester fans, in truth. There was plenty of scepticism about the appointment of the Italian, and with good reason. Ranieri had been through 15 clubs during his managerial career, with his longest stint being four years at Fiorentina and Chelsea respectively. And given the fact that his most recent sacking as Greece boss was as a result of a humiliating defeat to the Faroe Islands, Leicester fans had every right to feel apprehensive that their promising momentum built from the end of season survival would be dented.

Yet the club's owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha believed that Ranieri was the man to take Leicester forward in the future. Yet even he couldn't have expected the speed of such progress. Ranieri has allowed his players freedom to express themselves on the pitch and to enjoy their football.

"The manager let's us get on with it,” said Mahrez. "In training, he has fun all the time. Less on match days. Then he is concentrated on the job. I try to joke with him, tell him he is late, laugh at his shoes, but even if he smiles, he says to me: 'Oh, oh, concentrate on the match.'

Stoke City v Leicester City - Premier League

What's more, Ranieri has established consistency in his selection. Not least as the back, where the defensive quartet of Danny Simpson, Robert Huth, captain Wes Morgan and Christian Fuchs have adopted the old-fashioned style of defending. Instead of playing out from defence and making things complicated, Ranieri's defenders are just as happy with booting the ball into Row Z as they are playing a sublime cross field pass to set up an attack.

It is a policy that has helped Leicester keep the among the most clean sheets in the league and therefore made them a very hard team to break down.

Atmosphere at the King Power

With a capacity of 32,262, the King Power Stadium may not be the biggest Premier League ground, but it is the atmosphere inside the stadium which many will argue is up there with the best.

"The atmosphere is fantastic, as it has been since I have been at the football club," claimed Mahrez. "I love playing games at King Power Stadium. I like the fans, I like the pitch; I like everything.

"We've only lost one game at home, so that shows how important the support has been."

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Indeed, the passion that the Leicester fans show has been pivotal in driving their team on, even through the nervy, difficult times. Such is the belief of the supporters, the players have used this as extra motivation, combined with the trust that the manager gives them, to find that extra something and secure important points when games have looked lost.

It is a testament to not only the players, but the fans in wanting to achieve something special.

Astonishing Intensity and Fitness

Finally, the intensity at which this Leicester team plays has been another key component to their maiden league title. The high press and unwillingness to let their opponents play and control games has led them to be an extremely tricky side to play against.

At the forefront of the Foxes' fearless desire and energy is midfielder Kante. Gifted with an outstanding work-ethic, the Frenchman's job in the team is to keep running and not give his opposite man a second, and he is doing it better than anyone else in the league.

Sunderland v Leicester City - Premier League

Kante averages a 4.5 tackles per game this season - higher than any other Premier League player, with his total of 115 tackles also being the highest of any player in Europe. Moreover, Kante tops the league's list for interceptions, averaging 4.2 per match. The 25-year-old is at the heart of his side's relentless intensity and hunger to make life easier for his attacking players.

Yet that does not stop Leicester's more offensive players from working vigorously to help out their team mates. Frontman Jamie Vardy has made a reputation of running tirelessly to put pressure on opposition defenders in an effort to conjure up opportunities out of nothing. The efforts of fellow attackers Mahrez, Marc Albrighton, Andy King and Jeff Schlupp in supporting Vardy have been vital in maintaining Leicester's style of play.

These have been factors that have been the catalyst to Leicester City achieving the unthinkable, and there is no reason why these ingredients can not spur the club on to future successes after such an unforgettable campaign.

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Topics:
Leicester City
Football
Premier League
Wes Morgan
Robert Huth

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