April 11, 2016

The underappreciated Foxes

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

An interesting question came up this weekend, as Leicester City beat Sunderland 2-0 to maintain its seven-point lead in the table over Tottenham – also winners this week over Manchester United.

It was this: Will the Foxes have any player on FIFA’s team of the year come December?

It would be quite the sight to have the world’s best XI standing on the stage in Zurich with no one representing a team that took the world’s best league by storm this season and essentially ran away with the title.

While some will argue this is a total team effort, there are several obviously a couple key players that should at least be considered.

The biggest story of them all is Jamie Vardy. The Englishman came from the lower leagues to become one of the EPL’s leading scorers and was capped by his country this year – even scoring a magnificent goal during a recent friendly.

But there’s absolutely no chance that Vardy makes FIFA’s team. With Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic – to name a few – all plying their trade at forward, it’s hard to see the fabulous Fox included.

N’Golo Kante is often cited as the piece that brought it all together for Leicester. The holding midfielder was brought in over the summer and has rose to stardom with his splendid displays in defence and ability to pick out passes to setup the break. He’ll surely be included in the EPL team of the year, but FIFA usually favours more offensive-minded midfielders for their squad.

While Kasper Schmeichel has been terrific, we’re not sure he’s even the best keeper in the Premier League and has little chance of beating out Manuel Neuer.

Robert Huth has been an excellent defender, but FIFA voters are always more likely to pick a more established star for its back four.

Finally, there’s the man, the myth, the legend, Riyad Mahrez.

The Algerian attacker has put up better numbers than Eden Hazard did last year and looks like he’ll be named the FA’s player of the year when all is said and done.

He’s excellent on the ball, fast and very skilled in attack. He’s not a liability on defence either, as the Foxes are usually sitting back and waiting to spring their counter.

If there’s one Leicester City player that will make the TOTY, it’s Mahrez – with one caveat: It’ll have to be as a midfielder. Like we said with Vardy, forward is just too stacked to break through, this season more than ever.


We made fun of his braids last week, but this week Andy Carroll was just too brilliant to throw shade at.

In a big London derby game against title-chasing Arsenal, Carroll potted a hat trick and did so in style.

Two of his three goals were of the highlight-reel variety and he gave Arsenal defenders nightmares all game long.

This was the type of promise that had soccer fans enamored with his potential until he was repeatedly hit with long-term injuries. If he continues this run of form, England manager Roy Hodgson will have a tough call about whether to take the Irons striker to France this summer.


Fabio Borini hitting himself in the face with a shot pretty much sums up Sunderland’s season perfectly … Even when looking forward to another crucial midweek Europa League clash with Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool had little trouble with Stoke City. You have to wonder if the Reds can clinch a Champions League spot by going through the backdoor and winning Europa League … Is anybody surprised that Chelsea came out and laid an egg against Swansea after announcing a new manager this week? Players will rarely go all out for a lame duck coach … Speaking of lame-duck coaches, does anybody expect Louis van Gaal back next season for Manchester United? I don’t even think he does any more and Jose Mourinho is on deck … Manchester City was the one side with a new coach coming in that played well, although it was caught flat-footed early by West Brom. Sweeping changes should come with Pep Guardiola this summer which should be incredibly fun to watch … Aston Villa, Newcastle, Sunderland and Norwich all lost this week, so it’s status quo in the relegation zone – which is bad news for those in the drop zone with one more game off the schedule. With Crystal Palace’s win over the Canaries, it is looking safe with a 10-point lead over the Black Cats.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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