To say that Leicester’s Premier League-winning season came as a surprise is the ultimate understatement.
Indeed, this author – who earns a large percentage of his income making football bet tips for various bookmakers- is not afraid to admit that he fully expected Leicester to be involved in another battle against relegation, rather than lifting the title.
In the midst of Tottenham’s battle for supremacy with Leicester, there were Spurs fans who labelled Claudio Ranieri’s side’s as persistently ‘lucky’, but that was doing them a great disservice. There are many lessons to be learned from Leicester’s success that Mauricio Pochettino should consider and we’ve summed some of them up in easy to digest bite-size chunks.
3. The season starts in August
Leicester hit the ground running with back-to-back wins to start the season off, while Tottenham lost their opening match against Manchester United and did not take their first three points until September.
When you consider that Spurs only won three of their first nine games it’s clear that the title race was not just lost in the final straights, but also in it’s opening sprint.
Tottenham’s poor start can be attributed to a few factors. Pre-season was poorly scheduled, starting with an unnecessary trip to Australia at the end of the previous season and finishing with midweek friendlies in Germany, just days before the opener at Old Trafford.
Then there was the failure to buy a striker to take the weight off Harry Kane. The England striker looked tired at the start of the season having played in the U21 European Championships and uncharacteristically nervous in front of goal, as he bore the burden of expectations. Which brings us nicely to…
2. Variety is the spice of life
Like Spurs, the Foxes were largely reliant on one man – Jamie Vardy – to score their goals. Unlike Spurs, they had different options should Vardy struggle for form or fitness.
Shinji Okazaki was signed last summer after two successful seasons at Mainz and though the Japanese striker only scored five league goals in a rather thankless workhorse role, his spectacular strike in a 1-0 win over Newcastle proved crucial.
Leonardo Ulloa was the alternative option off the bench and at 6ft 3” tall he certainly brought different qualities to the team than Vardy and Okazaki. The Argentine chipped in with some extremely important goals during the closing stretch of the season, scoring a last-gasp winner against Norwich, converting an injury time penalty to gain a 2-2 draw with West Ham and scoring a brace against Swansea when Vardy was injured.
Who knows how many extra points Tottenham might have picked up if they had another striker to bring off the bench. The biggest priority of the summer must be to strengthen this area.
1. Learn to win ugly
Early on in the season Leicester were facing adventurous teams who expected to beat them and winning out in high-scoring games with goals at either end.
When the world finally cottoned on to the fact that Leicester were the real deal and that it was a really bad idea to have your slow, cumbersome centre-backs pushing up and leaving acres of space for Vardy to exploit, teams began to defend against them with rather more respect.
What followed was a run of narrow victories in which Leicester proved masters of getting ahead and then hanging on to a lead. It wasn’t always pretty but it was certainly effective.
In contrast, Spurs often seemed unwilling to simply tighten up when ahead and see a game out, instead trying to finish teams off with more goals.
During the run-in, points were dropped against Arsenal, West Brom, Chelsea and Southampton, despite Tottenham having held the lead. Take 12 points from those games rather than three and the title could now be at White Hart Lane.