Tag Archives: Just

What’s going on?! The Leicester City Story

If you don’t know the answer to that question then I think you are an ostrich. Your head must be in the sand. Is your head in the sand? Are you flexible enough to get your head in the sand? My suspicion would be no.

Apoplectic with rambling rage, Nigel Pearson’s Leicester City looked destined for the drop when champions elect Chelsea brought their unexpectedly pleasant run of form to an end, turning the Foxes over 3-1 at the King Power stadium.

Leicester City badge

With just 31 points on the table and four games left to play, Leicester had seemingly turned a corner too late, with their four successive victories before the Chelsea match not enough to escape the drop zone.

10 points in the final four fixtures ensured that not only did they survive, but did so with room to spare, finishing in 14th position, a full four places and six points clear of the dreaded divide.

An amazing escape indeed, but when Pearson was relieved of his duties that Summer, and replaced by an Italian manager widely considered to be a decade and change beyond his prime, the chances of a repeat dose of survival rapidly took a tumble.

How could it feasibly transpire that journeyman manager Claudio Ranieri, with his squad made up of other teams’ cast-offs and a sprinkling of lesser known imports, would be able to retain their top-flight status?

 

Turn the clock forward 12 months; Leicester City are seven points clear at the summit of the Premier League, one win away from what was an inconceivable title win. Players previously considered second rate no-marks have been lighting up the division with their dynamic, incisive play; Leicester are on the brink of becoming champions.

Too unrealistic for a comic strip or movie script, this is a story of 5,000-1 underdogs repeatedly overcoming the odds to besmirch the notion of rational analysis.

Those players who were once decried as mediocre non-entities have found themselves transformed into international stars, recently voted among the elite of Premier League footballing talent by their peers.

 

The Players

Leicester City FC

Kasper Schmeichel
Position: Goalkeeper
Age: 29
2015-16 league games/clean sheets: 35/15

Has marshalled the Foxes’ defence superbly this season in the vein of his father, Peter, during his Manchester United pomp. One of the most gifted ‘keepers in European football, has played every minute of league action for his club side this season.

 

Danny Simpson
Position: Right back
Age: 29
2015-16 league games/goals: 25/0

Simpson has belied his lack of technical prowess with an unwavering spirit and some superb last ditch tackling this term. A reliable, solid full-back who isn’t afraid to get stuck in and take one for the team.

 

Jeff Schlupp
Position: Left back/winger
Age: 23
2015-16: 17/1

Jet-heeled fullback-cum-winger who rejected Germany to play for Ghana. Shlupp’s attacking strength has always been evident, but this season he has cut a much improved defensive figure as part of a rock solid back four.

 

Wes Morgan (Captain)
Position: Centre back
Age: 32
2015-16: 35/1

Club captain and ever present rock at the heart of his side’s defence. Morgan was deservedly selected in the PFA team of the season. At 32 is thriving in the top division after years of shining in the lower leagues.

 

Robert Huth
Position: Centre back
Age: 31
2015-16: 30/3

A German international, Huth has rebuilt his reputation as a tough tackling defender with an eye for goal this season, having forged an excellent partnership with Morgan. £3m Summer signing now looks a snip at that price.

 

Riyad Mahrez
Position: Winger
Age: 25
2015-16: 34/17

The PFA Player of the Year has been scintillating throughout the season, with 17 goals and 11 assists to his name thus far. Linked with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus, it will be a challenge for the Foxes to keep hold of their crown jewel next season.

 

Marc Albrighton
Position: Winger
Age: 26
2015-16: 35/2

An unsung hero, Albrighton has finally showed the creative consistency to begin fulfilling his undoubted potential. Protects his full-backs well, whilst possessing enough offensive prowess to whip in some delightful crosses from the byline.

 

N’Golo Kante
Position: Central Midfield
Age: 25
2015-16: 34/1

The new Claude Makelele? Kante arrived in the Summer as a virtual unknown for the bargain sum of £5.6m. Recently broke the Premier League seasonal record for most successful tackles. Leicester say they won’t stand in the way of him leaving for big money if they can find a replacement – That won’t be as easy as it sounds though.

 

Danny Drinkwater
Position: Central Midfield
Age: 26
2015-16: 29/1

Like so many others in the squad, this has been Drinkwater’s breakout season. Now a full England international, the tenacious midfield man will be hoping to feature for his country at Euro 2016, and is certainly deserving of a spot in the final 23 man squad.

