Who really expected Leicester to remain top of the league at this point in the season?
If you said you did to that question, you’re a liar and you aren’t fooling anyone. I will happily hold my hands up as someone who predicted second season syndrome would hit the Foxes this season and said they would most likely end up in the bottom three come May this year. Even with an experienced head as Claudio Ranieri’s at the helm, I would not have guessed the Tinkerman would have them at the top of the Barclays Premier League. But yet, here we are.
So the big question now is where to Leicester go from here?
Well, only in the last few weeks have pundits, the media and more importantly the fans been saying that Leicester have the possibility of winning the league. No doubt, the Tinkerman and his team will continue to remain level headed. But with two very tough games away to Manchester City and Arsenal coming up next, you would forgive some fans for feeling a little pessimistic of their chances. But there is reason for optimism.
Ranieri made the point clear that the 40 point mark was the target for the season, until Leicester got to that goal, the players knew that relegation could still be a possibility. Now that point has been surpassed, those same players who feared relegation, now fear no one, plainly evident from Tuesday night’s 2-0 win over Liverpool and Jamie Vardy’s sensational finish to open the scoring. Only a player with bundles of confidence and a keen eye for goal takes that sort of chance when Simon Mignolet is off his line, proving exactly why he is the league’s top scorer with 18 goals. Help for Mr. Hodgson there at the King Power picking his squad for Euro 2016.
Trips to the Etihad and the Emirates are not going to instil fear into the minds of the Leicester player,s as even with a late slide down the table, this season can only be seen as a success.
Manchester City still have their minds on four competitions, and whilst they have the experience of handling such pressure, they know the fans will expect success and silverware. On the other hand, whilst being knocked out of the FA Cup at the hands of Tottenham in the 3rd Round will be a disappointment, being able to fully focus on the League is a blessing in disguise for the Foxes who won’t be feeling the strains of fixture congestion. Added to this, Arsenal’s form of late will have the Foxes licking their lips at the thought of playing the Gunners, who themselves haven’t won in their last 4 league games and have Champions League commitments and an FA Cup defence to think about.
It is no doubt it is an amazing time to be a Leicester fan, with confidence througout the side and the league’s two shining talents this season in Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez. This Leicester side have got stronger each season since the heart breaking Championship play-off semi-final defeat to Watford at the end of the 2012/13 season. It is always worth remembering that none of this would have been possible without the investment in the club by Asian Football Investments (AFI) and the King Power Group back in 2010. Nonetheless, even they weren’t expecting such a season as this one.
So what is possible at Leicester?
For this season perhaps, a top 4 place in the League is now more than achievable. Even with a late season slip, seeing the inconsistency of many of the teams lower down the table, the idea of Leicester dropping out of the top 4 for me is unlikely. Winning the League however, as possible as it could be, I’m not sure will happen, as much as we’d quite like it to.
Next season and beyond, who knows. European football is a likelihood for Leicester which could bring more good times for Foxes fans and the possibility of bigger name signings to join Vardy and co. However, European football has been a distraction for a few teams in the past and could stretch the Foxes having to juggle playing 2 games nearly every week, domestically and in Europe, which could harm their position in the league, for this only time will tell.
But I doubt Leicester fans are worried for the future, they are happy just to enjoy the now. Anyone seen an ostrich running about the King Power? No, me neither.