The rise and rise of Leicester City

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.

Ankur Thakur, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

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3 April, 2015 – Bottom. Seven points from safety.

3 April, 2016 – Top of EPL. Seven points clear.

These stats in itself explain the unprecedented story of Leicester City’s rise to the everest of English Premier League this year. City’s consistent performance has taken many by surprise. A club which was fighting relegation battle last season is leading the title chase in current season. The peculiar and remarkable rise of Leicester City, the most unlikely of Premier League leaders has been nothing less than phenomenal.

Described by Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, as having ‘something special’ about them, there is no singular reason why a club who were entrenched at the bottom of the table this time last year have been in title-winning form since April. It hasn’t escaped Leicester supporters that Claudio Ranieri’s appointment was greeted among many in the media with the sort of enthusiasm usually reserved for ex-partners at an engagement party. Match of the Day host Gary Lineker, the club’s honorary vice-president and most famous son, famously labelled the former Chelsea boss an “uninspiring choice.” Yet the Italian bit his tongue, bided his time and, most importantly of all, tinkered little. Steve Walsh, Craig Shakespeare and Mike Stowell, the spine of Nigel Pearson’s coaching set-up who helped him to lift both League One and Championship titles, were persuaded to stay, despite the circumstances of their colleague’s dismissal.

Players long forgotten by their previous employers continue to excel also. Danny Drinkwater, outmaneuvering Gökhan Inler as Esteban Cambiasso’s true replacement, has been dominant in midfield while Marc Albrighton and Danny Simpson are different players altogether. The success stories continue with the free transfer of Christian Fuchs, the shrewd signing of Robert Huth and the discovery of N’Golo Kanté.

Astute scouting is fused effortlessly with an inherent trust in the Category One academy, previously overseen by director of football Jon Rudkin – an important figure in the decision to hire Ranieri in July. Jeff Schlupp and Andy King, full internationals for Ghana and Wales respectively, came through the youth ranks and now often keep big-money additions Andrej Kramarić, Shinji Okazaki and Inler on the bench.

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the Thai owner who was mocked in 2014 for revealing he wanted the Foxes to become a top-five side in three years, keeps his distance from team affairs. After effectively wiping out £103m of debt and buying the King Power Stadium outright since purchasing the club, Leicester’s pre-promotion value skyrocketed from the £39m he paid Milan Mandarić five years ago to upwards of £100m.

Leicester may well be on the verge of winning the title this season, but the big spending clubs will come hard on it and will try to regain their elite statuses back. How do foxes cope with up that challenge needs to be seen in the coming years. Nevertheless, the foundations are in place to facilitate for higher ambitions.

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