Leicester City: The Foxes’ Taking The Championship By Storm
Only five months ago, Leicester City were fighting survival in what was one of the most surprising relegation battles in recent years.
From winning the Premier League in 2016, Champions League quarter-finalists the year after, a run of top 10 finishes and FA Cup glory, last season Leicester provided an unexpected under-par season.
After relegation on the final day of the season under short-term manager Dean Smith, the Foxes looked like a real sinking ship.
To add to this key players like Youri Tielemans were out of contract, England International James Maddison sought a move to stay in the league and the club’s finances were in need of a serious boost meaning fans were doubtful ahead of entering the Championship.
On June 16th, Leicester City appointed Enzo Maresca, an arrival which may have shocked supporters.
The Italian had enjoyed a successful playing career with a Serie A title to his name after a spell at Juventus and a Europa League title whilst playing at Sevilla. However, before his Leicester career started, the majority of his coaching life had been spent as an assistant manager, most recently with Manchester City.
His first taste of management came at the Citizens as their Elite Development Squad coach where he won the Premier League 2, subsequently earning him a job in his home country for Italian Serie B side Parma. However, after a disappointing few months, he subsequently lost his job.
The new boss certainly had his work cut out from the day he arrived.
With players leaving out of his hands, Maresca was tasked with the job of bringing in players to match his playing style on a tight budget and working with a demotivated and stale Leicester side that we saw last season.
Off the back of losing key players from previous years like Jonny Evans, Caglar Soyuncu and Harvey Barnes, the rebuild was on for Leicester.
A mixture of youth and experience was soon brought in as Harry Winks joined from Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur as well as Connor Coady from Everton. Two players who add brilliant leadership and experience down the middle.
A fair share of the Foxes’ problems last season were put down to goalkeeping errors and Maresca decided that neither Danny Ward or Daniel Iversen were going to be a part of his plans.
Danish prospect Mads Hermansen came through the door from Brondby IF, bringing a fresh approach to goalkeeping with his ability to play out comfortably, acting like an extra man in defence.
Along with a new goalkeeper, Maresca’s ties to Manchester City came in hand wonderfully, enabling the Foxes to bring in England under-21 centre-half Callum Doyle.
Other loan signings such as Cesare Casedi, Issahaku Fatawu and Yunus Akgun have all added quality depth too.
A poor pre-season didn’t allow much time for the players to learn the manager’s new ideas.
A heavy defeat against Liverpool not long before the season started had fans nervous about the start of the campaign. Last season’s Championship Play-Off Finalists Coventry City were first up in the league, and after going 1-0 down early on, it was local boy Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall at the double to rescue the three points.
After the opening day, Leicester went on a run of five unbeaten throughout August. ‘Enzo Ball’ was in full flow as a high pressing relentless side looked unfazed on and off the ball.
It meant Leicester fans finally had something to cheer about and went into September top of the League with Enzo Maresca winning Manager of the Month.
A game against Hull City at home in the league started the month of September before heading into the first international break.
Maresca’s men suffered their first defeat of the campaign as a goal from on-loan Liam Delap in the 15th minute secured the Tigers all three points. Despite this, Leicester’s style of play continued to impress. With 21 shots and 65% possession, it was the Foxes whose complacency had let them down on the day.
After a short break, the season kicked back off when Leicester travelled to Southampton for an evening of Friday Night football.
An early goal from Jamie Vardy set his side back on track as a 4-1 win away from home against fellow Championship newcomers was a real statement to the rest of the league.
Kicking on, the Foxes are now unbeaten since the last international break in the league.
The new style of play which Maresca has implemented is paying off with an average possession of 63% and that stat rising to 69% at home games.
The King Power Stadium is becoming a real fortress and the boys in blue are a real feared side. Maresca has ignited a real spark in the team and Vardy looks to be back amongst the goals after a quiet 2022/23 season.
Wilfred Ndidi now looks like a real threat again with the most assists in the team and Jannik Vestergaard seems to be the first name on the team sheet, a player who never featured last season under Brendan Rodgers.
Now halfway into another international break, Leicester will look to kick on when the season restarts. Their first game back is an away match at Swansea City, and with the Swans currently sitting in 12th place, the Foxes will be looking to continue their winning streak in the league.
The fans have finally got that feel-good feeling back at the King Power and Enzo Maresca has certainly brought back their much-missed winning mentality.
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