Leicester must take cautious approach to transfers to avoid Newcastle's demise in 1996

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After a little blip that saw Claudio Ranieri's men pick up two points and not score for three league games - the fact that a three-game spell where they only lost one is considered a 'blip' is proof enough in itself of the standing Leicester currently have - a tight 1-0 away win at one of their potential title and/or top four rivals in Tottenham Hotspur was arguably their most impressive result this season.

The reason ''potential'' is used is because there remains an uncertainty whether they will be in the mix for those positions come late April - Saturday's 1-1 draw with basement boys Aston Villa did little to change that perspective - but they have got to finish in the top eight, at least.

Whether they will end the season in the top four can be largely decided this month. But, being under the cosh away from home at one of the top teams in the league then score and come away with a win is the stuff champions are made of.


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It reminded me of Manchester United's 1-0 win over then-leaders Newcastle United on March 4, 1996, courtesy of a volley from Eric Cantona.

United were bombarded so much from Newcastle in the first half of that match that it made Dunkirk seem like a relaxing day by the seaside. That Cantona winner was nearly 20 years ago and there's been other moments like it in the years since, but maybe it came to mind because Leicester's should-they-buy or shouldn't-they-buy transfer situation reminds me of United's opponents that day.

It is often said that Newcastle surrendered what looked like a certain league title that year because the signing of Faustino Asprilla disrupted the club's ethos that had got them to the top in the first place, and what made virtually every football fan in the country fall in love with them. Others say it was their somewhat generous defence that was to blame for their collapse.

Their main striker at the time, Les Ferdinand seems to go with the former, telling Chronicle: ''bringing in Tino changed the way we were set up and it took some getting used to. He didn’t know what he was going to do next, so we didn’t have any chance!”

When Asprilla joined they were nine points clear with a game in hand of eventual winners Manchester United, but a period of nine games where the club gained just ten points ultimately cost them as they finished four points behind Sir Alex Ferguson's men.

Leicester's only signing in January so far is Demarai Gray, although he is bound to not come with the baggage that the Columbian, Asprilla brought with him, both in personality and the fact that Gray is English -therefore used to the climate, and has only played at second tier level.

This should keep his 'airs and graces' under wraps and make it highly unlikely the Foxes will change their style of play and game plans to suit him as drastically as what Newcastle did for Asprilla all those years ago.

Even though Spurs had most of their second string side out in their 2-2 draw with Leicester in the FA Cup Third Round, Leicester's equivalent more than held their own against their richer, more illustrious counterparts. But does manager Ranieri need more?

'If it's not broke, don't fix it' they say. Energy levels will be a factor for every club, let alone a side that plays at the frantic pace that Leicester have been doing, so they will either need the fringe players to step up or get new bodies in.

Their style, which has been well documented, will have been noted by opponents, particularly the movements of top scorer Jamie Vardy. When it comes to the English marksman, it might appear that teams have sussed him out when you consider that, despite his decent performances and the classy chip against Villa that led to Shinji Okazaki's goal, he has not found the net for six games now.

Before last week's win against Tottenham, Ranieri said: ''the transfer market is finished for us. I am only interested in my players and no one goes away.''

He's the manager, so should know the concerns of the team more than anyone, but you can't help wonder or be of the opinion that they could do with another one or two new faces.

However, bearing in mind the effect Asprilla had on Newcastle in '96 and the fact Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham and Man United have European commitments as well as the league to focus on, the Italian could be making his best judgement of the season.

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Premier League
Newcastle United
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