It isn’t often that the Barclays Premier League experiences any underdog surprises, with only five of its 20 teams having claimed the title since the league’s inception. The league is notoriously difficult to navigate without the proper players, manager and funds, which is a major reason for the lack of lower-tier teams among past champions. Clubs such as Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United, having claimed victory after victory throughout their histories, practically swim in money, with the best players in the world continuously seeking out a spot on the squad. Fans have come to expect the same outcomes every year despite the best efforts of lower tier teams, so the fact that Leicester City F.C. has led the league since the opening week has shocked the entire fabric of football.
Leicester City, also known as the Foxes, is a relatively small club based in the heart of England. The club, having been promoted into the top league of English football just two years ago, was founded all the way back in 1884, making its historical run all the more special. Under the leadership of Italian manager Claudio Ranieri, Leicester has survived contest after contest in what is arguably the most brutal league in the world. Many skeptics saw the team’s early success as nothing more than luck, expecting it to soon fall back to the middle table, but the Foxes currently hold a five point lead over the equally-as-surprising Tottenham Hotspur. Leicester has lost only three games throughout the season, with two of these losses coming from a disappointing Arsenal squad. The remaining schedule favors the Foxes, who are now expected to finish within the top four, a finish that will guarantee them a place in the UEFA Champions League.
One of the main reasons for Leicester’s success has been its scrappy play and lineup. Most of the team’s members have stayed with the club since before its promotion into the top league, and many of them have worked their way up from the lower rungs of English football. The team’s frontman, 29-year-old Jamie Vardy, who was a factory worker back in 2005, began his career in the eighth tier Northern Premier League before working his way up to his position on Leicester City. Vardy now finds himself leading the league in scoring, a feat which seemed entirely impossible at the beginning of the year, considering the amount of world class strikers that compete in the Premier League. Vardy’s main help comes from Riyad Mahrez, Leicester’s other striker. The pair has combined to score more goals than this season than some Premier League clubs.
The Foxes are only the 33rd team in the league’s history to score 32 points in just 15 games, and they continue to seek the top place as the season comes to a close. If this trend of success continues, Leicester will be the first team to win since the inception of the league besides the other five teams that have maintained a vice grip on the league championship. The last team to surprise the league was Nottingham Forest back in the 1970s, a club that failed to maintain its form as top clubs began to accumulate the best players and the most money. For Leicester to avoid the same fate, the club will need to maintain the core squad that has propelled it to a historical run. With Vardy now signed on for another seven years, the future looks bright for an underdog club that has taken the league by storm.