“We feel something is happening in England, but we live a little in our bubble,” Riyad Mahrez was quoted as saying by the Guardian on Friday.
“We do not have the best players, nor the biggest budget, but our solidarity compels admiration. We had a bit of luck too. It was this year or never. Until January, we did not think of the title. It has become possible, but we will not let it go to our heads.”
Earlier this month, Mahrez became the first African international to be named the Professional Footballers’ Association’s Player of the Year. His teammates Jamie Vardy and N’Golo Kanté were also included in the PFA shortlist. But Mahrez insisted that nothing has changed in the training grounds.
“We were not programmed to become pros. We live with some form of carelessness,” he said.
Will the bubble burst?
The fairy tale rise of one of the English Premier League’s most “least fancy” teams in England seems not to have come to an end as Leicester whipped Swansea City 4-0 last weekend, and kept Manchester United at bay on May Day, to move closer to winning the title after Tottenham Hotspur failed to beat West Brom last Monday.
With three matches left to the conclusion of the league, the Foxes have shown that they are champions and other EPL teams would need nothing less than a miracle or mathematical injunction to knock the champions from the number one spot.
If Leicester does manage to lift their maiden top-flight title – they’ll go down in history as one of 16 teams to have led a Premier League season for more than 100 days. At present, Claudio Ranieri’s side has been the toast of England for 128 days in total.
Their last game of the campaign is away at Chelsea on May 15 and if they finish that match in first place it will extend their overall tally to 147 days. That figure would put them 14th among eventual Premier League winners’ time at the top of a single campaign. Reigning English champions Chelsea hold the record – with a staggering 274 days.
Beyond winning the elusive Barclay’s Premier League for the first time, there are arguments that Leicester City may fail the test of maintaining this same form against teams like Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool who will be hungry for the title next season.
Besides, with the coming of Pep Guardiola to Manchester City and Antonio Conte to Chelsea, the competition would be strong from all angles. They will be desperate to impress their new owners of their ability to wrestle the league title from the current holders.
It is every players’ dream to play at the highest club in Europe, an opportunity that doesn’t come as often as you might think, a situation which explains why players like Riyad Mahrez, N’Golo Kanté, Jamie Vardy, Kasper Schmeichel and Shinji Okazaki would be delighted to move to Paris Saint Germain, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Manchester United, Juventus or more at the end of the season.
When a smaller club produces good displays in one season due to good performances of some players on the team, the big money clubs come in like a hungry pack of wolves and take away the best players from that team.
One recent example can be found in Southampton. They had a brilliant season from 2013-2014 and teams like Liverpool and Manchester United have picked up their best players since then. The likes of Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, Nathaniel Clyne, Morgan Schneiderlin etc. were all good performers of that Southampton team from the 2013-14 season.
More so, Leicester’s biggest asset this season has been their ability to avoid injuries. The backbone of their team has started almost all of their League games (Vardy, Mahrez, Drinkwater, Kanté, Morgan, Hugh, Fuchs, Simpson, Schmeichel). The fact that they were out of the cup games early in the season has helped their cause.
Considering the fact that they’ll have to participate in the Champions League next season, and play with a weakened team due to sale of their important players to bigger clubs and a normal injury list, it’s hard to see Leicester continue their good form.
The board could capitalize on the profits made from the title (they are most likely going to win it), TV rights, and UEFA Champions League place to strengthen the team without letting go of their most valuable players. Send out scouts once more to unearth hidden gems again like Kanté, Mahrez and co. as well as provide cover because of their congested fixture schedule of UEFA Champions League, English Premier League, FA Cup and Carling Cup. If they can do this effectively, then Leicester City can become a strong premier league side.
If the Foxes can’t handle the pressure of being winners and competing in Europe, or players lose motivation and start dreaming of playing for the likes of Chelsea instead of concentrating on their game and their current club, they may have a relegation battle on their hands once again.