Reported by Matthew Thomas
The fantastic foxes
Not even the most optimistic Leicester City fan could have predicted the position the foxes now find themselves in. The league table is almost unrecognisable from May of last year where a team devoid of passion and ideas looked almost certain for the drop. Since the last 7 games of the ‘14-‘15 campaign Leicester City have been on an outstanding run of results with their uncomplicated, direct attacking style seems to be perfectly suited to the premier league. Aided in no small part by the record breaking goal scoring of Jamie Vardy, Leicester are a formidable opponent home or away. The only mitigating circumstance for their atmospheric rise is the form of some of the big teams around them. Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United look almost incapable of finding the back of the net, Chelsea are in meltdown, Arsenal have an injury list longer than the M25 and Manchester city remain hugely inconsistent.
The Champions crumble
In almost complete contrast, last year’s champions Chelsea are in complete disarray. Having not lost to a promoted team in 43 games at Stamford Bridge, defeat to Bournemouth was a new low for Jose Mourinho’s side that now languish in 14th place with almost no hope of European football next season. Not only would this result in a huge loss of revenue but it might also tempt some of Chelsea’s young stars away from the club. Can even the “special one” hope to keep the likes of Edin Hazard from the clutches of Real Madrid and PSG without the promise of the champions league football next season? Only time will tell. This campaign will also represent the first real failure for Jose Mourinho and will Chelsea’s impatient owner give him the time to rectify an ageing squad who look anything but united at the moment? The next two games will begin to define their season. A must win game with Dynamo Kviv in the Champions League followed by a visit to high flying Leicester may well decide Jose’s fate.
The Klopp factor
Since the departure of Raphael Benitez in 2010 many Liverpool fans have been looking for the calibre of manager to bring back the European success he delivered along with a first league title in over twenty years. Hodgson, Dalglish and Rodgers all promised much, spent even more but ultimately came up short. Jurgen Klopp arrives on Merseyside with a fantastic reputation from Borussia Dortmund but have we been here before with Liverpool? After a stunning performance in midweek against Southampton in the league cup pundits were starting to talk of Liverpool as possible title contenders but expectations have been bought swiftly back down to earth with a humbling defeat away at struggling Newcastle. The new manager seems intent on an incredibly high intensity, high pressing game which is so in vogue at the moment. But without careful rotation his squad players will tire quickly or pick up injuries along the way. Klopp seemed to tinker with the starting line-up too much against Newcastle. Choosing to leave the in-form Origi and Sturridge on the bench cost Liverpool dearly on a night when they would have been looking to close the gap on 4th place Manchester United.
The toothless Red Devils
Louis Van Gaal has certainly installed a disciplined defensive structure at Manchester United. The tightest back-line in the Premier League has only conceded 10 goals all season. With two holding midfielders screening the centre halves at all times the manager has made his intentions very clear. Unfortunately a large portion of United’s fans at totally at odds with this approach as it limits the teams attacking options. Previous teams under Sir Alex Ferguson always had a cavalier approach, they always attacked with pace and width. This seems in almost polar opposite to the football being played at Old Trafford at the moment. There are some mitigating circumstances. LVG is not helped by the dwindling influence of Wayne Rooney or the immaturity of the likes of youngsters Depay and Martial who still have a lot to learn. Somehow the United manager needs to find a better balance between attack and defence if he intends to bring trophies back to a club for which success has become so accustomed. He need look no further than the success Claudio Ranieri’s table toppers have had by attacking with pace and committing men forward. Whilst United seem intent on winning the title in the most boring fashion possible, the league season itself remains anything but.