 

Jamie Vardy
Position: Forward
Age: 29
2015-16: 34/22

Having struck just 5 goals in the whole of last season, not a lot was expected of Vardy this term. 22 goals and 6 assists later and he is one of the hottest commodities in the Premier League. A fairytale among fairytales; the talismanic forward was playing non-league football until the age of 25!

 

Shinji Okazaki
Position: Forward
Age: 30
2015-16: 32/5

Japanese forward has added spark to the Foxes’ frontline since arriving from the Bundesliga in the Summer. His insatiable work-rate and selfless movement has allowed space for the likes of Vardy and Mahrez to operate. Has also chipped in with a handful of key goals.

 

Leonardo Ulloa
Position: Forward
Age: 29
2015-16: 27/6

Powerful striker has been used predominantly as a super-sub this term, although he filled in adroitly during Vardy’s recent suspension against Swansea City. Has become a very useful squad alternative to a clutch of diminutive attackers, with his excellent hold up play and aerial ability coming to the fore.

 

Christian Fuchs
Position: Left back
Age: 30
2015-16: 27/0

The experienced Austrian international has proved another transfer market master stroke for the club. Goes about his business without too many frills and spills, fitting in ideally with the high pressing mantra of the rest of his team.

 

Andy King
Position: Midfield
Age: 27
2015-16: 22/1

Youth Academy product continues to flourish as a valuable squad player. Unlikely to start many games with Kante and Drinkwater in such fine form, but the Welshman is a safe pair of boots to cover for his more talented team mates.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Premier League Predictions pt.2

Last weekend’s inaugural edition of Premier League Predictions saw Dom Kureen test his psychic powers against former England beach soccer international DJ Rees. It was the sand lurking sharp shooter who prospered, crushing the host’s modest five points with an outstanding three exact results and two other correct outcomes for 11 points of his own. 

The favoured technique for predicting scores this week
The favoured technique for predicting scores this week

This time it’s the turn of a man some say owns the main cottage for cottage cheese distribution, others say he has a tongue made of wax and oat flapjacks – to those who are closest to him he’s ‘Just Mike’.

*All matches: kick off Tuesday, 19.45 unless stated.

Burnley vs Newcastle United

Dom: 0-0
Two sides whose recent winning runs came to an end last weekend. The Toon’s 1-0 reverse at Upton Park was compounded by a slew of suspensions and injuries – their depleted troops might just have enough to repel Danny Ings and co.

Mike: 2-3
With both teams prone to bouts of substandard defending it should be an open game at Turf Moor. Newcastle in particular have a lot of defenders missing, hopefully forcing them onto the front foot to compensate, although in Danny Ings the Clarets have one of the league’s in-form marksmen.

Leicester City vs Liverpool

Dom: 1-3
Glen Johnson’s last gasp winner against Stoke on Saturday dissipated some of the gloom surrounding the Kop. Leicester’s thrilling defeat in a five goal thriller at QPR was the latest in a string of setbacks, with the Foxes in free-fall. Liverpool to click, Leicester to feel sick.

Mike: 0-0
Liverpool’s late winner at the weekend failed to mask the lack of innovative quality currently afflicting the side. The same shortcomings will be highlighted at The King Power Stadium, with Leicester over compensating for the weekend’s goal fest by ‘parking the bus’.

Manchester United vs Stoke City

RVP: Taking more corners so that he can touch the ball more than 11 times in future matches.
RVP: Will he touch the ball more than 11 times tonight?

Dom: 3-1
United are belatedly showing signs of a pulse, with their much maligned back line and the previously out of form Robin Van Persie impressing during a 4-0 blitz against Hull City at the weekend. Stoke are solid and with Bojan beginning to adapt – the Potters seem set for their standard mid-table finish despite defeat here.

Mike: 2-0
It’s probably too late for Manchester United to mount a serious tilt at the Premier League title, but with their collective fire power Old Trafford should welcome back Champions League action next season. Their resurgent form should be enough to see off stubborn Stoke.

Swansea vs Queens Park Rangers

Dom: 2-1
The Swans have been frustrating in recent weeks, their aesthetically gratifying build up play too often lacking a clinical touch in the final third. The Hoops are in a rich vein of form and with Charlie Austin on fire they’ll run their hosts close.

