Leicester currently sit second in the Premier League after seven games, with more points at this stage of the season than when they miraculously won England’s top division back in 2016.
That iconic title triumph gave every football fan hope that it may be possible, one day, for their own club to lift English football’s greatest prize.
But we’re now four-and-a-bit seasons on from Leicester’s heroics and the big clubs have reverted back to their dominant ways. Chelsea captured the league title in 2017, then Manchester City won it in back-to-back years, before Liverpool finally got their hands on the trophy in 2020.
This season, however, there seems to be something in the air again. With no fans allowed inside stadiums and shock results occurring weekly, there’s a distinct feeling that we may well see ‘another Leicester’, and the team who look best positioned to be just that are… well, Leicester.
Indeed, no club outside of the so-called big six has cracked the top four since the Foxes’ historic title win, but could they be about to do it again? Here are 10 reasons why the answer to that could, potentially, be yes.
1) Leicester are a better side than in 2016
As crazy as it sounds, Leicester are actually better now than when they won the league — in a footballing sense, at least. Leicester’s 2016 vintage smashed and grabbed their way to the title, deploying a low block in pretty much every match and looked to hit teams on the counter attack through Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy.
This time around, though, the Foxes are far more comfortable on the ball, and regularly dominate games in terms of possession. With slick passers like Youri Tielemans and James Maddison dictating the tempo, Leicester can take the game to their opponents and beat many of them on sheer quality alone.
2) It’s a crazy season already
As mentioned, the 2020-21 campaign is arguably the most unique and strange season we’ve seen since the Premier League began back in 1992. The global pandemic has meant no fans are in attendance, and we’ve already seen plenty of shocking results.
Leicester contributed to those shocks by emphatically dispatching Manchester City 5-2 at the Etihad Stadium in gameweek three. It was a mightily impressive result and proved Leicester are capable of mixing it with the very best. Now it’s been confirmed that no fans will be allowed in stadiums until at least March, we’re expecting there to be plenty more upsets in the months to come.
3) The best is yet to come
For large parts of the season so far, Leicester have been without Çağlar Söyüncü, Ricardo Pereira and Wilfred Ndidi. They’ve also lost Jonny Evans, Timothy Castagne, James Maddison, and Jamie Vardy to minor injuries at various points. That’s quite literally seven of Leicester’s strongest starting XI, with the former trio all being long-term absentees.
It’s unlikely Söyüncü, Ricardo or Ndidi will play much of a role this side of Christmas, but given how impressive the Foxes have been without them, it’s a pretty mouthwatering prospect to imagine what this team will be like once everyone’s fully fit and up to speed. We’re expecting big things!
4) Clear tactical flexibility
We’ve already explained that Leicester are a better footballing side than they were in 2016, but what’s even more exciting is their ability to mix up their playing style. So far this season, manager Brendan Rodgers has switched between a 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-3 formation, leaving their opponents second-guessing as to how they may line up.
Generally speaking, the 3-4-3 has been used away from home, when Leicester find themselves up against high-quality opposition. They tend to sit deep, cede possession, and look to hit on the counter — tactics that have led to victories over Manchester City, Arsenal and Leeds to date. Conversely, they use the 4-2-3-1 at home when they expect to dominate the ball, which we saw in the Foxes’ 4-2 win versus Burnley.
5) Quality summer signings
One thing Leicester have, rightly, been praised for in recent years is their recruitment policy. They’ve brought in the likes of Danny Drinkwater, Riyad Mahrez, N’Golo Kanté and Harry Maguire and, after a few seasons, sold them all on for huge profits. This season it looks to be more of the same with the Foxes’ scouts unearthing three more gems.
Summer signings Wesley Fofana, Timothy Castagne and Cengiz Ünder have all made instant impacts. Castagne scored on his debut against West Brom and has looked electric down the right flank. Fofana is a Rolls-Royce of a defender, who’s strong in the air and has no obvious weaknesses in his game — something made even more impressive by the fact he’s only 19 years old. Ünder is still getting up to speed but already has two assists to his name and seems a real creative threat.
6) Vardy is football’s Benjamin Button
No Leicester list would be complete without mentioning the indomitable Jamie Vardy. Now 33 years old, the striker is ageing like a fine wine, and produced his most impressive season to date last year, notching 23 league goals en route to winning the Premier League’s golden boot award.
Rodgers has worked hard to tailor Vardy’s game, trying to make him play within the width of the 18-yard box and conserve his energy for those signature explosive runs in behind. Vardy has started this season with a bang, too, and already has seven league goals to his name, making him joint-second top scorer in the league with Mo Salah, and one behind Son Heung-Min and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
7) Some of the squad already know what it takes
Perhaps an obvious point, but some of Leicester’s more senior players have been there and done it before. Kasper Schmeichel and Jamie Vardy may be the only two regular starters who remain from 2016, but Wes Morgan, Christian Fuchs, Marc Alrighton and Demarai Gray are also all still at the club.
Their experience in dealing with the pressures of a title race could prove crucial, and that’s before you even mention Jonny Evans, who won three Premier Leagues under Sir Alex Fergusson back in his Manchester United playing days. It’s always important to have strong leaders in the dressing room, and Leicester have them in abundance.
8) Rodgers also knows how to win titles
Now, before you all jump on our back, we’re well aware that winning the Scottish Premiership does not equal winning the English Premier League, especially if you were the manager of Celtic. But Rodgers is a coach who knows how to make winning a habit, and that’s a fundamental skill for any elite side.
He also almost delivered Liverpool the title back in 2014, and were it not for that Steven Gerrard slip, may already have a Premier League winners medal hanging up at home. Rodgers knows what it takes to win silverware, and he’ll have no doubt instilled that into this Leicester squad.
9) They’ll have learnt from last season’s drop-off
Up until last year, it looked as though Leicester would be in the thick of the title race again in 2019-20. By December, the Foxes were sitting pretty in second, sandwiched between Liverpool and Manchester City. Unfortunately, while the Reds cantered to the title like a well-oiled machine, the wheels came off at Leicester as they slumped to a 5th-placed finish.
The mistakes made both just before and after last season’s restart represent a huge learning curve for Rodgers and the players, and they’ll be mentally stronger for it. Everyone, from the coaching staff to the players to the fans, will be desperate to right the wrongs of last season, and there’s no better time to do just that than in this campaign.
10) Their young players are constantly improving
Leicester have some important senior players in the likes of Kasper Schmeichel, Jonny Evans and Jamie Vardy, but they also have an array of young talent who seem to get better with every game they play. Between Çağlar Söyüncü, Wesley Fofana, James Justin, Timothy Castagne, Youri Tielemans, James Maddison and Harvey Barnes, the vast majority of Leicester’s side is under the age of 25.
That kind of youthful energy goes hand-in-hand with the club’s official slogan: Fearless Foxes. They’ve got talent in every position on the pitch, and we expect them all to keep on improving throughout the season, especially as they’ll all no doubt have one eye on making their respective senior national sides ahead of Euro 2021.