The Premier League leaders are writing one of the great sporting fairytales, Claudio Ranieri’s entertainers have staying power and other things we learned from Manchester City 1 Leicester 3
By Editor Wayne Veysey
Leicester emerging as title favourites
Six points clear at the Premier League summit with two-thirds of the season gone, Leicester are not just writing one of the greatest fairytales in sporting history. Unbelievably, they have also manoeuvred themselves into the position of title favourites. There have been some truly unforgettable moments, and performances, from Ranieri’s team this season but they will now all take a back seat to the day they went to the home of the two-times Premier League champions and pre-match title favourites and ripped them apart. This was not just a backs-against-the-wall smash-and-grab, either. It was a convincing win in which Leicester’s superbly honed counter-attacking style worked to perfection. They are demanding they be taken ultra seriously by the big boys.
Humbling could be what Man City need
In a perverse way, Manuel Pellegrini’s side could benefit from this humiliating home defeat. A squad who have coasted through much of the season – indeed the last couple of seasons – will be heavily criticised for such a lax showing in such a significant match. But it could be the kick up the backside that the team of superstars need to get their season back on track.
Ranieri is playing a blinder
“I’m just an old man,” laughs the Leicester manager in the self-mocking style that makes him such a popular figure in the English game. He is also a mighty fine coach. City were outrun, outfought and, to Ranieri’s great credit, outthought. The Italian has been doing it to his dugout rivals all season. Using what is pretty much an old-fashioned 4-4-2, they defend solidly and attack with pace, menace and imagination. Game after game, week after week, they are devastating on the counter-attack. It is an ideal formula for winning Premier League matches. Crucially, a squad of journeymen and emerging stars appear totally unfazed by setting the pace at the top.
It’s not all about the money
The latest twist in the implausible and unfolding drama that is Leicester’s season was a superb display in the backyard of the world’s best resourced football club. Without any oil money or superstar signings, the Foxes are showing the value of good coaching, excellent recruitment and hungry players with something to prove. It’s not all about the money.
Huth is emerging as defensive giant
Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, scorer of another counter-attacking gem today, have got the headlines for their Tigger-ish attacking play this season. And rightly so. But Leicester would not top the Premier League if they did not know how to defend. So much of the credit should go to Austrian giant Robert Huth, a 31-year-old centre-back who has the power to pull up trees but has never metaphorically done so during his decade-and-a-bit in the Premier League. Until now. Scorer of two set-piece goals today, he was on a hat-trick for the last half-hour. All while keeping one of the world’s most expensive front lines at bay. He is emerging as the rock of this Leicester team.