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What we love about Leicester City

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This week at ProSoccerTalk we will be detailing what we love about each Premier League club competing in the 2019-20 season and next up it is Leicester City.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Each day we will release details on why who adore each team in particular as we remind ourselves just how awesome the PL is as we await its return following the suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Time to focus on the Foxes.


That 2015-16 Premier League title win: How could we not start with this? The 5000-1 shots and favorites for relegation stunned the entire world with possibly the greatest upset in the history of sports. Claudio Ranieri‘s unfancied side won the Premier League by staying tight defensively and allowing N’Golo Kante to run the show in midfield and the duo of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez to rip teams apart on the counter attack. With plenty of heavyweights having a down year, Leicester timed their push for the title to perfection and the glorious scenes on the final home game against Everton saw Andrea Bocelli sing on the pitch as Ranieri and his unlikely heroes hoisted the trophy into the air. Leicester’s title win from 2015-16 will be talked about 100 years from now, and probably longer than that. The entire city of Leicester and the soccer world will never, ever forget it.

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Jamie Vardy: His part in Leicester’s incredible 2015-16 season will see him go down in folklore and his incredible rise to stardom is one of the great rags to riches stories in recent years. Playing in local leagues in England in his early 20s, Vardy made his way up through the leagues and arrived at Leicester from the non-league game in 2012. A few years later he was leading them to the Premier League title, scoring important goals for England and starring in the UEFA Champions League as the Foxes reached the quarterfinals in 2016-17. This season, at the age of 33, Vardy has regained his form and is the leading goalscorer in the Premier League after retiring from the international game. His pace, grit and finishing ability is incredible and Vardy is the kind of player you love to have on your team, even if opponents hate his attitude of never giving up.

Jamie Vardy
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Their current crop of extremely talented youngsters: With the Foxes currently in third place in the Premier League table after an early-season title push, there is a lot to be excited about this young team assembled by Brendan Rodgers and thanks to some very smart planning by those in charge behind-the-scenes at Leicester. Thanks to the building blocks put in place by their late owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and carried on by his son Aiyawatt, affectionately known as Top, Leicester are one of the best run clubs in the Premier League and continue to buy talented youngsters from across Europe and plan for departures and a seamless transition within their squads. After selling Harry Maguire to Man United last summer for $100 million, they already had Caglar Soyuncu waiting in the wings and he’s been one of the stars of 2019-20 at center back. Many would argue this Leicester side are better to watch than the team which won the title in 2015-16 with James Maddison, Harvey Barnes and Ayoze Perez buzzing around underneath Vardy, Wilfried Ndidi and Youri Tielemans holding down midfield and full backs Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell bombing on from full back. The future is bright.

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Brendan Rodgers’ playing philosophy: Given the points above about Leicester’s youngsters starring, there is plenty more to come from them under Rodgers in the coming years. Despite his critics, you can never doubt that Rodgers’ teams play flowing, attractive soccer and we’ve seen that at Swansea, Liverpool, Celtic and now Leicester over the years. Rodgers is a leader who has a clear playing philosophy and that has been taken on very quickly by these Leicester players. The Northern Irishman will no doubt be linked with plenty more Premier League giants and some of Europe’s biggest teams but right now he’s in a great spot at Leicester as he looks certain to lead them to the Champions League. He’s doing all that on top of making Leicester an exciting team to watch.

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2019-20 Premier League Best XI so far

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With the coronavirus shutdown of all major European soccer, it’s worth taking a moment to recognize the players who have stood out to this point as the table begins to truly take shape. Liverpool is just a hair away from securing the 2019/20 title, but not everything is about the Reds – although a lot of it still is.

[ MORE: Possible end dates | PST roundtable ]

With that in mind, here’s the frontrunners at each position for Premier League Team of the Season, with the players who could also make a leap into the conversation with a strong finish to the campaign, if they ever get the chance.

