“Doing a Leicester City” is already a phrase that’s made its way into general soccer parlance. The meaning of the term, of course, is for a team that’s beyond the established elite to propel themselves to a position in the table that few would have anticipated they’re capable off.
It’s fair to say an overwhelming majority of soccer supporters from all walks of life have enjoyed the Foxes’ run to the summit of the Premier League table. And they’ll be wondering whether their own team is capable of producing something similar.
After all, many considered the top four spots in the division this season to be locked by the league’s juggernauts such as Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea, with Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Southampton and Everton clinging on gamely, but ultimately looking to notch a space in Europe for the following term.
But Leicester, first through anarchic, end-to-end soccer and more recently through professional, measured displays, have obliterated any notion the top spot, never mind the top four, is an exclusive party.
And it begs the question, are Claudio Ranieri’s men trailblazers for the rest of the Premier League’s unfashionable soccer clubs? Or are they an anomaly in what has been, and will continue to be, a long run of expected winners of English soccer’s top flight?
There’ll certainly be more teams, owners and fans who believe they’re capable of exceeding their general expectations in 2016-17.
So often we’ve seen modest outfits rock up at venues like the Emirates Stadium, the Etihad Stadium, Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge with a containment plan but little conviction that it’ll work. Perhaps next season, after seeing Leicester mix it with the elite, that’ll change. It doesn’t take much to shatter the fear factor, which can accompany a team, as those names aforementioned have discover.
It’s easier to show boosted ambition when a mid-table club finds itself with a greater standard of footballer at their disposal too. And standards are being lifted throughout the Premier League.
West Ham United, for example, were able to lure Dimitri Payet to Upton Park this season, while Stoke City stunned plenty when they captured Xherdan Shaqiri in the summer. Meanwhile, the likes of Everton and West Bromwich Albion have been able to hold on to their best young talent despite the major players hitching up their skirt in their direction.
There are sides in the middle and lower reaches of the table that’ll be in an even better position to ensure they have a brilliant squad next term too. After all, the coffers will be boosted by a money-spinning television deal; it means any potential Leicesters-in-waiting can cultivate quality, able to lure new players and sate current ones with lucrative promises.
Of course, being flush isn’t enough. Savvy work in the window needs to be supplemented. That’s something Claudio Ranieri has done wonderfully with this Foxes side. Cohesion, incisive movement through phases, exceptional work-rate; they’re facets which have taken this season’s overachieving sides far, including the Foxes, Hammers and Spurs too.
As is often the case in the Premier League, these trends will catch on. And while the talent of players is naturally vital to prosper, this term, for the successful side, a greater emphasis has been placed on structure and solidity. Overall, these traits may not be too prevalent in the division this term, although you can bet when it comes to August, there’ll be many getting on board.
Plus, sterner organization and a greater appetite to work hard shouldn’t be that difficult to instill; some managers have been dining out on that ability for years. Provided that’s supplemented with the inevitable influx in talent aforementioned, the platform is there for more teams to surprise.
History would suggest this monumental effort from Leicester is a one off. After all, provided the Foxes do get over the line, there’s not been as big a surprise in the top flight since Brian Clough’s promoted Nottingham Forest side won the title in 1977-78, before going on to win back-to-back European Cups.
The Premier League behemoths aren’t going to sit back and watch the chasing pack close the gap either.
Already Chelsea and Manchester City have reacted by going out and getting in elite managers in Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, respectively. Liverpool, meanwhile, will only grow stronger under Jurgen Klopp, while speculation continues to bubble when it comes to Jose Mourinho and Manchester United.
But there are factors falling in line that will make matters much more open in the years to come in the top flight. That’s something that supporters should greet with excitement too, not apprehension.
Having long viewed big spending as the solution to a lot of problems which teams face in English soccer, sides are starting to get creative. Top players will still come in this summer, but clubs further down the ladder are intertwining class with other traits that have fallen out of fashion down the years. It’s been remembered that astute coaching, confidence in methods and a dose of ambition can be a leveler.
Leicester have shown that emphatically this season and served as a reminder of what can be achieved when a side executes the fundamentals of the game with consistency. It’s a blueprint that will be inevitably adopted and given how the face of the Premier League is set to change in years to come, something that can help galvanize a division which had started to grow stale.
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