Harking back to a previous era and ripping up a text book full of received wisdom, Leicester City’s remarkable title triumph has been founded on a footballing philosophy that many had consigned to the dustbin.
The statistics of a stunning campaign tell an astonishing tale of how Leicester have turned the clock back by shunning possession and glorying in the long ball to a pacey striker, while spurning rotation in favor of a settled, almost self-selecting side.
Leicester have played more long balls than almost any team in Europe, their average possession is one of the lowest in the Premier League and they have started fewer players over the campaign than any of their title rivals.
To many eyes, it is a simple formula for success and one that was common among English sides in the 1980s, yet Leicester’s approach had been almost discarded from the modern game.
In an era of European football dominated by Barcelona, who guard the ball with an almost infinite zeal and rarely pass further than the nearest team mate, Leicester have shown that being direct need not be a relic of a bygone age.
A report last month by the Football Observatory research group at the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) in Switzerland said Ranieri’s side have played more long balls this season than all but two teams in Europe’s big five leagues.
With 6.9 percent of Leicester’s passes being classified as long by the study, the Foxes blaze a trail for the Premier League and only mid-table German sides Darmstadt (10.7 percent) and Ingolstadt (7.8 percent) are more willing to go direct.
It has certainly not been a tactic adopted by the other four leaders of Europe’s major leagues with Bayern Munich, Paris St German, Barcelona and Juventus having the lowest long ball percentages of all clubs, varying between 1.1 and 1.6 percent.
Leicester City's Italian manager Claudio Ranieri arrives for the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on May 1, 2016. RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.