Premier League Best XI

Goalkeeper: Dean Henderson
Also considered: Alisson Becker

Harsh on Alisson, who is leading the way for one of the best back lines in Premier League history, but Dean Henderson has been just as brilliant in far more difficult circumstances. The Manchester United loanee has starred at Sheffield United, prompting talk that the Red Devils should cut his loan short and instill the 23-year-old’s loan short and bring him on to take over for a struggling David De Gea. While many have labeled the shot-stopper “England’s future number one,” it’s entirely possible that Henderson would have been the starter had Euro 2020 not been postponed until next season, and it’s certainly fathomable that the youngster could still be first-choice once the tournament arrives. There are recent rumors among English tabloids that Manchester United is preparing a new contract for Henderson worth nearly $120,000 a week, which would be more than backup goalkeeper Sergio Romero currently makes and about equal with new midfielder Bruno Fernandes.

Ederson is normally considered part of this list as well, but he just hasn’t performed up to the level required this season considering how he sparkled in Manchester City’s title campaign last time around.

Left-back: Andrew Robertson
Also considered: Ben Chilwell, Lucas Digne, Jonny

While Robertson doesn’t burst off the page like his fellow full-back teammate Alexander-Arnold (more on that in a moment), he is still far and away the best left-back in the league. The former Hull City man who joined Liverpool for just $9 million back in 2017 has flourished into one of the world’s best, and his chemistry with Alexander-Arnold is growing the two into a legendary pairing. He is a long-ball master, delivering 2.4 per game, the most of any left-back in the league and third among full-backs to just Kyle Walker and Alexander-Arnold.

Right-back: Trent Alexander-Arnold
Also considered: Ricardo Pereira, Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Did you know the Premier League was absolutely stacked at right-back? If not for Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is quickly establishing himself as the best full-back in the world and has a shot at a place among the greatest of all-time should he maintain this form for a number of years, the likes of Ricardo Pereira and Aaron Wan-Bissaka would actually have a legitimate shot at this award. Pereira’s performance this season has been so good he’s earned himself links to Real Madrid, and both he and Wan-Bissaka are tackle masters who are blowing away the rest of the league in that category (both are the only men not named Wilfried Ndidi to average over 4 successful tackles per match). Throw in Kyle Walker and wing-back Matt Doherty, and the ranks of Premier League right-backs are loaded. Too bad TAA trumps them all, with a gargantuan 12 assists this season and 2.6 key passes per game, more than double the total of any other right-back.

Center-Back: Virgil Van Dijk, Harry Maguire
Also considered: Caglar Soyuncu, Wily Boly, James Tarkowski

Selecting one of these players is a no-brainer. Virgil van Dijk is far and away the best center-back in the Premier League, and maybe the world. Selecting his partner is far more difficult.

WhoScored’s second-highest rated player at the position this season is Wily Boly, but like Scott McTominay, thanks to injuries he has not played enough this season to qualify. Caglar Soyuncu is another popular choice, and the youngster no doubt has been a pleasant surprise next to Jonny Evans at Leicester City, one of the league’s rising stars at the position. But Harry Maguire lived up to his price tag this season and that’s no small feat as the world’s most expensive defender. His positioning is exquisite, and while he hasn’t displayed van Dijk levels of domination – a slight slip in form through the months of October and November prove that – he has done fabulously at Manchester United, racking up a complete 2,610-minute Premier League season to this point and playing significant minutes through the other Cup competitions as well while the Red Devils struggle with injuries all over the pitch.

Defensive Midfield: Wilfred Ndidi
Also considered: Scott McTominay, Declan Rice, Jorginho

Wilfred Ndidi is a midfield destroyer the likes of which we haven’t seen since…well, since N’Golo Kante did it first at Leicester City just a few short years ago. But that doesn’t take away from the otherworldly performance that Ndidi has put forth this season, given that Kante earned himself Ballon d’Or nominations for his performance in Leicester City’s title-winning season. See this from November:

Ndidi is completing 4.4 successful tackles a game, only second to Crystal Palace’s James McCarthy who has only appeared in 12 games this season. He is doing so in a vicious pressing system that centrals around the Nigerian’s ability to cover an insane amount of ground, easing the pressing load on the other players as to not tire them out. Need an idea how important Ndidi is to the team? Of the five matches he missed in 2020 due to a knee injury, Leicester City won exactly zero of them, with three losses and two draws. He’s so important to the squad that Pep Guardiola game-planned for him successfully.

