Leicester Dominates in the EFL Championship: How They Achieved It
Leicester has amassed 33 points out of a possible 36 - the best start in the history of the Championship. Leicester has scored the most goals in the division (26) and conceded the fewest (7). Leicester is currently 11 points clear of third place - a reminder that only two teams are directly promoted to the Premier League. Leicester is on an eight-game winning streak, with only one of those victories coming with a minimal score difference.
These statistics alone are sufficient to speak of Leicester's domination in the Championship. Yes, there's a long journey ahead, consisting of 46 matches, of which less than 25 percent have been completed. However, it's safe to say that the Foxes will maintain this pace. Not necessarily in terms of points gathered, as 91.7% is phenomenal and eccentric. But it's hard to imagine that they will relinquish the top spot to anyone, let alone drop below the second position. If you want to enhance your enjoyment of watching Leicester's matches, we recommend using EFL Betting tips weekly.
In 2016, Leicester performed an absolute miracle by becoming Premier League champions. Their interim leadership in the Championship is certainly no coincidence. Let's highlight three factors contributing to their strong start, which should yield results.
Leicester boasts the most expensive squad in the Championship
Any club relegated from the Premier League has a noticeable advantage over competitors in the Championship, at least in the first season. We're talking about finances, specifically the so-called parachute payments for their share of the huge Premier League TV contract. These payments allow them to anticipate a swift return to paradise after their exile.
Consider this: even after selling several vital players (James Maddison, Harvey Barnes, Timothy Castagne, and free-agent departure Youri Tielemans), for whom "Leicester" received over 100 million euros, their squad is valued at 252 million euros, according to Transfermarkt - putting them in the first place in the Championship.
They may be in first place, but not with such a significant lead over their competitors as they currently have in the standings, where points, not money, are counted. So it's not just about finances. After all, there are relatively recent examples like Wigan, Swansea, or Stoke City, which even played in European competitions but failed to swiftly return to the Premier League and now seem firmly stuck in the Championship quagmire. They resemble domestic cats who experience a shock when put on the street and can't find their way home quickly, leading to a sad fate. On the other hand, the Foxes proved to be more innovative and shrewder than these cats.
Leicester made the right choice with the manager
The management of Leicester made numerous glaring mistakes in the 2022 offseason and throughout the 2022/2023 season, ultimately leading to their relegation from the Premier League. These blunders had to be rectified promptly.
The most successful move made by Leicester's management is related to the choice of a coach. Enzo Maresca achieved a treble with Manchester City, albeit as an assistant to Pep Guardiola. However, as an independent coach, the Italian only managed 14 matches (four victories) with Parma, which he unsuccessfully tried to return to Serie A. In other words, Maresca's candidacy could have been more obvious.
It appears that conservative Italy doesn't quite suit the style and ideas of Guardiola, which Maresca follows – the Italian resembles the Catalan, not just in appearance. England is an entirely different matter for embodying this philosophy. We remember Mikel Arteta at Arsenal or Vincent Kompany (the Belgian was not on Guardiola's staff but played under him for a long time), who brilliantly returned Burnley to the Premier League.
Stylistically, Leicester looks like a light version of Manchester City, which the statistics confirm. The Foxes lead the Championship in points, goals scored and conceded, and possession (63.5%) and passing accuracy (89%).
However, style is one thing; results are another. Maresca deserves more credit than the management, which did not perform flawlessly in the transfer market when seeking replacements for the departed leaders.
Central midfielder Harry Winks (bought for 11.6 million euros) and attacking midfielder Stephy Mavididi (7.5 million euros, with two goals and two assists, consistently receiving high ratings) have worked well. However, there are still questions about other costly Championship purchases. New starting goalkeeper Mads Hermansen (7 million euros) rarely concedes, but he appears unreliable, too. 20-year-old forward Tom Cannon (8.8 million euros) hasn't played for Leicester yet. The experienced Connor Coady (8.7 million euros) is clearly losing the competition in the center of defense, making one wonder why he was bought in the first place.
Of course, we must consider the significant difference in the level between the Premier League and the Championship. But Kieran Dewsbury-Hall has flourished under Maresca, impacting the team's play, much like James Maddison did for Leicester in the past and now does for Tottenham. Dewsbury-Hall has scored five goals, the same as the primary forward Kelechi Iheanacho. Dewsbury-Hall has also provided four assists. In Maresca's system, central defenders Jannik Vestergaard and Valtteri Fas are among the team's best, not the laughingstocks they often were in the Premier League.
It's also worth noting that Enzo Maresca had a significant stint working with the youth at Manchester City. The Italian understands how to handle players transitioning to professional football. 21-year-old attacking midfielder Casey McAteer has scored four goals. 19-year-old forward Abdul Fatawu (1+1) and 21-year-old midfielder Vanya Marsal (1+0) have been contributing. 20-year-old Callum Doyle can be considered a regular defender. There is confidence that 20-year-old Cesare Casadei, one of the heroes of the last youth World Cup, owned by Chelsea, will eventually break into the first team. He has yet to make it but has managed to score a goal and provide an assist.
From the championship-winning Leicester team, only Mark Albrighton and Jamie Vardy remain. The former hardly plays, and the latter has seemingly discovered some everlasting youth. At 36, Vardy is still competing with Kelechi Iheanacho. He has scored five goals this season, including four in the Championship.
Vardy's importance is more than just, and not primarily, about goals. Clearly, the club legend plays a crucial role in the dressing room. When Jamie rushes to celebrate his goal with the opposing team's fans, it's not just about his hooligan spirit. It's also about how motivated Vardy is and how determined he is to return Leicester to the Premier League for the second time in his career. And he transmits this attitude to his teammates.
Published by Patrick Jane