With new talent dormant until this season, a miracle on could be brewing for Leicester City


Alden Glass


While the Barclay’s Premier League has been gaining popularity in the United States in the past decade, teams like Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion have yet to become house hold names. A year ago, the same could be said for Leicester City. In January of 2015, they were rooted to the bottom of the Premier League with relegation to the dreaded second division looming. Yet, after new coach Claudio Ranieri and some new signings were added in the summer, Leicester City find themselves in first place ahead of perennial powerhouses like Manchester United and Arsenal. How could a team that was given 5000 to 1 odds at winning the league back in August, find themselves in prime position to do exactly that?

Leicester’s rise to the top of the league has coincided with the emergence of two superstar players on their roster, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez. After a meager five goal haul in 2014-15, Jamie Vardy has set the league alight with 19 goals already this season. This includes a record breaking goal scoring streak in which he scored in 11 straight premier league games. Vardy is not a flashy player like Ronaldinho or Neymar who can dazzle with foot skills or tricks. He is a traditional British forward, strong, fast and opportunistic. He often disappears from games entirely until he rises above his defender, stretches a leg past an opponent or unleashes a fearsome volley to score. It is his ability to score out of nowhere that has carried Leicester City to such grand heights. While Vardy encapsulates the hard work and grit needed to win trophies, it is Riyad Mahrez that provides the spark and flair. After a similarly modest 2014-15 season, Mahrez has exploded onto the scene with a career best 14 goals from midfield. His ability to win games by himself is evidenced by the fantastic solo goal he scored to secure their signature win over Chelsea earlier this season.

Soccer is a team sport, and Leicester City are much more than these two superstars. Ranieri has built up a supporting cast mixing long standing club stalwarts like Danny Drinkwater and Kasper Schmeichel with new foreign stars like N’Golo Kante and Shinji Okazaki. The common theme that runs throughout the roster is an ethic of hard work. Each and every game is a battle in which the team defends and attacks as a whole. The team spirit is obvious with the excitement shown after every goal scored and the determination to fight back after every goal conceded.  The offensive firepower of Mahrez and Vardy is matched by the determined defending of center halves Wes Morgan and Robert Huth who have only conceded 29 goals this season.

The real question now is can they finish off the season in this crucial spring period? To compare their 5000 to 1 odds to win the league with American sports gives an insight into how miraculous this season has been. According to the International Business Times, as of Feb. 29, the Utah Jazz are 500 to 1 to win the NBA Championship in 2016. It is absolute insanity to say the Jazz could beat the Warriors, Cavaliers, Clippers, or Spurs to the top prize, yet their odds are ten times higher than Leicester’s were at the beginning of their season. Imagine, going into the NFL playoffs, the Miami Dolphins had the best record in the league. No, to be more realistic, it would have been the Miami Dolphin’s reserve squad rising to the top of the NFL. That is how unprecedented Leicester’s season has been.

So if you haven’t tuned in yet this season, now might be the time. With 11 games to go, the greatest upset in history is well under way.