Why Leicester City Can and Will Return to Europe This Season

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It is a real spectacle to witness a football match with nine goals, even greater still, is that all nine come from one team. This is no mean feat, and is something that Leicester City broke records by doing as the away side on Friday night. With St. Mary’s the setting for their rampant victory, the Foxes routed Southampton 9-0, placing them third in the Premier League. Now, with players and fans all on cloud nine, Leicester seem all the more capable of pushing for Europe.

Leicester City Can and Will Return to Europe This Season

A Lethal Attack

Of course, there is no more suitable platform for praise of such a routing than Leicester’s attack. After the 9-0 victory, Brendan Rodgers’ side have scored more goals than any team in the league bar Manchester City. Jamie Vardy, potent as he was in their title-winning season, is top of the goal-scoring charts, with nine goals.

While Vardy has contributed 36% of Leicester’s goals (25), he is not the sole provider. The match against Southampton showcased a side with goal-scoring creativity to spare; Ayoze PĂ©rez, unspectacular so far in his debut season for Leicester, scored a hat-trick, his first goals for the club. Evidently, it is harder for him to replicate his Newcastle United form from the wing, but the ability is there for all to see.

Even the midfielders got in on the act too; Youri Tielemans bagged his fourth goal of the season. After creating the most chances in the Premier League last year, you would always expect James Maddison to be a menace. That still holds true, with the attacker also boasting three league goals. If Rodgers can keep the creativity flowing in the final third, Leicester can push for Europe; he certainly has the players to do so.

The Perfect Blend of Youth and Experience

The Leicester starting eleven on Friday featured two of their mainstays during their title run; Kasper Schmeichel and Jamie Vardy. A further two featured on the bench, Wes Morgan and Marc Albrighton. Over the years since that incredible run, Leicester’s side has evolved like any football team would. But, as the team seems to have improved, its average age has also dropped. The average age of the starting eleven against Southampton (26 years) was lower than the youngest side Claudio Ranieri produced in 2015/16 (27 years). While maintaining an experienced core, with club captain Kasper Schmeichel remaining, the club’s recruitment has focused on younger players with potential.

The Foxes’ defence is a prime example of this; Schmeichel (32) and Jonny Evans (31) balance with Caglar Soyuncu (23) and Ben Chilwell (22). This defence deserves high praise for keeping a clean sheet at Southampton, it can be easy to lose concentration with such a large lead. Many thought their defensive core would be significantly weakened after selling Harry Maguire, but Leicester’s persistence with youth is certainly comendable. They have even conceded fewer goals this year (8) than they had after ten games last season (16)

Even players seemingly on the fringes beforehand are stepping up; Harvey Barnes, on loan at West Bromwich Albion last year, has shone in his last two games, grabbing three assists. His delivery from the wide areas could be deadly in Leicester City’s push for Europe.

Division of the ‘Top-Six’ Means Time is Nigh

There is no questioning that this season, the traditional ‘Top-Six’ are significantly weaker than in previous years; while Liverpool and Manchester City soar above their perennial rivals, the other four seemingly remain in transition. Chelsea’s young side are building momentum under Frank Lampard, though competing on three fronts could soon pose a problem. Arsenal are over-reliant on the goals of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. They also have a ropey defence which Leicester could really exploit.

The October/November period is when the league begins to take shape; worryingly, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United are looking up at the European places like two clubs that have lost their way. Neither team seems to be playing for their managers anymore, and such turmoil could be music to the ears of many a Leicester fan.

With Leicester’s young side firing on all cylinders and improving after each setback, this could be a perfect year for them to return to Europe. The match against Arsenal in two weeks time should be a perfect indicator for how ready they are to infiltrate the ‘Top-Six’ come May.


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