Early Season Form- Beating United Was An Early Sign
Leicester City went into their first Premier League campaign for ten years in 2014-15 following their promotion-winning campaign in the previous season, and were already considered by many as certainties for the drop. The expectation was that their squad would be too thin, with very limited players involved with any kind of top-flight experience. Those assumptions have plagued every team promoted to the top-flight throughout the Premier League-era, and there were fears at the midway stage that they could have been true.
Doubts surrounding Leicester’s Premier League ability were put to bed in the opening exchanges of the season, as they comfortably sat seventh after five rounds of games. They won two of their opening five games and were beaten on just one occasion. Leicester’s biggest win, which remains one of the most impressive performances from a newly promoted side came in the fifth round of games, as they hammered Manchester United 5-3 at the King Power Stadium.
It was a very early sign of the ability that this Foxes side had in the top-flight, as they showed signs of their character, never say die attitude, and the tactics that would result in them winning the Premier League title the following season. Leicester found themselves 3-1 down after an hour following goals from Robin van Persie, Angel Di Maria and Ander Herrera.
However, ‘the Foxes never quit’ monachal was designed for moments like this, as they came back from nowhere to stun Louis van Gaal’s side. Jamie Vardy was at the heart of everything positive that Leicester did, and it was almost like the coming-out party for the former conference player. He scored the goal to put Leicester 4-3 ahead, before winning a penalty in the final stages to allow Leonardo Ulloa to wrap up the win.
Form Fades- Overconfidence Took It's Toll
Following Leicester’s mesmeric win against the Red Devils, confidence was high that the club could achieve something special. However, a run of five defeats in six games followed, which dropped the Foxes to 18th in the standings. A home draw against Sunderland momentarily lifted the club outside of the relegation places, but that would be their only taste of that position for the next four months.
A disastrous festive period followed as the Foxes lost six games on the bounce between November and Boxing Day. However, many felt during that period that there was at least evidence that a fightback could be on the cards. The Foxes were narrowly beaten by both Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur during that period, but there were signs of resurrection in late December- early January.
Leicester went on a brief run of three unbeaten, which included victories over Hull City and Aston Villa, while a credible draw against Liverpool at Anfield also showed that they had the character for the big occasion. However, that run was brought to another abrupt end soon after, as the Foxes lost to Stoke City, Manchester United, Crystal Palace and Arsenal to begin March rock-bottom of the Premier League table.
The Greatest of Great Escapes
As the Premier League entered its 30th matchday, the Foxes were cut adrift at the bottom of the league table. Leicester looked dead and buried, without hope of pulling themselves out of the position that they were in. The final nail in the coffin looked to come at White Hart Lane, as Spurs were inspired by a Harry Kane hat-trick to win 4-3. The defeat was Leicester’s 18th from 29 league games at the time, and very few gave them a chance of getting out of the position that they found themselves in.
While not mathematically impossible, the gap of seven points with eight games remaining looked to be a bridge too far. The character that we have mentioned on countless occasions was on display in the next four Leicester fixtures, as they picked up 12 points from 12. Home wins against West Ham United and Swansea City gave the Foxes a perfect opportunity to move out of the bottom three for the first time since November.
They made no mistake in the big game at Turf Moor, as Jamie Vardy once again showed that he was the man that Leicester could rely on. His goal was the only goal of the game, as Leicester recorded four straight top-flight wins for the first time since 1966.
From that moment, Leicester didn’t look back. Defeat against Chelsea followed, but they would go on to win three of their next four games to end the season in 14th. That finish to the season also included a run of seven wins in nine games, including a run of four games from five where the Foxes won without conceding a goal. It can’t be underplayed the significance of this end-of-season form was for the momentum that they carried into the following season. The confidence was sky-high, as the Foxes proved to everyone, including themselves, that they had the ability to get results against every side that they came up against in the Premier League.
It was a massive season in the development of Leicester, as Vardy and Marc Albrighton were tied down to new deals. However, the campaign ended in a controversial fashion, as the tenure of Nigel Pearson was brought to an end. Pearson guided the Foxes back to the Premier League and saved them from the abyss. However, the club revealed that the manager had been fired at the end of June after citing that the relationship between board and manager was ‘no longer viable’.
The decision from Leicester caused shock around England, with many believing that Pearson had achieved the impossible with the club by keeping them up. However, it’s hard to ignore the part that the sacking of Pearson’s son- James, had in the decision made. The player was fired by the club after a racist video was released. The relationship looked like it couldn’t be salvaged.
But, who did the Foxes turn to? Enter Claudio Ranieri, and the Italian was about to write his name all over Leicester folklore.