UK, May o3: (AP) Leicester secured its first Premier League title without playing on Monday after second-place Tottenham drew 2-2 at Chelsea.
Leicester was playing in the second tier only two years ago, came close to be relegated again last year and started this season as 5,000-1 outsiders for the title.
Now for the first time in their 132-year history, Leicester is champion of England after establishing an insurmountable seven-point lead over Tottenham with two games remaining.
Team spirit: The seeds of Leicester’s charge to the title were sown at the end of last season, when the team pulled off the greatest escape from relegation ever seen in the Premier League.
Seven wins in their last nine games lifted the Foxes from last place to safety, demonstrating the togetherness and ability in the squad. The team spirit was in place now it just needed a few changes in personnel and, as it would transpire, a change in manager.
Recruitment: Leicester’s recruitment in the 2015-16 off-season proved inspired. The hiring of Claudio Ranieri as a replacement for popular manager Nigel Pearson was heavily criticised at the time mainly because of Ranieri’s woeful recent reign as Greece coach but gave the club arguably the most high-profile coach in its 132-year history.
Ranieri was known as “The Tinkerman” from his time at Chelsea, but was happy to build on the base created by Pearson. Guided by the club’s scouting network, Ranieri oversaw the signings of defenders Robert Huth and Christian Fuchs, midfielder N’Golo Kante and Japanese striker Shinji Okazaki. That quartet has been a mainstay in the team and crucial to its title triumph.
Tactics: Ranieri’s tactics have been a throwback- a basic 4-4-2 formation, defenders who defend, central midfielders who run and run, wingers who stay out wide, and attackers with an eye for goal. Leicester has mastered the art of the counterattack and winning despite a lack of possession. Opponents only started treating Leicester seriously when it was too late and still couldn’t find a way to beat them.
No injuries : Leicester’s players have been remarkably free from injury this season, allowing Ranieri to play his first-choice team most games. Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and captain Wes Morgan, eight other players have played 30 games or more. Consistency in selection meant Leicester’s players have formed a formidable bond and trust.
Sprinkle of stardust
Every title-winning team needs a sprinkle of stardust up front and that has been provided by top scorer Jamie Vardy and star winger Riyad Mahrez. Vardy, who was playing non-league football four seasons ago, became the first player to score in 11 straight Premier League games and has scored 22 league goals this season.
Mahrez has achieved a breakthrough season, with the Algeria winger scoring 17 goals four of them winners and being named Player of the Year by his peers. They are now among the most sought-after players in world football.
Keywords: Premier League title, Leicester, Tottenham vs. Chelsea