Scott McTominay has been a revelation this season, taking the next step into one of the league’s best defensive midfielders, but he missed too many games due to injury. Declan Rice continues to push forward as one of West Ham’s best assets, but has been unable to assert the same table-climbing effect on his side that Ndidi exerts on Leicester City.

Central Midfield: Jordan Henderson, Kevin De Bruyne
Also considered: Joao Moutinho, John Fleck

Kevin de Bruyne is everyone’s first choice on this squad. Leading the league 17 assists and producing scintillating displays nearly every week. The Belgian has displayed positional flexibility, often best sitting behind the striker in an attacking midfield role but also moving back into central midfield to receive the ball deeper or shifting out wide to make use of his crossing technique. De Bruyne will likely battle with van Dijk for Player of the Season should the awards eventually end up given out.

On the other end, Jordan Henderson is a perfect foil for de Bruyne. The Liverpool captain has been gargantuan this season, moving from cult hero to widespread household name. Henderson is a lynchpin of the highest order, calming the side and bringing structure to the buildup while helping defensively when Liverpool is hit on the counter.

The others considered from this position deserve to be mentioned. Joao Moutinho, along with midfield partner Ruben Neves, has turned the Wolves midfield into a dominant force no matter who they play. While they don’t necessarily hold the ball for endless spells of possession, they have been vicious when moving forward and relentless when shielding the back line. John Fleck, meanwhile, has been the other Sheffield United standout this season alongside Henderson, and his performance this season must be mentioned given where the Blades sit in the table.

Attacking Midfield: Jack Grealish
Also considered: James Maddison, Mason Mount

As far as players who are the most important to their team, Jack Grealish is unquestionably tops of that list. The Aston Villa midfielder has produced spectacular performance after spectacular performance this season, often the best player on the field despite Villa’s overall struggles. With his current club potentially going down should the season be concluded, Grealish is being linked with teams scattered across the top of the Premier League table and rightly so. At just 24 years old, Grealish has grown into a flourishing attacker who excels at taking players on and creating chances out of nothing.

Mason Mount has been fabulous for Chelsea this season, but injuries have hampered his campaign. The Blues should nonetheless be encouraged about the bright future of their young star. James Maddison has been equally fantastic for Leicester City in a similar role with freedom around the pitch, but he doesn’t quite carry his team like Grealish does. The youth on this list should be encouraging for the long-term health of attacking systems in the English top flight.

Forward: Sadio Mane, Jamie Vardy
Also considered: Sergio Aguero, Mohamed Salah, Adama Traore

Absolutely the most difficult choice of any position here, some high-profile players have missed out on a place in the team, but there’s just no way to leave out the two men at this spot. Jamie Vardy leads the league in goals, and while things have dried up somewhat until his brace against Aston Villa last time out, his goal conversion rate is still at historic levels. The dry spell has lowered his xG that at one point sat above the +6 mark, but he still has converted chances at a +4.76 rate this season, bagging 19 goals on a 14.24 xG mark. While Sergio Aguero and Mohamed Salah have also been prolific goalscorers, they just haven’t finished at the absurd rate that Jamie Vardy has produced.

Those two also just don’t equate to the importance that Sadio Mane presents to Liverpool. The presence of Gabriel Jesus means that Sergio Aguero could be missed and Manchester City hardly misses a beat, and while that shouldn’t take away from what the Argentine means to the heartbeat of that squad, it just doesn’t stack up to Mane’s vital presence at Liverpool. Adama Traore has burst onto the scene the second half of the campaign, injecting life into an occasionally stagnant Wolves attack and earning himself a place on this list, but he still struggles with consistency and doesn’t quite equate to the massive stature of the Liverpool winger.

Ayew the hero for Palace against Watford

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Crystal Palace beat Watford 1-0 at Selhurst Park on Saturday in a tight, feisty clash between two teams who know each other very well.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Jordan Ayew was once again the hero for Crystal Palace as he rifled home a fine goal in the first half and Roy Hodgson‘s side held on for the all three points thanks to a third-straight shutout and 1-0 win. Nigel Pearson‘s Watford huffed and puffed but remain in the relegation scrap after they failed to build on their incredible win against Liverpool last weekend.

With the win Palace move into 10th place and have 40 points, as they are just five points off the top four. Watford remain in 17th place and only out of the relegation zone on goal difference.


