Leicester recorded a fabulous 2-1 victory over Tottenham at the weekend to move to third in the table. Even at this early stage with only six matches played, many people are tipping Brendan Rodgers young side to have a great season, but just how far can they go?
The Foxes finished ninth last year in a slightly disappointing campaign that saw Claude Puel lose his job and Rodgers joining from Celtic in February. Since the Northern Irishman arrived in the midlands, things have gone from strength to strength for the former Premier League winners. Jamie Vardy has found the net again on a regular basis, they’ve managed to turn Youri Tielemans loan deal into a permanent one, they’ve pocketed £80 million for Harry Maguire and not missed him, and enjoyed James Maddison impressing more and more with every performance.
Soon after Leicester brought in Rodgers earlier in the year the former Liverpool boss stated:
My ambition when I came in was to get European football for Leicester and to win a cup…part of the challenge here is the top six. We have a smaller budget than the teams in there, but it is still a great challenge. Whenever it comes, that is the ultimate challenge.
Perhaps the opportunity to break the top six has come sooner than even Rodgers could have predicted. The frailties of Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea and United combined with the imperious form and talent on offer from Leicester, have presented a perfect opportunity for the 2015/16 title winners to not only enter the top six, but also reclaim Champions League football that the top four positions offer. Liverpool and Manchester City are streets ahead of everyone else at the moment and the Premier League and Champions League holders will continue to dominate the top two positions for the rest of the season.
However, third place is very much up for grabs and Rodgers should be urging his side to maintain their lofty status for the rest of the campaign.
Last year’s Champions League finalists, Tottenham, were seen by many people as the third best team in the country before the start of the new season. They managed to keep hold of key players such as Christian Erikson, and appeared to strengthen by finally spending big money in the transfer market on Tanguy Ndombele, Ryan Sessegnon and Giovani Lo Celso.
However things have not gone to plan for Mauricio Pochittino’s men though, as losses to Newcastle and Leicester have left them seventh in the table and 10 points behind runaway leaders Liverpool already. The North London club have let two goal leads slip twice already this season, away at Arsenal and Olympiacos.
Captain Harry Kane was frustrated after the draw in Greece:
That’s the hard part to get your head around because we’re not young any more, we’re not inexperienced…I can see why the manager is frustrated because he’s been here for six years now and we’re still making similar mistakes to the ones we were in his first year.
Just when it appeared Spurs had shaken their ‘soft’ label and were making strides to becoming a world-class side, they revert back to old habits. Pochettino’s men will surely improve as the season progresses but how much remains to be seen. Leicester need to capitalise on Tottenham’s generosity, just as they did against them on Saturday, for the entirety on the season.
Manchester United put in an atrocious performance in the first half against West Ham on Sunday. They improved slightly after the break but their disappointing afternoon at the London Stadium was compounded by Marcus Rashford’s injury, meaning they had to finish the match with Daniel James up front.
They are a club in transition and the inconsistent performances and results reflect that. One week they can impress, such as the wins against Chelsea and Leicester, and the next they can make their fans ashamed as the results to Crystal Palace and the Hammers proved. United’s squad is nothing to fear in the present time as they struggle for creativity and goals. Their midfield can be overrun and bullied or picked apart by clever, intricate players. The Red Devil’s campaign will have lots of ups and downs and shock results, if Rodgers can get his side to be consistent then United will offer little resistance to their European football ambitions.
Arsenal and Chelsea may love scoring goals, but they also love conceding them too. Frank Lampard’s side are yet to win at home and have failed to maintain a clean sheet. Unai Emery’s men haven’t been able to keep Premier League opposition at bay since the first game of the season when they met a toothless Newcastle side at St James Park. Finishing third or even fourth may be a step too far for either side if they can’t sort out their defensive woes. Antonio Rudiger will return for Chelsea shortly, as will Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney for the Gunners so there is still hope yet for both London clubs that things will change.
Both of last season’s Europa League finalists look very vulnerable to Leicester’s challenge at this current moment in time though. Rodgers’ men managed a draw at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season and the Foxes were unlucky not to come away with all three points, and if Leicester were to face Arsenal next week you’d be a brave not to back them for at least a point. Leicester appear to have more balance in their side at present with Evans and Soyuncu forming a solid partnership at the back and Ndidi and Tielemans providing a magnificent base for the likes of Vardy and Maddison to attack.
Arsenal and Chelsea will have to shore up their back four whilst not losing any of their attacking threat if they want to finish above Leicester come May.
Brendan Rodgers must be rubbing his hands together after witnessing the problems that Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United have shown in the first six games of the new season. He will know they will all probably improve as the campaign progresses , but without European football to contend with surely there will be no better opportunity for Leicester to break the top six dominance.