There’s currently no Premier League football to dig our teeth into. While in isolation, we can look back at a simpler time. Before mass panic and the horror show that has been 2020, there was the 2010’s. One of the most entertaining and positive stories of that decade was Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City winning the Premier League title in the 2015-16 season. Without a doubt, it was one of the greatest underdog stories in the history of sports, not just football.
Interestingly, Leicester City had an up and down decade. The Foxes started the decade in the Championship. After a few decent seasons there, they were promoted to the Premier League. They narrowly avoided relegation in their first season. Then they achieved the highest success by winning the Premier League title in their next season. A disappointing following season saw Claudio Ranieri get sacked in late February after a bad run of performances. A couple of seasons in the midtable followed, and Leicester was back fighting for a Champions League spot as the decade came to an end.
It was a decade filled with the highest of the highs and some pretty low lows. As we examine Leicester’s decade, it’s interesting to see who their top players were during this time. Of course, the quality of players playing for the Foxes ranges from average Championship players to Premier League winning footballers. Their top players mostly came from their Premier League winning season. However, there are other key players during the last decade that shouldn’t be forgotten. So using the two main criteria of impact and consistency, let’s look back at Leicester City’s team of the decade.
Formation: 4-4-2 Diamond. There are many midfielders who needed to make the cut. Therefore, the formation that can fit Leicester’s top players in is the unconventional 4-4-2 diamond.
The goalkeeper position might just be the easiest position to fill on this list for the Leicester City team of the decade. There’s no other viable option than Kasper Schmeichel. The Dane has achieved legend status at the club. Signed from Leeds United for £1.5 million in 2011, Schmeichel has gone on to make over 300 appearances for the club. He saw it all with the club; the mediocre Championship seasons and of course the Premier League triumph. Schmeichel would go on top be a top Premier League goalkeeper at Leicester and still going strong at 33 years of age.
The first centre-half to make the team is another club legend, Wes Morgan. Similar to Schmeichel, Morgan has seen it all at the club. The former Jamaican international was signed from Nottingham Forest in 2012 and is still currently at the team. Morgan’s performances, especially in the title-winning season, were key for the Foxes. At 32 years of age, Morgan, who was relatively unknown to the wider Premier League audience, had a season only a few can dream of.
Morgan is an easy inclusion, however, finding him a partner isn’t easy for the Leicester team of the decade. There aren’t any centre-backs that have had the longevity that Morgan has. In the Championship, many defenders came and went. Looking at their Premier League era there are only two options. Harry Maguire and Robert Huth. Both players made under 100 appearances for the club. While Huth was part of Leicester’s Premier League-winning team, Maguire had a more impressive time during his stint at the club. Maguire played at Leicester for two seasons, earning him a £80 million move to Manchester United. Leicester made a profit of £68 million having only bought him for £3 million from Hull City.
The left-back position is a bit difficult. Paul Konchesky had longevity at the club, however, Christian Fuchs had a much bigger impact. Konchesky was an important part of the Championship-era Leicester side. However, Fuchs’ was an important part of a title-winning Leicester team that sees him narrowly getting the nod here as the left-back for Leicester City team of the decade. Fuchs’ was signed from Schalke in 2015. The Austrian grabbed a starting spot immediately, making him one of the first names on the team sheet.
The right-back position isn’t full of the most inspiring choices. Ritchie De Laet and Danny Simpson are the only two clear options. De Laet played four seasons as the club, while Simpson played five. De Laet wasn’t Dani Alves on the right-hand side but he was more of an attacking presence than Simpson. However, Simpson was known for his good defensive instincts. Simpson made 30 starts during Leicester’s title-winning campaign but was easily the least important part of that starting line-up. De Laet will get the nod over Simpson due to his importance to Leicester during their latter days in the Championship. However, this could really go either way.
The Midfield Three
The midfield three has to start with the inclusion of Andy King. The Welshman was promoted from Leicester’s youth academy into the first team and been on the books ever since. His time has included four different loan spells but Leicester has kept ownership of King throughout his whole career. King’s performances in the Championship is what brought Leicester to the dance. His 15 goal season in 2010-11 along with his 10 goal contributions in the 2012-13 season is the reason why he earned his spot in Leicester’s title-winning team, even if it was just in a bench role. It’s been a solid decade at Leicester City for King.
Next is Danny Drinkwater, an easy inclusion into the team. Drinkwater’s six seasons at the club saw him score 14 goals and assist a further 18 in league play. His midfield partnership with N’golo Kante was a great a yin and yang for the balance of how Ranieri wanted the team to play. It hasn’t been so sunny since Drinkwater left Leicester. However, the Leicester faithful surely won’t forget Drinkwater’s contributions to the club.
Finally, completing the midfield three, it has to be N’golo Kante. Kante only played one season as the club but his impact was unbelievable. Most would even argue that Leicester wouldn’t have won their Premier League title without the Frenchman in their ranks. That statement holds a lot of weight. Kante was the x-factor for the side. His tireless running and gargantuan defensive contributions made the side from a very good team to an excellent team. He didn’t have the longevity for the team compared to other midfielders during the decade. However, it wouldn’t be right leaving Kante out of Leicester’s team of the decade.
Playing above the midfield three is Riyad Mahrez. Mahrez is a natural right winger but for the purposes of this team, he will play in attacking midfield. Mahrez won the PFA Player of the Year while playing for Leicester. He contributed to 28 goals in 37 appearances that year.
In total, he scored 43 goals and assisted 32 goals in league play during his five seasons at the club. This one isn’t even debatable. Despite the manner he exited the club, Mahrez will forever be a legend at the King Power stadium
The Front Two
Let’s start with the easy one. Jamie Vardy is a Leicester legend, and one of the greatest players in the club’s history. Coming from Fleetwood Town in the Conference Premier in 2012 at 25 years old, Vardy’s story is truly remarkable. Eight years later and Vardy has seen himself win a Premier League and Championship title, score in eleven consecutive Premier League games (a record), and finally finds himself at fourth place in Leicester’s all-time scoring charts. An easy choice for the Leicester team of the decade.
Partnering Vardy in the attack is current Preston North-End striker, David Nugent. Nugent spent four years at Leicester from 2011 to 2015. Nugent never made an impact during Leicester’s Premier League era. However, it’s very possible Leicester wouldn’t have been promoted to the Premier League when they did without Nugent’s goals. Nugent scored 49 goals during three years in the Championship. This includes a 20 goal season during the Foxes’ first-place triumph in the Championship. Nugent was a vital cog during the Championship era at the club. His 130 appearances at the time made a big difference for a team that had their sights on promotion to the Premier League.
Chris Weale, Robert Huth, Paul Konchesky, Wilfred Ndidi, Paul Gallagher, Marc Albrighton, Shinji Okazaki