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    Leicester City: The juggernaut that just won’t stop (and here's why)

    Second in the table, over half of the season gone and not a drop in form in sight. Pundits and fans (including yours truly) from all sides of the aisle have been falling over each other to predict at which point they will start to fail, when the fairytale will inevitably begin to fade and reality will return. Let’s be honest, not even Gary Lineker thought it would go this far (unless he actually harbours a burning desire to do Match of the Day in his underwear).

    However, there they are. Leicester City. Second place in the Premier League, kept off top spot by goal difference alone. They don’t have the money of Manchester City or the outstanding technical ability of Arsenal. They don’t have a multi-trophy-winning manager, their record signing is £9 million, they have few regular internationals and their only player with experience of the very highest level, Esteban Cambiasso, left for a free in the summer. Yet Claudio Ranieri has set his team the target of 79 points for the season (league titles have been won with less) which demonstrates just how seriously he is taking their title bid. It’s time we all started taking it very seriously too.

    Having watched Leicester City several times this season, what strikes you almost immediately is not only well-organised they are, but also how they are entirely set up to play to their strengths. Defensive stability is to be expected of a team drilled by an experienced Italian manager but they rarely look like they will concede. Every player knows his job within the team. The forward line harry and harass the midfield, ensuring that the opposition have to work for every single pass. Beyond them lie two immovable banks of four, with the colossal Wes Morgan and Robert Huth representing human monoliths in the centre of the defence. The brilliance is also in its efficiency; by setting a solid base, working as a unit and making the opposition come to them and play in their areas, they conserve energy that can then be harnessed for breathtaking and clinical counter-attacks.

    Wednesday night’s victory at White Hart Lane saw the epitome of this tactical setup. Happy to concede possession to Tottenham and allow them to set up camp in their half for almost the entirety of second period, it became apparent that the longer it stayed at 0-0, the less likely Tottenham were to score. Footballing convention dictates that a team who has been under siege for nearly a whole 45 minutes is the more tired; however it was Leicester who had the energy and desire to burst up the other end of the pitch and score a last-minute winner. It’s also important to mention that by no means did Spurs play badly - the performance was more than enough to beat most Premier League teams.

    The genius of Ranieri has been in not interfering with the foundations left by Nigel Pearson; of keeping the squad together with a couple of additions here and there, and instead using his considerable tactical nous to develop a consistent winning formula. However, as well-drilled as they are, what they also have going for them is the sort of stuff money can’t buy. You can train players in the most cutting-edge tactics and assemble the most expensive squad in history, but you can’t buy the self-belief, togetherness and sense of collective responsibility Leicester possess. It is these mental strengths that enable them to enforce Ranieri’s tactics to such amazing effort. It is tangible that not only do they want to win more than anything else, but they truly believe that they can.

    It is always commented that Jose Mourinho’s teams possess this mental togetherness and how this gives them an edge. They aren’t always the most talented squads either (think Internazionale 2010). So why aren’t we serious about Leicester’s title ambitions? Yes, they’ll need luck, to stay injury-free and results to go their way but frankly, given the wonderfully refreshing, entertaining and honest football they’re playing, long may the juggernaut roll on.
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    Item Reviewed: Leicester City: The juggernaut that just won’t stop (and here's why) Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Jamie Morris
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