5 Reasons Why Leicester City Are the Rajasthan Royals of EPL 2016
The team which was about to get relegated to lower league last season will be pitting against Barcelona in Europe.
Who’s Jamie Vardy? Why is Riyad Mahrez attracting interest from FC Barcelona? Well, I have been following the English Premier League for more than 10 years now, and must admit this year’s challenge takes me back to the times when a club called Blackburn Rovers managed to win the title in 1995. Leicester City have come out of nowhere and stamped their position at the summit of EPL this season.
Last years’ champions, Chelsea, have been living the mid-table life for a change and both Manchester clubs are fighting to retain their spot in the top 4. Leicester City are leading this year’s title charge with aplomb, so much so that they led the table from their nearest challenger, ie: Tottenham Hotspur by 5 points.
But enough of what they are doing. What’s more interesting to see is what and who has made it possible for this team from the East Midlands of England. The team is led by Claudio Ranieri, ‘the tinkerman’ as he’s fondly called, who was once the manager of Chelsea Football club before a certain Jose took over.
1. Claudio Ranieri
It speaks volumes that the man who’s leading Leicester’s title charge was greeted with boos when he replaced Nigel Pearson. The man has played his cards with success, and players like Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, and the team’s skipper, Wes Morgan, have flourished under his tutelage.
The tinkerman has shuffled his pack and, with fitness issues on their side, Ranieri has managed to sustain his team’s fast start into a serious title charge. You can easily compare his role to that of Shane Warne when he was in charge at Rajasthan Royals, which won the IPL in 2008. No one gave the Royals a chance to stake their claim for the big prize, but win they did. And if Leicester City go on to win the EPL this year, you’d have to credit Ranieri for it.
2. Wes Morgan
Alex Ferguson used to rave about his Manchester United team for playing a fluid game of football and offering strong resistance at the back. His teams have been built on the bedrock of Rio Ferdinand, Jap Stam, and Mark Hughes over the years.
Leicester City have been blessed with the duo of Wes Morgan and Robert Huth, who have been a revelation of sorts. It has been hard for opposition teams to find their way past these two which has made it easy for others around them.
It has been a staggering turnaround for a player who was seen as the weak link of the defence under Nigel Pearson until their fortunes changed for good.
3. N’Golo Kante
He’s by far been the player who has kept the Leicester midfield ticking alongside the immovable Danny Drinkwater. Signed during the pre-season transfer window, Kante has moved from the French Ligue 1 and taken the Premier League by storm.
Kante was seen as the perfect foil for Drinkwater when he was signed by Leicester’s transfer committee but he’s been more like what Yaya Toure has been for Manchester City all these years.
He’s been applauded by one and all. When you get credited with the feat like ‘the standout player of the season’ by the legendary Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, then you’ve done something great. Even Ranieri hasn’t stopped raving about him and it’s easy to see why England and top clubs across Europe are now targeting him.
N’Golo Kante is someone who seems to be performing with packs full of batteries hidden in his shorts.Claudio Ranieri, Manager, Leicester City
His relentless energy and passion to chase the ball even in a lost cause epitomises the spirit that has kept Leicester City going this season. He has been the Shane Watson-level player for his club this season. During the 2008 IPL, Watson was in imperious form for the Rajasthan Royals. Comparisons between Watson and Kante are more than warranted.
4. Riyad Mahrez
If not for the masterclass shown by Mesut Ozil for Arsenal, Mahrez would have been the standout No. 10 playing the league this season. The numbers speak for themselves and Mahrez, with 17 goals and 11 assists, he has made sure that the frontline trio of Vardy, Okazaki and Ulloa are ably provided with arms to stretch Leicester’s lead at the top of the table.
He’s been the rockstar rendition of Ravindra Jadeja for his club. The left-handed batsmen was part of the 2008 Rajasthan Royals team that took IPL by storm. Barcelona is one of the many clubs looking to take Mahrez off Leicesters hand for the next season. And going by what the 21-year-old players has been up to this season in the EPL, nobody’s doubting his credentials anymore.
5. Jamie Vardy
It is hard to describe the growth that Vardy has made over the past 10 months. From playing for a Conference Premier side, Fleetwood Town to representing the senior England team in 2016, Vardy is a sure-shot starter at the Euro 2016. Playing for Leicester would have never been the passport for such a big break but the club’s fortunes have made Roy Hodgson, manager of England soccer team, take notice.
Vardy is part of the English football culture that has fed on the rough-and-tough nature of the sports in the country. He runs beyond the defenders and has played right into Ranieri’s plans of playing on the counter against most oppositions.
He’s got a strong mentality and never gives up. He’s an inspiration with the way he is because then others believe.Claudio Ranieri, Manager, Leicester City
Thanks to the supply on offer from Drinkwater and Mahrez, Vardy has thrived in a team that plays to his strengths and the results are there for everyone to see. And guess what? The world will get to see Vardy’s life and career in his biopic set to be filmed soon.
You might be wondering as to why is the trumphet been blown on Leicester City so soon. After all, there are still 6 games to go in the season. But with a 7-point leader over its nearest challenger, it wouldn’t be harsh to say that Leicester City are done and dusted to become the Premier League champions of 2016.
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