Only someone living under a rock wouldn’t know of Leicester City’s epic 2015-16 Premier League title victory. It is a legendary part of the sport's heritage that will be remembered for years to come. However, this miracle overshadows an effort just as, if not more, miraculous that happened the year before.
Leicester City’s great escape from relegation in the 2014-15 season would have been a part of their lore. But they went on to achieve the impossible in the very next season, so people tend to forget the miracle that kept them in the Premier League.
The Foxes first made headlines just as the season started. They had just signed multiple trophy-winning legendary midfielder Esteban Cambiasso on a free transfer. The Argentine, who would go on to become the Club’s POTY, signed a one-season contract with them.
Leicester City's Premier League return did not go to plan.
Leicester achieved promotion by virtue of being the Championship winners in the 2013-14 season. No one had predicted anything remarkable for the Foxes, with most people expecting a run-of-the-mill season.
The fact that they did not make any big-name signings before embarking on their PL campaign did not create any high hopes either. Marc Albrighton and Mark Schwarzer were the biggest names to arrive. The latter was signed only as a cover to the then-injured Kasper Schmeichel, and the veteran Aussie made only six appearances all season.
The arrival of Cambiasso on a Bosman transfer made viewers sit up and take notice. The Foxes weren't there only to make up the numbers. They meant business.
The Foxes started fairly well. They faced only one defeat in their first five matches, and that too came against PL giants Chelsea. Manchester United were condemned to a 5-3 drubbing at the King Power Stadium.
However, it all began to go downhill after the first five games. By April, a dreadful run of just two wins in 24 matches placed Leicester City at the bottom of the EPL table. With just four wins and 19 points from 29 matches, Leicester City looked doomed to go back to where they came from.
Winless since January, Nigel Pearson’s men took on West Ham United on April 4. A late winner against the Hammers gave them their first victory in three months. This win came as a huge relief, and more importantly, it started the streak which would result in the great escape.
The Foxes went on a four-game winning streak. One of these wins came against fellow strugglers Burnley, and it proved to be an important three points for Leicester. The streak was halted by Chelsea, who would eventually go on to win the league.
The defeat was no more than a speedbump, as the Foxes went unbeaten in the next four games as well. This run boosted them so much that they secured survival with a game in hand. Leicester City came into the penultimate matchday requiring a solitary point to maintain their Premier League status. Kasper Schmeichel helped them grind out a 0-0 draw versus Sunderland, sending fans into a tizzy.
Leicester City ultimately ended the season 14th, winning their last match against QPR 5-1.
The Foxes had secured themselves. They had pulled the statistically most impressive escape from relegation. No other team in the league’s history had remained in the top flight after having less than 20 points from 29 games. Other relegation-threatened teams having poor results did help, but no credit should be taken away from the Leicestershire side.
Signed before the season began, Leonardo Ulloa led from the front and finished top-scorer with 11 league goals. The star of the show, however, was Esteban Cambiasso. The Argentine midfielder was dynamic at the base of the midfield and even filled in at centre-back in some games. He made 33 appearances in all competitions and was ultimately declared the club’s Player of the Year.
The celebrations were short-lived for the manager. Eyebrows were raised when Nigel Pearson was sacked barely a month after saving the Foxes from relegation.
Former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri was tasked with managing the team. He went on to achieve the improbable, defeating odds of 5000/1 and lifting the title. Everyone knows the story, but not many know what preceded it.
The great escape of 2014-15 laid the base for the astonishing title run of 2015-16. Nigel Pearson saved the Foxes and built the foundation on which Ranieri worked his magic. Riyadh Mahrez has gone on record to say both the managers deserve credit for their fairytale win.
Leicester City are a top team today, but it all started when a relegation-bound team pulled off a great escape.
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