Why Leicester City should remain fearless during the Christmas period

Leicester City’s 2015-16 Premier League season has been nothing short of a fairy tale.  Favourites for relegation after an offseason which saw the club part ways with Nigel Pearson, the man who steered the Foxes to survival after spending four and a half months at the foot of the table, Leicester have set the top flight of English football alight with a string of scintillating performances under current manager Claudio Ranieri and find themselves top of the Premier League table going into the Christmas period.  Even the most optimistic Leicester City fan would not have predicted such a strong first half to the season.

Whether Leicester can realistically challenge for the Premier League title has been a real talking point, but there is no reason to think that this side is any more likely to lose ground than the supposed favourites.  December was considered to be the month during which Leicester would face tougher tests from stronger league opposition, but the Foxes have already taken 10 points from four games, including wins against Chelsea and Everton.  Many pundits have suggested that Leicester must beat the top teams to be in with a chance of winning the title, but such logic does not prevail when Manchester City lose to Everton and West Ham United – two sides Leicester City have already beaten on the road this season.

Although Leicester City may never find themselves with a better opportunity to push for the title, they go into the second half of this season without facing the media pressure that Arsenal and Manchester City will come up against.  Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, two of the league’s top prospects – and likely January transfer window targets – have a combined 28 top-flight goals this season and continue in a rich vein of form which shows no real sign of faltering.  Foxes fans will have been very pleased to hear Claudio Ranieri publicly stating that neither player is for sale at any price, and it is hard to see why either would want to leave for pastures new.

Whilst Vardy and Mahrez will take most of the plaudits for an astonishing first-half to this Premier League campaign, both players will be the first to acknowledge their teammates who have been as instrumental to Leicester’s success.  N’Golo Kante – a relative steal at £5.6 million – may have performed better than any other top-flight central midfielder so far this season, and his ability to not only adapt quickly to life in the Premier League, but his understanding of the game and positional play has not gone unnoticed by Ranieri and Foxes fans alike – especially given the loss of Esteban Cambiasso over the summer had been such a cause for concern.

Despite Cambiasso’s exit from the East Midlands, Danny Drinkwater continues to embody many of the positive attributes which the decorated Argentine displayed during Leicester’s remarkable second half of last season.  Last year will have been frustrating for the former Manchester United player, but his obvious development is a sign that a lack of game time certainly was not time wasted.  Foxes fans will be hopeful that the hamstring injury picked up against Chelsea will not keep the midfielder side-lined for too long.

An improving and relatively unheralded defence has only conceded four goals in the last five games (having previously shipped 20 goals in the first 13 games).  Many picked out Wes Morgan as the weak link in Leicester’s back line last year, and even at the beginning of this season, but the captain’s recent performances have been crucial in maintaining Leicester’s continued momentum.  Full-backs Christian Fuchs and Danny Simpson have played at a consistently high level, despite finding themselves outside of the starting XI at the beginning of this season – another example of players making the most of the opportunities handed to them.

In short, the key to Leicester’s success is more than down to just one or two key players.  It is a result of the positivity and fearlessness shown by the entire squad, and by the coaching staff.  Claudio Ranieri continues to manage expectation by telling the media that Leicester’s target is 40 points – a total that nobody had predicted that this club might well achieve before the New Year – but it is obvious that every player in that dressing room is taking this season one game at a time before getting at all carried away.  While a Boxing Day clash against Liverpool at Anfield seems like a lump of coal from the scheduling gods, Leicester City have not lost a Premier League match in a nine-month stretch dating back to the end of March 2015 (W8, D4) and have no reason to approach this match any differently.  Like their fans, the players should enjoy this moment – but should certainly show their opposition no respect based on club stature and history.

To experience a spell such as this can only truly be appreciated when a club has been through difficult times in the last several years; relegation to League One, Championship playoff heartbreak on two separate occasions, and last season’s horrendous run of form in the top flight. Leicester fans can be forgiven for enjoying this moment – as who knows how long it might last.