How Leicester City's Class of 2019 compare to their title-winning legends

John Percy
The Telegraph
Jamie Vardy is displaying the same goal-scoring prowess he showed back in 2016 - Action Images via Reuters
Jamie Vardy is displaying the same goal-scoring prowess he showed back in 2016 - Action Images via Reuters

On Sunday, Leicester recorded a club-record eighth successive Premier League victory. It was also the eighth straight game that Jamie Vardy found the back of the net.

The Foxes arerolling the clock back four years with another title challenge. So, how does this team compare to Claudio Ranieri's immortals?

Scroll to continue with content
Ad

Defence

Leicester’s title-winning back line in 2016 was a curiosity. In the first half of that season, they conceded 25 goals - only eight clubs let in more in the same period - before the taps were turned off after Christmas, when they let in just 11.

This term, in contrast, Leicester have been watertight from the off. No team have conceded fewer than their 10 goals, and the £85 million sale of Harry Maguire to Manchester United has barely caused a ripple, with first-choice centre-backs Jonny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu underlining their class.

Robert Huth, a key member of Leicester’s title-winning squad in 2015-2016 and who established a rock-solid partnership with Wes Morgan in that season, is frank enough to acknowledge the differences.

<span>Jonny Evans (right) and Caglar Soyuncu (left) have developed into one of the best centre-back pairings in the Premier League</span> <span>Credit: ap </span>
Jonny Evans (right) and Caglar Soyuncu (left) have developed into one of the best centre-back pairings in the Premier League Credit: ap

He told Telegraph Sport: “They are definitely faster than me and Wes! But what I like about those two is they can do both - they are really good defenders first of all but they can bring something else to the game by stepping into midfield, finding the pass and playing a higher line.”

The two full-backs, the bafflingly under-rated Ricardo Pereira and England’s Ben Chilwell, are rivalling Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson as the league’s best. They are given license to raid forward by Brednan Rodgers but have the pace to recover if any team breaks on the counter-attack.

And it would be remiss to not mention Kasper Schmeichel - a stalwart of Claudio Ranieri’s side and who appears to be getting better with age.

Attack

There is one striking similarity between the title winning side and this Rodgers team - Jamie Vardy cannot stop scoring.

He has found the net in eight successive games and is threatening to equal or even break his own record from 2015, when he scored in 11 matches in a row.

Vardy will be 33 in January but has lost none of his pace, pest-like qualities and love of “rustling”: he has now scored 25 Premier League goals since the appointment of Rodgers and is revitalised since the dismissal of Claude Puel.

<span>Jamie Vardy has now scored 25 Premier League goals since the appointment of Brendan Rodgers</span> <span>Credit: reuters </span>
Jamie Vardy has now scored 25 Premier League goals since the appointment of Brendan Rodgers Credit: reuters

Leicester’s wingers are also crucial, with Harvey Barnes, Ayoze Perez, Marc Albrighton and Demarai Gray all fighting for the two spots, but Rodgers recently insisted they need to score more goals.

At this stage it seems unlikely that one of Leicester’s class of 2019 will emerge as a serious rival to Riyad Mahrez in their title season, when the Algerian’s 17 goals eased the burden on Vardy. This year, only James Maddison looks in serious danger of reaching double figures with Vardy in the league.

Tactics and style

Leicester won the league three years ago with a simple yet devastatingly effective 4-4-2 system, with the key tweak coming a few months in when Claudio Ranieri moved summer signing N’Golo Kante into central midfield.

Under Ranieri, Leicester were very low in the possession stats and the whole game was based around rapidly moving the ball up the field, towards Vardy or Riyad Mahrez.

Rodgers has adopted a high-tempo, pressing approach where possession of the ball is king. The intent is to start games quickly, and passing accuracy statistics are noticeably up since his arrival.

He has favoured a 4-1-4-1 formation in most games, using Wilfred Ndidi as the pivot in front of the back-four. Against Villa on Sunday he utilised a diamond formation, which proved hugely effective with 23 shots and four goals.

“Having tactical flexibility is so important,” said Rodgers. “The style will always stay the same - how we want to build the game - but having that ability to give teams different problems is how we want to work.”

Mentality

Leicester have scored some crucial late goals this season, and are clearly benefiting from Rodgers’ training methods.

Periodisation, as it is known, is essentially a form of training in four phases - attack, defence and the transitions in between. The emphasis is on shorter, sharper sessions and the workload usually decreases nearer to matchday.

“When I watch Leicester now it’s just incredible, with the energy and pressing,” said Huth, who is studying for a degree in Sporting Directorship at Salford University post-retirement. “I can’t believe I played the same game as these guys, it’s definitely a young man’s sport now.

“If you watch them, they get to 75 minutes and whereas other teams suffer from fatigue, Leicester just keep going. Against Villa on Sunday they could have scored three more goals in the last 10 minutes.

“To have that fitness, with the skill they already have, makes them a very difficult opponent to play against. It’s awesome to watch and I’m absolutely loving it. They are literally the opposite to the title-winning team, in terms of style, age and the way they play.”

Manager

Ranieri was a totemic figure for Leicester in their title-winning season, with a charisma and charm that won supporters across the land and diluted the pressure on his players.

Rodgers will never come up with an equivalent to “dilly-ding, dilly-dong” but he has been no less of a revelation since leaving Celtic in February.

Only Liverpool and Manchester City have amassed more points and the change in mood around the King Power Stadium is striking.

He signed a new £8m-a-year contract last week and appears on course to return Leicester to the Champions League. His backroom staff, including Chris Davies and Kolo Toure, are crucial while the sports science and physio team are also key, but Rodgers is the man driving the revolution.

<span>Brendan Rodgers' backroom staff are crucial to the club's success</span> <span>Credit: reuters </span>
Brendan Rodgers' backroom staff are crucial to the club's success Credit: reuters

Jonny Evans, who won the title three times at Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson, said: “He’s got a real positive attitude and I think his experiences of being at Celtic and Liverpool gives us confidence.

“He’s able to relay those experiences and we know he’s not talking rubbish, he can back it all up because we’ve seen it with our own eyes. He gives us clarity and makes it simple. We’ve all really taken to him and he’s made us feel anything is possible.”

It might still be Liverpool’s title to lose, but Huth believes his old club can emulate the achievements of three years ago.

“I seriously think they could win the league, even though Liverpool have a big lead,” he said. “What this makes this even greater is that it’s not a fluke. Eight wins in a row just backs it up. 

“You get bored of people saying it’s lucky - just as we did - but Leicester is a proper club with proper players.”

Premier League table 2019/20 - as it stands

What to read next