Last year, Leicester City Football Club shocked the soccer world by winning the English Premier League in May 2016. They overcame the 5000 to one odds to win the Premier League for the first time in the club’s history.
This underdog story captured the hearts of thousands of fans of not only the premier league, but other leagues around the world as well. But now, halfway through the 2016-2017 Premier League season, last year’s champions are now in a relegation battle.
What happened to the illustrious underdogs and how are they in such a low position in the league table?
Leicester City is currently sitting in 16th place and one point away from the relegation zone.
They’ve only won five games in the Premier League so far, and gained one point from their last 5 games. This is the worst form of any league champion since it’s inception in 1992. There isn’t specific thing that you can pinpoint as the cause of Leicester’s form.
One thing that is agreed on by the majority of the fans of the league is that the English Premier League is one of the most competitive leagues in the world. Every season there are upsets and at any given point any team can look like they can win the league.
Plus, in the past six years, four teams have won the Premier League. Maintaining the form that a championship team had the season before and winning the league two years in a row is incredibly difficult, especially for a small team like Leicester.
Only Manchester United and Chelsea have accomplished that feat. Once you win the league, other teams will start studying the tactics and game styles that championship teams use.
So by the time the next season comes along, the other teams in the league know how to play against the reigning champions. For example, back in 2011, Borussia Dortmund had won the Bundesliga (Germany’s top flight division) for the first time since 2002. They went on to win back-to-back league titles when they won it in 2012.
Since then, they have struggled to regain the league title, and it goes to show that eventually, teams will start to figure out that certain style of play and learn how to use it against championship teams.
Another blow to the reigning champions was when they sold their star midfielder N’Golo Kanté to Chelsea for £30m in the summer of 2016.
Kanté was an integral part of the Leicester squad last year, dominating the midfield in every game he played. This was a shock to Leicester fans, but delighted Chelsea fans as they picked up a star midfielder. Since then, Leicester seem weak in the midfield and lacking the domineering presence that Kanté provided.
Meanwhile, Chelsea is flourishing with Kanté in the midfield and are currently in first place in the Premier league this season with 59 points, nine points clear of second place Tottenham. So it seems pretty clear that even though Leicester has brought in French defensive midfielder Nampalys Mendy to replace Kanté, the void left by him is still haunting them. Even as a Chelsea fan, I would hate to see Leicester get relegated. They’re a great club and even more fantastic to watch. Maybe it’s time for Claudio Ranieri to leave and a new manager to come in or they need to change up their style of play. Either way, I’m hoping that Leicester pulls off an incredible run of form to stay in the Premier League next season.
Luke Stergiou can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org