Top Foxes: Which Leicester players shine brightest in the fairytale?

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Riyad Mahrez won the PFA Player of the Year award for this Premier League season as the award understandably went to a member of Leicester City.

But did it go to the right one?

The sensational Mahrez is most certainly in the discussion, but what about Jamie “Fantastic Horse” Vardy or N’Golo “Battery Pants” Kante?

And then there’s the center back pair critics just can’t divide (in terms of importance), and a pair of Manchester United cast-offs playing every match. Oh, and a legendary Red Devils’ son.

[ MORE: UEFA Champions League semifinal preview ]

So who would be crazy enough to make an attempt to rank the most valuable members of the title run? Pro Soccer Talk. Duh.

Nine players have appeared in at least 33 of Leicester’s PL matches this season, although one of those Foxes — Shinji Okazaki — has played less minutes than Danny Simpson (27 matches) and Christian Fuchs (29 minutes).

And with respect to Leonardo Ulloa, who has several high-profile Leicester moments, and

To avoid making a distinction between the two, we will limit our ranking to the remaining eight (at the expense of Okazaki, Simpson and Fuchs).

8. Marc Albrighton

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 19: Marc Albrighton and Leicester City players celebrate their 1-0 win in the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Leicester City at Selhurst Park on March 19, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Crosses for days: Albrighton had an early season knack for gorgeous, sweeping assists. Not as clinical in possession or defending, though, and that slots him 8th.

7. Danny Drinkwater

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 03: Wes Morgan of Leicester City (5) celebrates with team mate Danny Drinkwater as he scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Southampton at The King Power Stadium on April 3, 2016 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Doesn’t make as many spectacular, awe-inspiring plays as his midfield mate Kante, but is a steadying part of the force who’s opened the eyes of England manager Roy Hodgson.

6. Robert Huth

during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Newcastle United at The King Power Stadium on March 14, 2016 in Leicester, England.
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A friend of mine who’s been getting into the Premier League more because of the Leicester story calls the big German back the “Chris Pronger of the Premier League”, and any hockey fan can tell you what that means. Big and nasty, and a threat at both ends of the pitch.

5. Kasper Schmeichel

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 03: Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel of Leicester City attempts to punch clear from Graziano Pelle of Southampton during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Southampton at The King Power Stadium on April 3, 2016 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

It wasn’t too long ago that his last name was more interesting to neutrals than his status as a starting goalkeeper. Schmeichel has played in every match for Leicester, and is a Top Ten goalkeeper in the PL.

4. Jamie Vardy

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 03: Jamie Vardy of Leicester City controls the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Southampton at The King Power Stadium on April 3, 2016 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

We know, we know: the striker who set a record for most successive goals is fourth on our list. His 22 goals and 8 assists account for close to 50 percent of the Foxes’ 63 goals, and who knows how high that figure rises when you consider his relentless energy and pressure have caused many a turnover. Not bad for a kid from Stocksbridge Park Steels’ youth set-up.

3. Wes Morgan

during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on February 6, 2016 in Manchester, England.
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Leicester didn’t keep its first clean sheet until Week 10, and has just two before Christmas. The English-born Jamaican international has been instrumental in most of the 12 clean sheets that have come since, as the Foxes have allowed multiple goals just three times in 2016. Marshall.

2. Riyad Mahrez

West Ham United v Leicester City - Premier League
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The 17-goal man’s best league scoring outputs before this season were 13- and 11- goal seasons… for Le Havre II. This season, he’s been off the charts in terms of electricity in attack.

MVP: N’Golo Kante

 during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and West Ham United at The King Power Stadium on April 17, 2016 in Leicester, England.
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There are many reasons Mahrez won PFA Player of the Year, but his gaudy numbers tipped the scales. Traditional statistics don’t tell us everything, though, and if you’re talking about open market value for a player we believe Kante would fetch the most. We’ve written about his value at length here, as Leicester’s counterattacking approach needs an interceptor and a facilitator. He does both.

Agree? Disagree? Vote on your Leicester MVP here:

Season restart preview: Brighton and Hove Albion

Brighton season restart
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

Brighton is next.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Seagulls when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: If there’s a team whose results don’t show the way they’ve played, it’s Brighton. Graham Potter’s Seagulls have the sixth-best possession percentage in the league, are a tidy seventh in passing, and are mid-table in tackles per game, interceptions per game, and shots per game.

[ MORE: Ranking every Brighton player in 2019-20 ]

The expected goals stats show even less reward for good work, with Brighton scoring 8.35 goals less than expected in open play and 4.38 less from corner kicks.

Despite all these good things, Brighton is two points clear of the drop zone with nine matches to play and has a terribly challenging schedule especially at the Amex Stadium.


Tactical analysis: Graham Potter has put the Seagulls in myriad formations this season, though he’s been utilizing at least four at the back since the calendar turned to 2020. He’s ready to attack but pragmatic given the club’s hopes of staving off the teams below it in the fight for PL survival.

