Leicester City Can’t Possibly Win the Premier League Again -- Right?
At the start of the start of the 2015-'16 season, Leicester City was one year removed from being promoted to the Premier League, England's top tier of soccer, and they were an extreme long shot to win the EPL at 5,000-to-1.
To put those odds in perspective, the Cleveland Browns are currently 200-to-1 to win the 2016 Super Bowl.
Leicester took the books and the soccer community by storm and wound up winning the Premier League by 10 points, leading some to call their title the greatest team achievement in sports history.
The Foxes from Leicester enter the 2016-'17 season as the reigning champs, but they are far from the favorites. At 22-to-1 the Foxes, according to the books, enter the season as the seventh-best team, with Manchester City and Manchester United the favorites
Leicester City is the reigning champions of one of the top leagues in Europe, which has to matter for something --- right Chelsea?
The Foxes have not lost a premier league match since February 14, 2016 at Arsenal. The Foxes were leading that match as Jamie Vardy finished a penalty just before half, but 10 minutes into the second half, Leicester’s Danny Simpson was sent off with a red card, and Arsenal managed to net two goals -- the match-winner coming in stoppage time -- to hand Leicester their last loss of the EPL season.
The Foxes have not suffered a full-squad defeat in the Premier League since December 26, 2015, when they lost at Liverpool. Within that stretch, Leicester beat Tottenham and Manchester City, two of last year's title challengers .
|Year||Champions||Wins||Draws||Losses||Goals For||Goals Allowed||Goal Differential||Points||Points Clear of Second|
The table above shows the key stats from the last 10 Premier League winners.
Leicester won the title by 10 points, the second-largest margin of victory in the last decade, but their goal differential was not up to par with typical champions.
With that said, the Foxes were better than every team last season, and as of now, their largest offseason loss has been N'Golo Kantè, who signed with Chelsea -- although Riyad Mahrez may be on his way out, too -- so Leicester should be a major player again this campaign.
The Foxes' defense is still in tact. The back line of Christian Fuchs, Wes Morgan, Robert Huth, and Danny Simpson will all be back, and with Kasper Schmeichel still in goal, the Foxes should look to build on allowing only 36 goals, tied for second fewest in the Premier League last season.
Fall from Glory
The last time the Premier League had a repeat champion, friends were playing “Farmville” on Facebook and singing “Boom Boom Pow” by the Black Eyed Peas. In 2009, Manchester United claimed its third straight Premier League title, topping Liverpool by four points.
Although the Foxes were excellent within their title run, their 81 total points was the second-lowest point total to win the Premier League in the previous 10 seasons. While the defense was stout, Leicester managed to score just 68 goals, which tied for the lowest goals by a champion in that span. This led to the Foxes having the worst goal differential for any champ over the last decade.
Leicester added two key players, Nampalys Mendy and Ahmed Musa, this offseason, and both may end up starting regularly for the squad. Mendy will be the obvious player to replace Kantè in the midfield. The 24-year-old is extremely defensive minded, scoring only 1 goal and assisting on 2 in 38 games during his season last year in France's Ligue 1. Mendy will have to adjust to the play in the notorious physical Premier League if he hopes to help Leicester repeat as champions.
The Foxes' other key addition, Musa, could replace Leonardo Ulloa to pair with Vardy up front. Musa brings a lot of speed and scored 13 goals in the Russian Premier League to help his former squad, CSKA Moscow, win the title. Leicester, looking to add competition and depth to their roster as they add the grind of competing in the Champions League to their schedule, also added defender Luis Hernandez.
Kantè has already jumped ship and signed with Chelsea, who are 6-to-1 to win the title this year after a disappointing title defense last season. Although Mendy will be able to step into Kantè’s position, the question will be, can he adequately replace Kantè?
Kantè was a star for the Foxes last year and solidified the midfield as a key component in front of the back line. Kantè covered the entire pitch for the Foxes and received a 7.61 rating from whoscored.com. Mendy, for comparision, received a 6.84 rating.
Mahrez, one of the Premier League's top players, has yet to confirm where he will play this season. Mahrez has rejected Leicester's extension offer and could be on the move to a new club. Rumors have top European Clubs Arsenal and Chelsea interested in adding the reigning Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year.
The Algerian contributed -- scored or assisted -- on 28 of the Foxes 68 goals and received a 7.84 rating, which was tops in the league. The loss of Mahrez would be a huge blow for the reigning champions, who struggled to score goals even with him in the side.
Champions League Grind
Leicester will compete in the Champions League -- which is reserved for the top finishers from Europe's top leagues -- next season. It will be their first European event since the 2000-'01 UEFA Cup.
Playing in the Champions League is a great privilege, especially for a club such as Leicester, but with that privilege comes an extra grind for the defending Premier League champions. Leicester will have to face the top clubs from all over Europe in occasional midweek matches, as well as dedicating focus and energy to their domestic fixtures on the weekend.
Having squad depth helps with that kind of grind, but Leicester, a smaller club, may struggle with the wear and tear that comes with simultaneously taking part in multiple competitions.
England has not had a team win a double -- lift the trophy in the Champions League and the Premier League -- since Manchester United did it in 2007-'08.
There is a reason why no one has repeated as Premier League title winners since 2009 -- the Premier League is tough and arguably the deepest league in Europe.
Given the way the Foxes won their title a year ago, Leicester City is unlikely to repeat as champions. In comparison to the other Premier League winners, Leicester was a weaker champion in terms of goal differential and win total.
The Foxes benefitted greatly from down years by England's super clubs, some positive luck with penalties and a superb record in one-goal matches. They are unlikely to catch the same breaks this year. Plus, with the addition of Champions League play to the schedule, Leicester's squad depth will be tested in ways it wasn't a year ago, when they were knocked out early in both domestic cup competitions and did not play in the Champions League.
If Mahrez stays, Leicester would do well compete for a coveted top-four spot, which would gain them another entry into the Champions League for the 2017-'18 season, but they would have to defy the odds again to contend for their second straight title. If Mahrez leaves to join another club, the Foxes will likely have a battle on their hands to finish in a Europa League spot (top seven).