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Leicester 2019/20 vs Claudio Ranieri’s title-winners: another one of those combined XIs

Hypothetical combined XIs are utterly, utterly pointless.

While that is an undeniable fact, they can also be quite a fun way to spend five minutes.

With Leicester flying high in the Premier League – there should be a little trophy for the team who are the next best after Liverpool and Man City – we were pondering how the current crop compare to Claudio Ranieri’s title-winners of 2015/16.


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What a time to be alive

AP:Associated Press
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What a time to be alive

Kasper Schmeichel and Jamie Vardy are the only two from the fairy tale season who remain regular starters under Brendan Rodgers.

But let’s go through the other nine positions and debate if the current crop are actually better man-for-man than the odds-busting heroes of the not-too-distant past…

KEEPER: Kasper Schmeichel

The Dane is up against himself here so let’s swiftly move on.

Solid

Getty Images - Getty
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Solid

RIGHT-BACK: Danny Simpson vs Ricardo Pereira

With the utmost respect, Simpson was probably the weakest of Ranieri’s preferred XI.

Like all the Foxes of 2015/16, he stuck diligently to his task and deserves praise for his contribution but in terms of individual quality, he’s a standard below Pereira.

The Portuguese full-back has been a revelation in 2019 — he’s made the second-most tackles in the Premier League this season and is an asset in attack too.

Consistency

AP:Associated Press
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Consistency

LEFT-BACK: Christian Fuchs vs Ben Chilwell

In a team full of cult heroes, Fuchs was perhaps the pick of the bunch in 2015/16.

The Austrian had a long throw and a wicked left foot but I think even he would admit he has his limitations.

Chilwell has already established himself as England’s first-choice left-back and looks set for a trophy-laden future.

The 22-year-old has three assists from nine appearances this campaign while Fuchs ended with four assists from 32 games during the miracle season.

Bright future

Getty - Contributor
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Bright future

CENTRE-BACKS: Wes Morgan vs Robert Huth vs Jonny Evans vs Caglar Soyuncu

This is where it gets tricky.

On paper, Evans and Soyuncu are better footballers than Morgan and Huth but we must not underestimate the form of Ranieri’s defenders at the time.

Many thought Huth and Morgan would fade as the season went on but they maintained their colossal partnership until the sweet end.

Leadership is a factor too — captain Morgan was the perfect man to steer the runaway train that was Leicester’s 2015/16.

Soyuncu has impressed with his confidence in possession and intensity in defence but is it too soon to draw a conclusion about the promising Turk?

Yes, like the rum

Getty Images - Getty
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Yes, like the rum

MIDFIELD: Danny Drinkwater vs N’Golo Kante vs Wilfred Ndidi vs Youri Tielemans vs James Maddison

Now we have to start thinking about formation.

Ranieri famously put two fingers up to modernists by implementing an effective 4-4-2 while Rodgers’ troops line-up in a 4-1-4-1 shape.

Kante’s efforts during the title-winning season are the stuff of legend and the Frenchman has been in a class of his own ever since.

But don’t underestimate Ndidi, who has been one of the league’s best defensive midfielders for the last years — nobody has made more tackles in 2019/20.

We might have to squeeze both of them in.

The double act of Tielemans and Maddison may well be the best aspect of Rodgers’ Leicester.

The pair are excellent technicians and have contributed six league goals and four assists between at this stage of the season.

Given Maddison often crosses the border between midfielder and forward, we may be able to shuffle the pack…

Force of nature

Getty Images - Getty
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Force of nature

WINGERS: Marc Albrighton vs Riyad Mahrez vs Harvey Barnes vs Ayoze Perez vs Demari Gray

This category has a standout star.

Mahrez was the PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 2015/16 after plundering 17 goals and providing 11 assists.

Albrighton is an underrated footballer and the Foxes wouldn’t have been the same without him but it’s important to note just how reliant that team were on Mahrez and Jamie Vardy going forward.

The pair were involved (scored or assisted) in 85% of Leicester’s league goals in 2015/16 — that’s unbelievable.

Class above

AP:Associated Press
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Class above

STRIKER: Jamie Vardy

Vardy is a slightly different player now to the phenomenon of 2015/16.

At 32 years old he’s ditched the hounding of lost causes in favour of energy conservation.

And with Maddison and Tielemans giving the Foxes control and invention, Vardy makes more use of his poaching instincts than his kick-and-chase directness these days.

The main thing is he’s still scoring goals and celebrating in front of rival fans.

Everyone’s favourite party boy scored 24 goals during the title-winning season and he’s leading the scoring charts in 2019/20, reaching double figures before anyone else.

Here’s the team…

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As you can see, we somewhat fudged it by jamming Maddison in as a left-winger but you can imagine him playing narrow and drifting into the spaces of a traditional No10.

We’re pretty happy with it but admit deciding on the centre-backs caused us a headache.

One conclusion might be that the modern Leicester side have more overall quality, or at least a more even spread.

There’s no doubt the 2015/16 world-beaters harnessed momentum to become greater than the sum of their parts.

So while Rodgers is unlikely to replicate the impossible (seriously, 2015/16 was insane), the Foxes will be hopeful of maintaining a top four position from now until the end of the season and beyond.


NEXT: Liverpool vs Man City will give the rest of the league a lesson in proper crossing