It has been just over 18 months since Leicester City managed to secure the most miraculous of Premier League titles. Indeed, some corners of the footballing world are still coming to terms with how the extraordinary feat was possible. The Foxes, however, have been forced to move on.
The master tactician, Claudio Ranieri, has been dismissed, and consequently moved onto new things at Ligue 1 outfit, Nantes. Meanwhile, Claude Puel has taken the reigns at Leicester City and is so far enjoying a renaissance-style recovery following his disappointing spell at Southampton.
His side, while out of the League Cup after the penalty shoot-out defeat to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City back in December, still have the opportunity to achieve something special this season in the FA Cup.
On the Hunt
While it could be premature to tip the Foxes for glory with the third round only just concluded, their chances were given a considerable boost with their 2-0 victory against Fleetwood Town on Tuesday night. They now meet another League One side in Peterborough United in the Fourth Round, which — with no disrespect towards Posh — could represent an excellent opportunity for progress.
Among the vast group of clubs to have never won the FA cup, the Foxes are the most successful in the competition’s history. Reaching the final on four occasions, they have been defeated finalists on every time of asking. With much emphasis placed on reaching the riches of European football in the Premier League, a run through the FA Cup could prove especially profitable for the both players and fans at the King Power Stadium.
Big six battles
One aspect that could point to success for Leicester City is their considerable ability to hold their own against the so-called ‘big-six’ in the Premier League. The law of averages suggest that these sides most commonly reach the latter stages of the competition, hence the prospect of meeting them further down the line can be a relatively worrying prospect.
In order to progress during the competition, Puel’s men will surely have to tackle the giants. That’s where the expertise of the Frenchman comes in. Since his arrival in the East Midlands, the Foxes have come up against the ‘top-six’ on no fewer than six occasions. In that time, the team has only lost twice within 90 minutes. One was a 2-0 defeat to high-flying Manchester City (which, on reflection, was not the worst result for the Foxes), with the other being a tight 2-1 reverse at the hands of Liverpool at Anfield.
They did lose to the Sky Blues via a penalty shoot-out, but the Foxes have also taken draws against the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea, and also impressively dispatched of Tottenham Hotspur in November. It could be suggested then that the Foxes have regained that competitive edge seen during the title-winning season. If they can display that type of form regularly in the FA Cup, it would provide an excellent platform for progress.
Comfortably sitting eighth in the Premier League table, the Foxes are both under no threat of relegation, while also unlikely to challenge for upper reaches of the Premier League table. Claude Puel’s men then can afford to expend more energy and resources on the competition – a luxury that will be unavailable to a host of other top-flight challengers.
The likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea will, no doubt, be giving their priorities to the Premier League and Champions League. Whereas those embroiled in the battle to stay in the top-flight of English football are unlikely to be too concerned with FA Cup progression when the riches of Premier League football are under serious threat. This reality could give the Foxes plenty of opportunities to progress past their more illustrious or closest rivals.
Claude Puel has reaffirmed his intentions to get as far in the possible in the competition – and this bodes well for a club that finds itself in an enviable, if not idea, spot to content. Of course, much has to right if Leicester is secure any silverware this season, but the Foxes are nonetheless well-placed to execute a deep run in the Cup.