[ MORE: The 2 Robbies assess Brighton’s chances ]


Possible XI (4-2-3-1) 

—– Ryan —–

— Montoya — Webster — Dunk — Burn —

—– Propper —– Mooy —–

— Trossard — Gross — Alzate —

—– Maupay—–

Glenn Murray and Alireza Jahanbakhsh are excellent weapons to have on the bench, and Brighton’s also got a very good center back in reserve in the form of Shame Duffy and an underrated center mid in Dale Stephens who will see playing time, too. On paper, this team is too good to go down.


[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Arsenal, Man City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Newcastle
Away: Leicester, Norwich, Southampton, Burnley

Predicted finish: They’ll do enough to get by, though that home fixture list is simply brutal. Safe before the final weekend.

Social media wrap: All 20 Premier League clubs, many players stand against racism

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The protests in the United States have inspired anti-racism statements from around the world, including all gestures from all 20 Premier League clubs and many players and managers.

There have been ongoing protests and horrible violence in the U.S. since the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes even after he stopped moving and pleaded for air in Minnesota.

Newcastle United’s American defender DeAndre Yedlin issued an emotional thread (below) as one of a great deal of players to express hopes for change and solidarity, while Schalke’s Weston McKennie explained his wearing a black armband reading “Justice For George” in the Bundesliga this weekend.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

From Ancelotti to Zaha, Antonio to Yedlin, Arsenal to Wolves, we’ve collected many of their sentiments below in what we hope serves as universal disdain for racial prejudice.

Some players like Leicester City’s Wes Morgan and even entire clubs (Arsenal) changed their online identity photos to reflect these troubled times.

All PL clubs issued messages of solidarity, many using the Black Lives Matter hashtag and making no bones about where they stand.

And we’ll start with a longtime PL club currently in the Championship, who blasted a season ticket holder’s rejection of their unifying Tweet.

Here are some other clubs and players worldwide to have noticed what’s happening in the United States.

 

Season restart preview: Bournemouth

Bournemouth season restart
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Bournemouth when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: Tough sledding for the Cherries, who face zero of their fellow bottom-six sides (though 13th place Newcastle and 14th place Saints both visit the Vitality Stadium).

There’s been an element of bad luck to Bournemouth’s woes, with its expected goals stats showing Ryan Fraser, Joshua King, and Callum Wilson have deserved better end product and that the Cherries’ 14 goals from open play should be closer to 22. The defense has been bad and xG says it could’ve been worse, too. Injuries had hit Bournemouth’s defense corps in a big way, too. How much better will they be after the break?

[ MORE: Ranking every Cherries player in 2019-20 ]


Tactical analysis: Eddie Howe utilized a 4-4-2 with two defensive midfielders for much of the early season, but has gone between a lone striker with a packed-in midfielder and a 4-3-3 when he thinks an opponent is exploitable.

Howe started a 4-4-2 against almost all of the Cherries’ remaining opponents, choosing a 5-4-1 against Wolves and Man City. There’s no guarantee he’ll continue that, especially when some matches may dictate a draw or limited goal differential damage over wins.


Possible XI (4-3-3) 

—– Ramsdale —–

— Smith — S. Cook — Ake — Rico —

—– Lerma —– Billing — L. Cook —

— Fraser —– C. Wilson —– King —–

Howe prefers to attack when at all possible, but the points will be at a premium against some very challenging opponents. It’s a safe bet that he’ll ask a lot from his forwards while trying to deploy his three relentless midfielders together whenever possible. The question here is whether Aaron Ramsdale returns quickly from his COVID-19 positive test, or if it’ll be Artur Boruc or someone else between the sticks.


[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Crystal Palace, Newcastle, Spurs, Leicester City, Southampton
Away: Wolves, Manchester United, Man City, Everton

Predicted finish: The Cherries stay up, just, as King and Callum Wilson deliver the goods in front of a determined and improved midfield.

Premier League clubs will reportedly be allowed preseason friendlies

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Premier League clubs will be allowed to play preseason matches ahead of the 2019-20’s restart season later this month.

There will be strict protocols due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, and the matches will likely be officiated by club coaching staffs (We have so many Jose Mourinho as ref quips to make here, but let’s keep going anyway).

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Sky Sports says clubs will be limited to opponents within 90 minutes of their venue, and that players will have to drive themselves to the stadiums and go directly to the field in uniform.

With the League One and League Two seasons still hanging in the balance, it’s likely PL sides will be limited to each other and Championship sides. Presumably clubs will not want to meet others still on their fixture list.

We assume some players will get dressed in their vehicles outside the ground, but allow yourself some levity in these challenging times and imagine a fully kitted-up Virgil van Dijk driving the roads from Liverpool to Wigan Athletic.