Leicester City are not wallowing in self-pity this season. Back in the Championship after a scarcely believable trophy-laden decade in the top flight, they’ve made a record-breaking start to life in the second tier. Under the guidance of new manager Enzo Maresca, Leicester aren’t afraid of expectation. A star-studded squad packed to the brim with Premier League quality, promotion doesn’t appear to represent the albatross around the neck many thought it would.
Maresca joined Leicester in the summer after working alongside Pep Guardiola as first-team coach at Manchester City last season, and whilst he maintained that replicating the style of football that saw City complete a remarkable treble is a ‘process,’ success for the Italian has come almost overnight.
With ten wins from his opening eleven games, Maresca has made the fastest start of any manager to a Championship season. Whilst opposition fans have already resigned themselves to death by a thousand passes when they visit the King Power Stadium. The summer acquisitions of experienced Premier League players Harry Winks and Conor Coady have bolstered an already talented squad, with Leicester not content to sit around and rue the losses of James Maddison, Harvey Barnes and Youri Tielemans.
Kelechi Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy, who have contributed to ten goals between them this season, remained at the club despite offers from across Europe. But Leicester know they won’t stick around forever, and as such, promotion at the first time of asking has become the one and only objective.
The jewel in the crown of Maresca’s rebuild, though, is Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall. A player who attracted little Premier League interest in the summer, the 25-year-old is showcasing exactly why he deserves to be at the top table. A late double from the Englishman spared Leicester’s blushes on the opening day, and since then, the midfielder hasn’t looked back. With five goals and three assists already this season, Dewsbury-Hall is the Foxes’ unlikely talisman.
For a man who found the net just three times in 59 Premier League appearances, Dewsbury-Hall’s newfound fortune in front of goal has come as a pleasant surprise. But the academy graduate hasn’t forgotten his roots as a fleet-footed midfielder. With 3.6 progressive carries and 7.01 progressive passes per90, according to FBref, Dewsbury-Hall is not only carrying Leicester up the pitch, but he’s also creating opportunities for those around him. This season, it feels like he’s coming of age.
Dewsbury-Hall is leading by example in almost every metric for Leicester, and whilst he’s supplemented by the experience of players like Wilfred Ndidi and Ricardo Pereira, this is a squad with a young manager and a core of young, hungry players ready to make their mark.
Stephy Mavididi has had to wait his turn for a chance, first at Arsenal, then at Juventus and now back in England at Leicester. The tricky winger burst through during a three-year stint at Montpellier, and at 25, he too, is taking the Championship by storm.
Mavididi is live and direct, charging into the penalty area at any given opportunity. The Englishman ranks inside the top ten in the league for goal-creating actions, progressive carries, and carries into the penalty area, according to FBref, a product of his incisive nature.
The Championship is perhaps the most competitive and unpredictable league in the world, and promotion isn’t won in October. But ultimately, Leicester are making it look very easy. They’ve conceded just six goals, the least in the division, whilst only Ipswich have scored more than them, and all this whilst averaging 63.4% possession. Frankly, it’s no wonder away fans are baulking at the sight of paying £35 to watch their team travel to the King Power this season – Leicester’s coronation feels inevitable.
By: Sam Tabuteau / @TabuteauS
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Stephen White – CameraSport