3 things we learned

1. Ayew having a sneaky good season: Eight goals in the Premier League is his best-ever return and Ayew has been so important to Palace, especially with Wilfried Zaha not hitting top form week in, week out this season. Ayew isn’t the most natural finisher in the world but he works hard and is taking a lot of the chances Palace create for him. He has now scored one goal on eight occasions this season and on each occasion he has scored Palace are unbeaten with six wins and two draws.

2. Watford’s inconsistency infuriating: They have now beat Liverpool, Wolves and Man United since Nigel Pearson arrived but are still in the thick of the relegation battle. Nigel Pearson’s Watford just can’t string together a run of wins against teams just above them.

3. Hodgson underrated: The 72-year-old Palace coach has led them to 11th and 12th place finishes in the last two seasons and they are now 10th. Does he get the credit he deserves? Probably not. Hodgson signed a one-year contract extension this week and after not being given funds to strengthen in January and after Aaron Wan-Bissaka was sold in the summer, you have to applaud the job he has done. What you see is what you get with Hodgson. His teams are organized and grind out wins. Palace may not be the best team to watch but they are getting it done.

Man of the Match: Christian Benteke – So often a scapegoat, the center forward held the ball up, almost scored with an acrobatic effort and brought out the best in Ayew and Zaha around him. Benteke gets plenty of stick but he is finally playing regularly and even if the goals aren’t flowing he provides a focal point to Palace’s attack.


Abdoulaye Doucoure almost squeezed home a shot at the near post early on and from a corner soon after Watford caused all kinds of problems but Crystal Palace cleared.

Will Hughes then dragged a shot wide as Watford came flying out of the traps and were obviously buoyed by their win against Liverpool.

Palace then took the lead with a superb goal as Ayew smashed home from the edge of the box after a lovely flowing move down the left which saw Zaha play in Benteke who found James McArthur to assist Ayew.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The game was very feisty with plenty of flash points, most involving Wilfried Zaha, as Watford and Etienne Capoue in particular targeted the Palace winger.

Zaha responded by going on a mazy run and forced Ben Foster into a fine stop down low as Watford’s goalkeeper stood tall.

Troy Deeney forced Vicente Guaita into a fine stop after his powerful effort from outside the box, then Christian Benteke sent one of his trademark acrobatic efforts inches wide.

Hodgson signs contract extension at Crystal Palace

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Roy Hodgson will remain in charge at Crystal Palace through the end of the 2020-21 season after signing a contract extension.

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Hodgson, 72, has now been in charge at Selhurst Park since September 2017 and has turned the Eagles into a steady midtable team in the Premier League with 11th and 12th place finishes in the last two seasons.

The former Liverpool, Fulham, West Brom and England manager (not including many other stops on his incredible managerial career) was delighted to commit to Palace for another season.

“I am delighted that the club and I have reached agreement to extend my contract. I am proud of what we have achieved since I was appointed two and a half years ago, and I look forward to us working together for the foreseeable future. Everyone knows how I feel about the club that I supported as a boy, I feel a special bond with the supporters and know that myself, the owners and the players are all working together to achieve the same goal,” Hodgson said.

That final sentence is key as Hodgson has been open and honest in recent interviews about not quite knowing what the direction of the club is.

Palace haven’t spent big in the last few transfer windows and only gave Hodgson loan deals to work with in January when he wanted big spending, but he will get to bolster the squad in the summer. Keeping hold of Wilfried Zaha has been key, especially after selling Aaron Wan-Bissaka last summer for $57 million, but now Palace need to invest in a striker to hell Zaha and Jordan Ayew lead their charge.

Solid defensively and a threat on the counter attack and from set pieces, you know exactly what you’re getting from Palace and Hodgson. That’s why this partnership works so well and why they’ve decided to extend it for another season, at least.

Late strikes, debut wins, and golazos all feature in 2020 MLS opening day

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Major League Soccer got its 2020 season under way on Saturday, and there were plenty of exciting storylines and moments to dot the Leap Day landscape.

