At Christmas, Leicester City are top of the English Premier League and not many would have predicted that. To get a hold of how big an achievement it is, look back at history and it was only way back in 1977 that an underdog team was topping the table at Christmas. Back then, Brian Clough’s newly promoted Nottingham Forest achieved this and went on to be crowned champions. Will this be the year for Claudio Ranieri and Leicester City to repeat the feat?
In fact, if you look around the table, it was not just Leicester City but many other underdogs too that are punching above their weight. Crystal Palace, Bournemouth and Watford – all these teams are shocking experts and opponents with their fearless play.
On current evidence, Leicester City look more than capable of holding their own in the top four to guarantee a Champions League spot. The Foxes’ brilliant season is spurred by the dynamic duo of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez. But, to say that Leicester owes its success only to them is doing grave injustice to the team. They have made more than 390 interceptions which is more than any other side. They also made 400 tackles which is the joint-most by any side this year. These numbers alone should indicate how good the team has played so far.
Crystal Palace is another success story directed by Alan Pardew and if not for Leicester climbing above them, they could have been the story of the season. Their counter-attacking style endeared them to neutrals and their record on the road is the best in Premier League. In fact, Pardew made a statement early in the season with the capture of the classy Yohan Cabaye. The French international has proved more than a playmaker and is top in interceptions and tackles.
Watford too are exceeding expectations in the League this season and the Hornets are knocking the doors of top six. Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo is a formidable and most feared combination while the calmness of their manager Quique Sanchez Flores has created a great atmosphere for the club. And on the field, their attacking football is creating ripples in the league.
For Eddie Howe and Bournemouth, success is at a different plane altogether. Having guided his team to their first ever promotion to Premier League, Howe has shown the top teams that Cherries aren’t to be taken lightly. They have already shocked Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and Manchester United at home. Though they are still fighting to rise above the mid-table, considering the size of the club – it is a huge achievement.
The foremost thing for these clubs is to manage their place in the top tier. With the £5.1 billion domestic television deal set to kick-off next year, it will be a huge boost for all these sides from next season onwards. Even before that, it looks highly likely that some of these underdogs will surprise more till the season ends.