We all remember Leicester City’s fairytale season which saw them secure the most sensational Premier League title of all time. However, that’s not the success that will be examined in this article. Rather, the reasons for Leicester City’s success this season. Sitting in second place with 39 points in 19 matches means they are one point better than in their 2015/16 season – quite the achievement. An interesting thing is that the success of their title-winning season did not persist in the immediate following seasons. They finished in 12th place in 2016/17, ninth in 2017/18 and 2018/19. Yet now we see a resurgence of Leicester – but why?
Analyzing the Reasons for Leicester City’s Success
Scouting and Winning Mentality
Apart from being crucial to their current success, scouting was also instrumental when it came to Leicester winning the Premier League. A lot of Leicester’s current success rests – perhaps not surprisingly – on the foundation created years ago. The same foundation that won them the league – one that can be traced back to Nigel Pearson’s time at the club. His coaching set-up consisted of Craig Shakespeare, Mike Stowell and Steve Walsh. The latter of the three worked as a scout for Chelsea at the start of the century, helping them recruit the likes of Gianfranco Zola and Tore André Flo. His scouting proficiency persisted when he joined Leicester, helping the Foxes acquire the instrumental Riyad Mahrez, for example.
Many of Leicester’s current players were part of the squad that won the league, even though it’s only Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel who can be considered part of the core of Brendan Rodger’s side. This means a winning mentality is deeply rooted in the club. Experiencing success is a major source of inspiration to achieve it again, especially after failing to replicate their success in subsequent seasons. In a post-match interview after November’s 2-0 win against Arsenal, Jamie Vardy expressed patience and hard work was crucial to win the game. But without failing to point out the long road ahead of them and the need to keep going.
This is strongly indicative of the winning mentality at Leicester. Despite just defeating Arsenal and scoring a goal in the process, he remains humble and disciplined – ey elements of a winning mentality. And with the results Leicester keep reaping in, it is evident this mentality applies to the other players just as much.
Ownership and Management
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the club’s former owner who tragically passed away in 2018, laid the foundation for Leicester’s success. Following his purchase of the King Power Stadium and effectively erasing £103 million of debt, the pre-promotion value of Leicester skyrocketed from £39 million nine years ago to upwards of £100 million in 2015. It is no secret that finances play a considerable role when it comes to success in football and without these monetary improvements, Leicester would not have been able to buy key players.
This coincided with Claudio Ranieri being appointed manager in the early summer of 2015. His tactics no doubt played a huge role in the Foxes’ title-winning season. Ranieri is a flexible coach. He points out there is no such thing as a single winning system. Coaches should rather use tactics they are comfortable with. Leicester played with three men at the back first. Ranieri decided to change that to a four-man defence but was not hesitant to make adjustments when he noticed that wasn’t working either.
He eventually settled on a more attacking approach, with Vardy and Shinji Okazaki up top. “Play like you are jet fighters”, Ranieri told them explicitly. This bravery and flexibility when it came to tactics were instrumental for Leicester to win the title.
However, following Ranieri’s departure, Leicester struggled immensely until Brendan Rodgers was appointed manager. Contrary to Leicester’s previous counter-attacking playstyle, Rodgers utilizes a 4-1-4-1 formation with more emphasis on possession.
So far, the Foxes boast possession of nearly 55%. He understands his players well. It makes sense to advance the other two central midfielders when you have a midfielder like Wilfred Ndidi who practically dominates the midfield on his own. Rodgers puts trust in young players. The likes of Youri Tielemans, Hamza Choudhury, Caglar Soyuncu and Harvey Barnes all feature regularly. His great knowledge of his players and their strengths paired with trust in young players is the main driving factor of Leicester’s success – at least from a coaching perspective.
In conclusion, the reasons for Leicester City’s success cannot be derived from a single factor. But rather a wide variety of them. World-class scouting combined with disciplined and motivated players on top of owners that genuinely care for the club and want it to succeed. A recipe for success. The success of Leicester is no coincidence and it proves smaller clubs also stand a chance at taking major strides forward.