The greatest story ever told in English football has finally entered its second chapter. Leicester City, the side that won over the hearts of football fans across the globe, began their title-defending campaign against now-Premier League yo-yo club Hull City at the KC Stadium, with the intentions of continuing along their incredibly admirable path to underdog glory. This didn’t go to plan, with the Tigers edging their way to their first home victory of the season. Despite the result, in the league at least, Leicester still face an obstacle never encountered by a Foxes side competing in the modern-day pinnacle of football – high expectations.
Even towards the climax of last season, their winning ways still came as a shock to most – surely they had to start losing soon? But they just didn’t! Leicester fans watched their side go all the way to lifting the esteemed trophy, in spectacular fashion. It is those same fans that will claim that this season is just a bonus that comes as a result of a footballing miracle, and that they are now eternally satisfied with their club’s performance – but can that really be the case? If Ranieri’s men were to begin the season (albeit unrealistically) by losing their next 10 games, would those in the stands not perpetually reference last season, and demand more as a result?
Those requests however, may have to undergo a reality check – and here’s why…
This year’s Premier League is, on paper, likely to be the most tightly contested for years. The incredible standard of managers, combined with world-class transfers being added to squads with high levels of existing quality, will make it an incredible adventure for all those involved. Where other sides have made substantial additions, Leicester have not – and were never going to – but changes have taken place nevertheless. Losing the ultimate midfield engine, N’Golo Kante, to Chelsea, will no doubt prove a difficult hole to fill for the Midlands-based outfit; but there is positivity in the acquisition of Ahmed Musa to partner the clinical Jamie Vardy, a partnership capable of troubling any defence. It is such players that will be needed when trying to penetrate the band of more ‘established’ clubs that have made some astounding attempts at improvement. Last year’s feat of sheer improbability came as a wake-up call to the giants of the English game, that didn’t enjoy the only recently promoted minnows carving their name onto the trophy that is rightfully theirs. Action has been taken.
With Champions League football also being played at the King Power Stadium this year, which will bring some memorable nights to the city of Leicester, regardless of results, it may have to be a season in which Leicester ‘return to Earth’, and enjoy the moments that come in what looks likely to be, far smaller packages. Nobody would be happier than myself to see another utterly magical rise to dominance come from the East Midlands – it has provided a much-needed case study to prove that finance isn’t always a guaranteed routeto success – but all good things must come to an end.
Buy the commemorative mugs, marvel at the season review DVDs, hang up the replica shirts and ensure that no fan associated with the club ever forgets the fairytale that was Leicester City’s class of 2015/16. But at the same time, do remember the sheer improbability of it all. Vardy & Co. gave us all one hell of a ride, and one that shall never be forgotten, but in my opinion, accepting mediocrity once more is a far more feasible plan. Lightening doesn’t strike twice, and magic certainly doesn’t.
By Dan Wiseman