The common school of thought when Claudio Ranieri arrived as Leicester City’s new manager was that this would be a season spent fighting at one end of the table. Nobody thought it would be the sharp end.
His management career immediately prior to succeeding Nigel Pearson in the Foxes technical area amounted to four games in Greece’s abject Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, in which he lost to the Faroe Islands.
But, after securing yet another comeback win over West Brom last time out, the Italian has Leicester sat third in the Premier League after 11 games, just one win off top spot.
Should he sustain the success he’s having, Ranieri’s achievements this term may even trump those of his successor, who pulled off the unthinkable when dragging the King Power club to survival last season.
Pearson’s groundwork cannot be overlooked in what is happening at Leicester right now, but to lay the plaudits entirely at the former boss’ feet, like Tony Pulis did after last weekend’s clash, would be a mistake.
“It’s very, very nice to step into a football club where everything is in place and at that club it looks like everything is in place … let’s not forget the work Nigel did, the three, four years he was at that club putting them in a position for Claudio now to push on,” Pulis said.
Firstly, Ranieri isn’t working entirely with Pearson’s squad. He has added significant quality to the group he inherited over the summer, with N’Golo Kante standing out in particular.
Then there’s Jamie Vardy, who is enjoying a scoring purple patch unseen in his career before now and he clearly relishes playing in Ranieri’s system, just like Riyad Mahrez who continues to impress.
Ranieri’s personality also makes a difference. He is far breezier and joyful than the icy Pearson and the team’s style on the pitch reflects that.
While a top-four spot remains the ultimate goal, the 20/1 price Ladbrokes offer suggests it is more of a far-fetched dream. Whether it happens or not though, Ranieri has added more building blocks to those laid by Pearson.
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