How Did Leicester City Manage To Win The Premier League?

Published on 09/19/2022

Leicester City astonished the football world back in 2016, confirming the club’s first ever Premier League title. This was some feat, considering the league is usually won by a ‘Big 6 Club’. Of course this exclusive list of six includes Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal. In all honesty, since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, apart from the aforementioned teams, Blackburn Rovers in 1995 and Leicester are the only two teams to have won the title. This shows the gap between the big and the small clubs in English football.

Miracles do happen though, evidently! Here we will analyze exactly how a small club like Leicester were able to defy all the odds and crown themselves as champions back in the 2015/16 season.

How Did Leicester City Manage To Win The Premier League

How Did Leicester City Manage To Win The Premier League

The Right Manager

Claudio Ranieri was appointed Leicester City manager back in 2015, replacing the outgoing Nigel Pearson. The appointment was met with much skepticism, considering Ranieri’s appointment had followed poor spells at both Monaco and Greece.

Nevertheless, Ranieri was still a household name having managed the likes of Chelsea, Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan and Juventus. Furthermore, it appeared that Ranieri was the perfect candidate in the end as he secured Leicester their first ever title.

Ranieri made his managerial debut in the club’s season-opening 4-2 victory over Sunderland on August 8. After this game, Ranieri informed the media that he gave the players inspiration from the nearby rock band Kasabian, which ultimately helped them win. Over the season Ranieri showed himself as a character in press interviews, stating in an interview that he he used an “imaginary bell” in training in order to keep his players focused, by saying “dilly ding, dilly dong”‘. Consistently seeing out games, even though they may be only won by one or two goal margins, Ranieri’s side maintained their consistency to bring it all home.


Ranieri won the league during this season by using what many would now call an ‘outdated’ formation. Of course back in the day most teams would play a 4-4-2 formation. The fullbacks were expected to defend, the wide midfielders were in fact wide midfielders, rather than wingers; while there would be two strikers. Nowadays the fullbacks are expected to help out significantly in attack (see Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool, for example), while being able to ‘do a shift’ in defense. Yes, that means that the right-back for example isn’t necessarily chosen for his defensive ability!

So when Ranieri chose to use this less-commonly-used formation, many eyebrows were raised. However, the tactics were clearly visible in action. Leicester utilized attacker Jamie Vardy’s blistering pace by launching long balls forward, mainly from midfielder playmaker Danny Drinkwater. This was a tactic that contributed towards several crucial goals throughout the season for Leicester. Furthermore, Mahrez on the right of midfield and Ngolo Kante as the defensive anchor showed tactical excellence as the season went on.

The center-half pairing of Robert Huth and Wes Morgan might have seemed underwhelming on paper, but proved its efficacy on the field. Many saw two aging, slow defenders. Ranieri however saw two leaders, two physically strong defenders, two excellent readers of the game.

Average Players Working Well Together

I’m not saying that Leicester had a terrible side, but there is no doubt that their team was nothing special- on paper. Danny Simpson at right-back had come in from relegated QPR, winger Nathan Dyer was deemed surplus to requirements by fellow bottom-half side Swansea City, while players like Andy King and Jeffrey Schlupp had been great servants for the club, but nothing spectacular in terms of ability. Despite their lack of star players, Leicester did the impossible.

How It Happened

As the Premier League’s top team heading into April, Leicester defeated Sunderland 2-0 on the road to secure a place in the 2016–17 Champions League. Leicester kept their lead at the top of the table throughout April despite pressure from the pursuing clubs, and they went into May knowing they just needed three points to win the Premier League championship. On May 1, Leicester and Manchester United battled to a tense 1-1 draw at Old Trafford, gaining Leicester a critical point. To remain in the title race, Tottenham Hotspur needed to defeat Chelsea in their upcoming match.

After Ranieri’s hiring had been questioned in the media, Leicester City began the 2015–16 Premier League season as 5,000–1 underdogs to win the championship, but the following day they won it after second-place club Tottenham could only manage a 2-2 draw against Chelsea despite leading 2-0 at halftime. In its 132-year history, the club had never previously won the championship- until that moment.