How have Leicester City become title challengers

Leicester City currently sit at the top of the Barclays Premier League with a five point advantage over nearest rivals Tottenham Hotspur. But how impressive has their run to get into this position been, and is this because the top clubs failed to improve their squads during the summer transfer window?

There is no denying that the Foxes have proved everyone wrong this season. They were 5000/1 to win the Premier League at the start of the season, and were up there as relegation favourites with the three newly promoted sides in Watford, Norwich and Bournemouth.

This was not a surprise though. Leicester made a remarkable comeback last season when they looked doomed for relegation. They went into April with only four league wins all season, but went on a run that included six wins in their last eight games to secure safety.

Over the summer months they decided to part ways with Nigel Pearson and brought in the man known as the tinker man, Claudio Ranieri. The former Chelsea and Inter Milan manager made a number of shrewd signing. This included bringing in N’Golo Kanté from Caen, Shinji Okazaki from 1. FSV Mainz 05 and Christian Fuchs arrived via Schalke 04.

Kanté has been a revelation for City this season in the middle of the park, proving to be one of the signings of the summer. He is in the running for the PFA Player of the Season alongside teammates Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.

Both Mahrez and Vardy have been in great form this season and have been the main attacking threat the Foxes have carried all season. Mahrez has 17 goals this season and Vardy is currently the league’s second top goal scorer with 22.

Despite all of this, you have to question how are a team of the size of Leicester City five points clear at the top of the Premier League, one of if not the best league in the world. Working hard as a team can get you so far but surely it’s not enough to get you to being the top team in England.

For example, Leicester have already qualified for next seasons Champions League. This means they could come up against teams such as Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG, Juventus, AS Roma and Bayern Munich. This is not something that any Leicester fan would have expected to happen.

You have to wonder why teams like Manchester City, last season’s champions Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United are not occupying the top four spots in the League. Even a side like Tottenham Hotspur will be disappointed to be sitting behind Leicester, a team who have only been back in the Premier League for two seasons.

Manchester City’s league campaign seems to have derailed following the announcement that Pep Guardiola will be replacing Manuel Pellegrini as the Citizens boss next season. This along with their successful run in the Champions League, where they are set to face Spanish side Real Madrid in the Semi-Finals, means they have put their league form to one side.

The form of Chelsea this season is something nobody can explain. Heading into the season as reigning champions, many people had them down as their favourites for the title. However things have not gone to plan. Jose Mourinho was sacked in December with the side down near the relegation zone. Gus Hiddink took over and has guided them back into the top half of the table but this is still not enough to secure European football for next season.

Arsene Wenger will be extremely disappointed that his side have not been able to capitalize on the gap that has opened up this season with many of the other top sides performing poorly. This along with their defeat in the FA Cup Quarter Finals to Watford, their first defeat in the competition for two seasons, could possibly put his job in jeopardy this upcoming summer.

Louis Van Gaal has also had a disappointing season in his second full year as the Manchester United manager. The Dutchman is currently in a battle to get into the top four to secure his side Champions League football. This is looking like a tough ask as they currently sit four points back from Arsenal who sit in fourth.

All of these teams having off seasons combined with Leicester’s upturn in fortune has seen the Foxes rise to the summit in the Premier League. This is down to their hard working performances this season but partly is down to other teams who were expected to challenge at the start of the season coming up short.

Taking nothing away from Leicester’s achievements, they have had a fantastic season. The real challenge will come for them next season when they have multiple games a week with their participation in the Champions League. This along with the expected interest in their players during the summer months will be the making of the side going forward.