Mike: 3-1
Swansea’s Liberty Stadium points haul is the main reason why they currently sit pretty in the table. A disappointing 1-1 draw at home against Crystal Palace should be remedied by a comfortable victory against Harry Redknapp’s relegation battlers, although Bobby Zamora and Charlie Austin could prove to be a handful.

Crystal Palace vs Aston Villa
Tuesday, 20.00.

Dom: 1-1
Two teams struggling to rise above the league’s nadir, Palace do at least attempt to do more than simply stifle their opponents (Villa’s trademark under Paul Lambert). Expect this to be last on Wednesday’s Match of The Day running order.

Mike: 2-1
This has lack of quality written all over it, although the return of Christian Benteke will afford Aston Villa supporters some cheer during the festive season. Under Neil Warnock Palace have turned Selhurst Park into a difficult arena for visiting teams, that coupled with Villa’s lack of imagination should ensure that the Eagles take the spoils.

West Bromwich Albion vs West Ham United
Tuesday, 20.00

Dom: 2-1
West Brom’s promising start is in danger of going to waste if their current poor run continues. With Saido Berahino in razor sharp form and Andy Carroll yet to open his seasonal account, the Baggies might just squeak by here.

Mike: 1-2
West Ham have reinvented themselves this season, with an eye-catching counter-attacking style to their play. Since the return of Andy Carroll from injury they’ve admittedly resorted to a more direct approach, but with West Brom unable to muster shots on goal at the moment it’s hard to see them avoiding defeat in front of their patient fans.

Arsenal vs Southampton
Wednesday, 19.45

"Fifa 15 had us both fit for three matches in a row.... fake!"
“Fifa 15 had us both fit for three matches in a row…. fake!”

Dom: 2-0
The Gunners have one of the softest centres among Europe’s elite clubs, lacking leadership and a robust element to their spine. A 3-0 thumping at the hands of Manchester City brought high-flying Saints down to earth at the weekend, expect more of the same at the Emirates.

Mike: 4-4
Two teams slowly finding their place in the league come head to head in North London, with Southampton keen to prove they’ve got the staying power to mount a Champions League charge. Expect goals, cards and controversy during a highly charged contest.

Chelsea vs Tottenham Hotspur
Wednesday, 19.45

Dom: 2-1
A pair of clubs with different lofty aspirations; Chelsea will view anything less than the 2014-15 Premier League crown as anticlimactic, while Spurs know that a top four finish is well within their grasp in this most unpredictable of seasons. The latter’s fragile defence is likely to be exposed at Stamford Bridge, although it will be far from one way traffic.

Mike: 3-0
Jose Mourinho has built a squad with the quality and depth to challenge on all fronts. Tottenham did well to snatch a couple of 2-1 wins against the run of play last month, but will struggle in south London, with Chelsea running out comfortable winners on the night.

Everton vs Hull City
Wednesday, 19.45

Dom: 3-1
Everton gave a decent account of themselves during their 2-1 loss at White Hart Lane on Sunday, and although some of their big hitters are yet to come to the party they should win with something to spare against a Tigers side of diminishing potency and increasing predictability.

Mike: 1-2
Hull started the season with vigour and belief, something that has since been quashed by a combination of half-hearted forward players and unfortunate decisions. Everton remain unconvincing, struggling to juggle Europa League and domestic football, for that reason I’m backing Steve Bruce to return to the Yorkshire with three much needed points.

Sunderland vs Manchester City
Wednesday, 19.45

Aguero - a perfect strike partner for Aguero.
Aguero – a perfect strike partner for Aguero.

Dom: 1-1
The Mackems are a strange bunch, reserving their better performances for elite opposition; evident as they clung on for a goalless draw against Chelsea in their previous match. Man City’s man of the moment, Sergio Aguero, followed his Champions League hat-trick against Bayern with a trio of assists at Southampton, and although he’ll probably net again it will only be enough for a point.

Mike: 2-2
Sunderland will fancy their chances against a City side whose first choice central defensive pair, Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala, are absent, possibly forcing full-back Bacary Sagna to shift into the middle. A 2-2 draw in this fixture was the catalyst for the Black Cats’ great escape last spring, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a repeat of that scoreline here.

So, do you think we nailed it this time? Can anyone overhaul DJ Rees’ 11 point haul? Let us know your thoughts.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.