Costa. Coutinho. Kane. Rooney. These are the names that come to mind when thinking about the top players in the Premier League in terms of the impact they have on their teams. One definitely would not expect to hear the names Vardy, Mahrez, Morgan and Schmeichel. And yet, this ragtag group of players has been critical to the success of Leicester City’s season so far.
Few would have expected this scrappy team to be doing so well — so well, in fact, that the Foxes are currently sitting in third place and have only lost one game. Even after last season, when Leicester defied the usual curse of almost immediate relegation for recently promoted teams, nobody thought the Foxes would actually do well.
Brilliant striker Jamie Vardy drives a lot of Leicester City’s success. Vardy currently leads the league in goals scored with 12 so far. He also recently set a single-season record by scoring in nine consecutive games. Vardy trails only Dutch great Ruud van Nistelrooy for the all-time record by one game — van Nistelrooy scored in 10 straight games over the course of two seasons. That isn’t even the most important aspect of Vardy’s game. Just a few years ago, he was playing for a fifth-division club, and now he’s lighting up the top league. One thing is for sure: If you haven’t added Vardy to your fantasy soccer squad yet, you are definitely missing out.
Before you go thinking that Jamie Vardy is Superman, you should know that he gets help from his teammate Riyad Mahrez, who is tied for second in the league in goals. Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel has been superb in the net for the Foxes and would be a worthy addition to any fantasy team.
Leicester’s success is also highly impressive considering that the club changed managers during the summer. Nigel Pearson was sacked due to an increasingly strained relationship between the manager and the club owners. Italian Claudio Ranieri was brought in, and it appears to have made a world of a difference.
Ranieri has consistently emphasized a team-first approach and — most notably — has promised to buy his players pizza if they kept a clean sheet. The manager followed through with this promise after the Foxes defeated Crystal Palace 1-0.
Despite Leicester’s unexpected success, Ranieri continues to be modest and refuses to discuss the possibility of the Foxes qualifying for Champions League. His approach appears to be working. Perhaps Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho could take note?
It is also interesting to note that Leicester City is the most diverse team in the Premier League, boasting 17 different nationalities. This can often cause a problem due to language barriers, but it has not appeared to affect the Foxes in any negative way.
Leicester’s results have not always been pretty. Naysayers would point out that the only top team the Foxes have played so far has been Arsenal, and that ended in a 5-2 defeat. However, the team continues to battle back and turn games around, and the current standings say a great deal. One thing is for sure: The Foxes have proven themselves to be worthy of a spot in the Premier League.
All the leagues go on an international break for the next two weeks, so expect soccer life to be a little dull. But, when the leagues do resume, I suggest checking out the following games.
Manchester City takes on Liverpool on Nov. 21. It seems silly of me to even consider the possibility that this game could end in anything other than a win for City, but a girl can dream. Liverpool has played much better under Jürgen Klopp and the thrilling win against Chelsea has started to rebuild the team’s confidence. I will go out on a limb here and predict that this game will end in a tie.
El Clásico also takes place Nov. 21. It goes without saying that if there is any soccer game worth watching, it is the FC Barcelona-Real Madrid derby. This game likely will not be as exciting as previous ones because Barça star Lionel Messi is still injured, but Luis Suárez and Neymar have proved to be more than capable of carrying the team in his absence. Real Madrid and Barcelona are currently level on points. I would expect this game to be intensely physical, as usual, and to end in a tie.
Vanessa Craige is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. The Beautiful Game appears every other Tuesday.