Prior to the 2015-16 season, when former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri was appointed as the new manager of the Leicester City, not much was expected from the Foxes. Leicester City was a team that had barely avoided relegation the previous year, and had needed five wins in their final seven games to achieve that. For much of the year, Ranieri publicly and privately stated that the club’s goal was to get to 40 points and avoid relegation again, at least that was the case until Leicester City blew by the 40 point mark just a few months into the season. Led by Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, and N’Golo Kante, the Foxes overcame 5,000-1 odds by most sports books and won the English Premier League.
A league with Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Everton, and Tottenham, was won by a team that had never achieved such prestige before. Vardy, a forward, was named the FWA Footballer of the year award and was one of the league’s true breakout stars throughout the season. Vardy showed excellent patience and control while leading the English Premier League in goals with 22 to go along with his six assists.
Though Vardy was often the finisher, the forward Mahrez was often the starter, with 11 assists to his name while also notching 17 goals. Mahrez proved adept at sliding the ball into tight spaces, leading his man to an easy goal while only needing one touch to control the pass. Though Vardy was the Footballer of the Year, Mahrez also received votes for the award thanks to his omnipresence and ability to produce all over the field.
Also receiving votes for Footballer of the Year was midfielder N’Golo Kante. Kante isn’t a player who shows up on the stat sheet very often. He didn’t receive votes because of his one goal or four assists, it was his play setting up the plays from the back that led to being honored with any recognition at all. Kante proved very skilled at diagnosing oncoming attacks, picking them apart, and using a through ball to set up his teammates.
While Vardy is a bit old (29) to command much attention on the transfer market, Mahrez and Kante are expected to be difficult to keep in a Foxes uniform. Both are 25 years old and both are going to attract a lot of attention from clubs looking for the next big thing in professional soccer. As fun as this year has been, the big money and bright lights of bigger clubs will likely lure Mahrez and Kante into different programs. Vardy too, but likely to a lesser extent. Ranieri will be hard pressed to duplicate the magical season of 2015-16, but this season will never be forgotten.
This was truly the year of the underdog in the English Premier League. I hope all of you enjoyed it while it lasted, I know I sure did.