Leicester City: Improving the Modern Game

OPINION: by Ben Sanderson

The modern game of English football has, especially at its highest level, been criticised for being un-competitive and for allowing the Premier League’s “top six” to have too much of an advantage over their fellow clubs.

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Leicester, however, look not only a team able to break into the top six this season but also a team able to stay there.

The new financial age of football has made the rich clubs super-rich, but it has also made smaller clubs rather rich too. As TV revenues continue to rise, especially in the Premier League, more and more clubs can pay astronomical fees for players. Leicester City broke their transfer record twice this summer, first for £30m winger Ayoze Perez and then for £40.5m central midfielder Youri Tielemans. Far from being marginalised by the modern game’s luxurious sums, Leicester (and other teams) appear benefactors of the influx.

Their good form this season, which leaves them 4th in the Premier League at the time of writing, is the result of a patiently built-up squad which has been aptly assisted by expensive signings and the results have been phenomenal. Leicester City look the best-poised side to achieve Champions League qualification after Manchester City and Liverpool. West Ham United, another team enabled by the modern transfer market to make expensive signings, currently sit 5th and stand a good chance of getting into the Champions League as well.

Leicester have done all this while proving wrong all the common criticisms of the modern Premier League. The Premier League has been criticised for not having clubs which trust their academy, for lacking representation of English players and for the money the “top six” have making them too good for the other sides to compete with.

Leicester, with names such as Ben Chilwell, Harvey Barnes, James Maddison and Jamie Vardy lighting up the league, the former two academy graduates, are giving English players plenty of minutes, and of their team, there are few players’ whose price tags could even compete with the price tags of players signed by the “top six” in similar periods.

Their team has still come at a fair price, but the prices paid have made Leicester look like a seriously good team able to compete with the “top six” and, possibly, a new force able to stay at the top for years to come. As Shay Given said when speaking to Optus Sport, “The big clubs… are very, very worried about Leicester.”

Why would they not be? Their football this season has been exciting, dynamic and effective and it has left them third in the league, able to beat teams like Tottenham and play teams like Newcastle, who once upon a time would have been in a similar position, off the pitch.

Even flawless Liverpool were made to work hard for their win against the Foxes.

Many thought that the miraculous 2015-16 Premier League title was a flash in the pan, but it is looking likely that things will not stay that way.

Leicester find themselves in a fantastic position playing excellent football and are carrying a vibrant momentum around the city, putting Leicester on the map.

If they keep playing the way they do, they are great candidates for a top four finish, and, as the ordeal of Harry Maguire’s £85m transfer to Manchester United proved, they have the power to demand serious fees for their best players, of which there are many.

Staying power seems to be with Leicester, then. Who knows? A moment like the 2016 title win might come around sooner than expected.

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