In September I watched Leicester dismantle my team, Luton Town, in the Carabao Cup. It finished 4-0 but could have easily been more as Youri Tielemans carved open our defense at every opportunity and without breaking much of a sweat. I was devastated at the time, despite Leicester being a full division higher than us and monetarily much better off, as going into the game I felt we could possibly cause an upset.
Since that September 24th game Leicester has put five past Newcastle (5-0 home win on September 29th), nine against Southampton (0-9 away win on October 25th) and made Arsenal look like relegation candidates despite only scoring twice last Saturday. In fact, Leicester has lost only once since that Carabao Cup win, the last-minute defeat to Liverpool at Anfield thanks to a very controversial penalty, and are comfortably in the top three.
That shouldn’t be a surprise given it was only four seasons ago that the 5000-1 odds Foxes shocked the sporting world by winning the Premier League, but a lot has happened since then. Claudio Ranieri is gone and so is his replacement Craig Shakespeare. In fact, Brendan Rodgers is their fourth manager in as many years having taken the reigns from Claude Puel. N’Golo Kante made a big-money move to Chelsea as did Danny Drinkwater. Riyad Mahrez sulked for a year before finally getting his move to Man City and Leicester struggled with the demands of Premier League, Champions League, and domestic Cup Competitions. One pivotal player remained loyal though and has scored 20 goals in the 22 games since Brendan Rodgers’ appointment. Jamie Vardy.
Vardy’s story reads like a Hollywood story, scratching and clawing his way back from the brink of non-league football to become one of the Premier Leagues’ greatest success stories. And he only cost Leicester £1 million. Vardy was told he wasn’t good enough at the age of 16 by Sheffield Wednesday, but where there is a will there is a way and now England International started the come back at Stocksbridge Park Steels before moving on to FC Halifax and Fleetwood Town. His 31 goals in 36 games for the latter prompted Leicester, then in the Championship, to splurge the cash on what was then seen as ‘a huge gamble’.
Vardy’s goals shot them to the Premier League before shocking everyone with 24 goals in his second season in the top flight to shoot Leicester to the most unlikely of success. Top teams came calling with Arsenal triggering a £22 million release clause only for the striker to turn down the move and sign a new contract with the Foxes.
Youri Tielemans was another gamble that has paid off for Leicester ten fold. Having shone at Anderlecht in the Belgian League, Tielemans struggled at French Ligue One side Monaco, leading to a loan move to Leicester at the beginning of the year. Having impressed in the final months of last season, Leicester wasted no time in snapping up the 22-year-old midfielder for £40 million in the summer.
So far this season the Belgian midfielder has 3 goals and 3 assists in 12 games and with Man City’s 3-1 collapse against Liverpool on Sunday, Brendan Rodgers men, with Vardy and Tielemans being pivotal pieces, now sit in second place behind his former club and have become the best hope for the Rebel Alliance (Everyone) against the Galactic Empire (Liverpool) in the race for the Premier League.