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How Leicester City defied the odds to become the unlikliest of champions

Who saw this coming? Image: @LCFC

Who saw this coming? The Leicester squad celebrated at training today. Image: @LCFC

No, it wasn’t a dream, Leicester City have won the Premier League.

Bookmakers have paid out thousands of pounds, grown men have been reduced to tears and the landscape of English football may have changed forever.

On Monday night, Leicester pubs were crammed full of hopeful fans watching Tottenham draw 2-2 with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

The result meant that Tottenham could no longer catch Leicester at the summit of the table.

The news went down fairly well in the East-Midlands…

 

Jubilant fans filled the streets of Leicester on Monday night after the historic victory– and thousands more have since travelled to the city to celebrate.

Shelves in the club shop were even left bare as hundreds of fans rushed to buy mementoes.

Leicester is awash with blue.

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

Such is the fervour for the triumphant team, one street was brought to a standstill as the squad arrived for a celebratory lunch at an Italian restaurant.

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So, how did Leicester end up the toast of world football?

How did they achieve what is being called the greatest ever sporting upset?

LMMN Sports Editor Al Riddell has identified four major factors.

PLAYER RECRUITMENT

To call Leicester’s transfer dealings shrewd is an understatement.

The Leicester squad cost a fraction of the price of most squads in the Premier league, only Bournemouth and Watford spent less on players this season.

The foxes preferred starting eleven cost just £22 million.

In comparison, Manchester City’s team cost £281 million.

They are likely to finish third this season.

This is how much key players cost Leicester City and how much they are likely to be valued at now.

Kasper Schmeichel – Cost: £1.25m    Current value: £9m

Robert Huth – Cost: 3m    Current value: 7m

N’golo Kante – Cost: 5.6m    Current value: £20m

Jamie Vardy – Cost: 1m    Current value: 22m

Riyad Mahrez – Cost: £355,000    Current value: £35m

Riyad Mahrez whips in a freekick. Image: Wikimedia creative commons licence.

Riyad Mahrez whips in a freekick. Image: Wikimedia creative commons licence.

BIG MATCHES, BIG PERFORMANCES

There is often a moment on which a team’s season hinges.

For Leicester there were several.

JANUARY

Defender Robert Huth’s late header in a 1-0 win against Tottenham now looks pivotal, as Spurs went on to be Leicester’s closest rival.

FEBURARY

Leicester’s disposal of Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, with Mahrez displaying all his trademark tricks in a 3-1 victory.

Some said a 2-1 defeat against Arsenal just days later signalled the end of Leicester’s dominance.

They responded by winning four of their next five games.

APRIL

Having surrendered a one-goal lead, Leicester was 2-1 down to West Ham and down to 10 men going into the final minute.

The Foxes were awarded a penalty in the dying seconds, which Leonardo Ulloa dispatched with confidence.

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BIG TEAMS FELL APART

Manchester City and United have both fallen short this season.

United have struggled with injuries and have not yet seemed to gel with the footballing philosophy of manager Louis Van Gaal.

City started the season strongly only to capitulate after the announcement of the departure of manager Manuel Pellegrini, who will leave at the end of the season.

Chelsea’s abysmal start to the season ensured the champions were not in a position to defend their title.

It appeared as though the Premier League title race would be between Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and Ranieri.

Surely, after snatching a last-gasp winner against Leicester at the Emirates, the momentum was with Arsenal and they would go on to win a first Premier League trophy since 2004?

It was no to be.

Arsenal faltered, stuttered and have slipped down to fourth in the league with their Champions League qualification spot under threat.

Tottenham were Leicester's main title rivals. Image: SpurredOn. Noncommercial reuse.

Tottenham were Leicester’s main title rivals. Image: SpurredOn. Noncommercial reuse.

TEAM SPIRIT

Perhaps it is the fact that the Leicester squad is formed of players previously deemed not good enough for the Premier League.

Marc Albrighton was made surplus to requirements at recently relegated Aston Villa.

The winger has gone on to make the joint most appearances for the Foxes this season.

Danny Drinkwater was offloaded by Manchester United in 2012.

The Englishman has been an industrial and influential cog in the Leicester midfield.

Riyad Mahrez alludes to this togetherness, potentially born out of rejection, as ‘the revenge of the barefooted men.’

I like that image. We were not programmed to become professional footballers.
I think we live our lives with a certain form of indifference. With N’Golo, I laugh about it. Our story is impossible, even if nothing is yet done.

 

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