[ MORE: Everything goes wrong for Liverpool ]

Most notably, Nashville S.C. got a rude welcome to the league as the debutants were dropped 2-1 at home against Atlanta United. Ezequiel Barco struck just nine minutes in on an exquisite Atlanta counter-attack, delivering a low right-footed shot inside the far post. USMNT defender Walker Zimmerman responded just before the half-hour mark, writing himself into the Nashville S.C. record books with the club’s first-ever goal. He rose high to meet a free-kick into the box, and while his header went basically nowhere, he was able to get a foot to it and poke the ball in for the equalizer.

Nashville would be happy to go into halftime level with one of the best teams in the league, but Emerson Hyndman made sure the visitors would enter the break on top, fizzing a blistering volley in for a deserved lead before the break.

Nashville was up for the challenge and had plenty of chances, but each opportunity seemed just a whisker away from being converted. David Accam nearly got to a 53rd minute Dominique Badji cross but his slide was inches away. With 12 minutes to go, Randall Leal smacked the post with a vicious shot.

Unfortunately, while Atlanta held onto the three points, they may have lost far more as talismanic playmaker Josef Martinez went down in a heap in the 67th minute, immediately pointing to his knee. Replays showed he twisted it awkwardly avoiding a challenge, and while the Colombian tried to come back on, he eventually needed to be stretchered off the field.

Elsewhere, the LA Galaxy went ahead early on the road in Houston on a Cristian Pavon golazo, but they were held from there in a 1-1 draw. Houston actually held the lion’s share of possession – 59% worth of it – but only managed to put two of its 15 shots on target.

The Pavon goal was brilliantly worked, coming straight from goalkeeper Dave Bingham who blasted the ball down to Pavon, and the Argentine did the rest, delivering a fabulous curler past Marko Maric.

Houston was able to eventually earn a point, breaching the Galaxy defense in the 54th minute via Mauro Manotas who took a wonderful through-ball from Zarek Valentin and blasted a right-footed effort through a charging Dave Bingham.

Chicharito‘s debut saw the Mexican international take just one shot, coming from outside the box and missing the target. After the match, Chicharito said scoring early may have actually been a detriment. “Football is ironic sometimes, the worst thing was scoring a goal so early because after that I think we let them play, build their confidence and then the game became equal.” Joe Corona had chances for the visitors past the hour mark, but otherwise neither side threatened much.

USMNT defender Jonathan Lewis gave the Colorado Rapids a dramatic 2-1 victory on the road at D.C. United with a 92nd minute winner. Russell Canouse and Kei Kamara had cancelled each other out past the hour mark, but Lewis was on hand at the far post to tap in a scrappy winner late. Colorado may have missed the playoffs last season, but Robin Fraser has them off to a fast start.

Thierry Henry picked up a win in his first match in charge as the Montreal Impact topped the New England Revolution in Canada 2-1. Max Urruti won it in the 80th minute with an absurd goal, chipping Matt Turner with a bonkers poke on a long ball from Saphir Taider.

Teal Bunbury had given New England the early lead 13 minutes in, volleying home a cross from deep onto the right flank to put the visitors up, but Romell Quioto cancelled that out before halftime with a set-piece header. It seemed like Wilfried Zahibo had put New England up with 17 minutes to go, but after a video review it was chalked off for offside. Then Urruti delivered a stunner to seal Henry’s first victory as Impact boss.

The San Jose Earthquakes snatched a late 2-2 draw with finalists Toronto FC thanks to a 95th minute equalizer from Oswaldo Alanis. The 30-year-old Mexican ripped in an absurd free-kick from a tight angle to salvage the draw, the final of two great goals for San Jose. Toronto had worked a 2-0 lead by the 51st minute on relatively cheap goals from Alejandro Pozuelo and Richie Laryea, with Pozuelo’s coming from the penalty spot. Andres Rios got one back for San Jose in the 53rd minute, just two minutes after Toronto doubled its lead, and while the hosts held 63% possession throughout, it took until deep in stoppage time until Alanis found his moment.

Full MLS results

D.C. United 1-2 Colorado Rapids
Montreal Impact 2-1 New England Revolution
Houston Dynamo 1-1 LA Galaxy
San Jose Earthquakes 2-2 Toronto FC
FC Dallas 2-0 Philadelphia Union
Orlando City SC 0-0 Real Salt Lake
Nashville SC 1-2 Atlanta United