Can Leicester City pull off a Premier League top four finish?

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There have been some big talking points already in the Premier League this season with high profile managerial changes, Chelsea’s out of character start, the race for the title and who will survive relegation; but it is Leicester City’s remarkable start to the season which has got everyone talking.

If you go back one year to November 2014, it was Leicester City who were propping up the foot of the Premier League table. Things didn’t get much better for them come the end of March and they looked like strong contenders to be heading straight back down to The Championship. Nevertheless they managed to pull off the great escape from April to the end of the season winning seven out of their last nine games to retain their Premier League status.

Fast forward to today and with a third of the Premier League season having now pasted after last weekend’s fixtures it is Leicester City that are sitting pretty at the top of the table. They are currently one point above Manchester United, who incidentally they will come up against at the King Power Stadium this coming Saturday evening.

A lot of their impressive results have been down to the remarkable scoring heroics of England’s Jamie Vardy, who has now scored in a record 10 consecutive Premier League matches. In doing so Vardy has matched the feat of Ruud Van Nistelrooy set in August 2003 and will be hoping to go at least one better and beat the record against the Dutchman’s former club, Manchester United on Saturday.

There has been some talk of whether Leicester City can continue this rich vein of form and manage to break into the top four come the end of the season. A lot of this has come with their impressive points tally since April 4th 2015 having amassed 50 points, more than Manchester City’s 44, Arsenal’s 41 and Manchester United’s 38, respectively. An impressive feat nonetheless but it remains to be seen whether they can continue this over the course of a season rather than a calendar year.

It is a very hard task to break into the top four as some of the so called bigger teams in Tottenham Hotspur and Everton have found out in recent times and therefore feel that Leicester will tail off from the top sooner or later. Some surprise packages have had a go, namely Newcastle United and Southampton but ultimately ended up falling short. In the 2011/12 season Newcastle had been performing admirably under Alan Pardew but eventually finished in 5th place and Southampton under Ronald Koeman also failed to convert and finished 7th last season, both securing a place in the Europa League qualifying stages instead.

It often takes a lot of experience, knockbacks and determination to get the job done in the Premier League as it is a long gruelling season. I believe that you need a couple of attempts and close calls to be able to withstand the pressure when it really matters before eventually succeeding. Leicester just don’t have that near miss experience with fighting for the top four let alone Europa League places, which helps to make teams stronger. Just look at West Ham Untied last year, at Christmas they were in the top four after a fantastic first five months, but once the pressure started to be applied and it meaning much more they were terrible for the rest of the campaign eventually finishing 12th, a respectable position nonetheless for the club.

The scoring heroics of Jamie Vardy will eventually dry up as it does with every single striker and it just so happens that Vardy has hit his excellent ‘purple patch’ early on. It will then be up to the rest of the squad to chip in with the goals which Riyad Mahrez has been doing with his seven to date, but after that the next highest is Shinji Okazaki on just the two Premier League goals. All successful teams’ needs a good flow of goals from all over the pitch and to keep clean sheets, which Leicester haven’t been able to do so far this season. Leicester have only managed to keep two clean sheets thus far compared to the other top four teams who’ve accumulated 21 between them, with 8 from Manchester United, Manchester City with 7 and Arsenal with 6, respectively.

It will be Leicester City’s next six fixtures which will give them a real indication of where they will likely finish the season as they face a lot tougher opposition, including five of last year’s top eight. This sequence of fixtures includes Manchester United (H), Swansea (A), Chelsea (H), Everton (A), Liverpool (A) and Manchester City (H) to take them to the end of 2015.

They have already faced the remaining teams of last year’s top eight, having drawn 1-1 at home to Tottenham, losing 5-2 at home to Arsenal and drawing 2-2 away to Southampton. Although they hadn’t won in these three fixtures they did pick up some valuable points against some tough teams, they just need to one better and pick up some wins in their next batch of fixtures to really test their capabilities.

Claudio Ranieri has certainly got his players singing from the same hymn sheet and created a good atmosphere – to some extent continued this from the back end of last season – with everyone enjoying their football and producing on the pitch. The manager also treated his squad to pizza after their first clean sheet of the season against Crystal Palace back in October and he’ll be hoping to dish up more in the future.

It remains to be seen how Leicester City’s season will pan out but it is a great story so far and everyone likes an underdog to do well. Breaking into the top four come the end of the season will be extremely tough for them but they should enjoy the ride as I’m sure at the start of the season they would have just been happy to cement their place in the Premier League once again.

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