In the middle of February nobody could have truly predicted that Leicester City, I repeat Leicester City, would be sitting handsomely at the summit of the Barclay’s Premier League. After an incredible demolition job over Manchester City last time out the Foxes now have a five point cushion over Spurs and Arsenal. Entering Europe’s elite competition, which now seems an inevitability, would be remarkable but winning the championship would be one of the greatest stories to have ever graced English football. Manager Claudio Raineri has constantly urged his team, 12 months a go on the verge of relegation, to keep their feet on the ground but now even he surely must be thinking about the title. The fact today’s game away to Arsenal is being built-up as a title decider shows how far they have come in such a short space of time. There is absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t be serious title contenders.
If you have watched Leicester play this season then it is calling the copper kettle black a little to say they have an unbelievable worth ethic. However, I can’t help but speak the truth. The solid and compact 4-4-2 formation used in almost every fixture means each player knows their role in the team inside out. If someone vacates their position their is always a team-mate to provide cover and this has been a recurring theme against whatever opposition. They play a fairly high-line and do take risks, but their risks have paid of so often this season so why would they change their playing style now. Clearly everyone at the club is enjoying themselves and their counter-attacking style means entertainment is never in short supply. Whether it be N’Golo Kante driving the team forward with direct runs from deep, or Jamie Vardy chasing down all lost causes when they move from defence to attack with explosive energy it is a joy to watch. Against Liverpool 12 days ago a Barcelona-esque move made them look like title-winners. The squad is not brimming with recognised quality but when you’ve got players performing out of their skin, believing in their ability week in week out anything is possible.
One question commonly asked of title-chasing sides, especially those who are unfavored, is whether they can sustain a push right to the very end. As we approach the business end of the campaign Leicester’s fairytale is showing fewer signs of coming to a close. Their squad is paper-thin when compared to the other tile favourites, so it will be put to the test in next few months. However, they succeeded in their biggest test to date this term, winning 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium. Leicester came with confidence and approached the match like all the rest they have been so dazzling in. Robert Huth, a rock at the back all season alongside Wes Morgan, netted twice with the sensational Riyad Mahrez scoring the other on his weaker foot before a Sergio Augero headed consolation. Given that they won so convincingly you would be foolish to underestimate what this side are capable of achieving come May.
The other tests on the horizon will be tricky to navigate as the pressure is cranked up and expectations rise, but only one game should on paper as tough as one the one they faced last week. And that is this lunchtime’s showdown away at the Emirates with each side having something important to prove. Leicester need to show they are at the top for a reason whereas Arsenal need to show they have the resilience and strength of character needed to be champions. Make no mistake without a Chelsea or a Man United to also compete with this is the Gunner’s best chance of lifting the Premier League since the Invincibles. The Midlanders, with victory today, will open up an eight point gap over Arsenal so it is crucial Arsene Wenger’s side make their home advantage count. Even if Leicester struggle today, they justifiably won’t stop believing.