Five unsung heroes in Leicester's Premier League title challenge
By Oliver Yew
Last Updated: 30/03/16 7:29am
It has been a season to remember for Leicester as they bid to win a first top-flight title in their 132-year history.
Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante have been the standout performers for Claudio Ranieri's side and they've been ably supported by the likes of Danny Drinkwater, Wes Morgan, Robert Huth and Kasper Schmeichel to give Leicester a five-point gap at the top over nearest rivals Tottenham with seven games to play.
But Ranieri, who also deserves recognition for the job he has done in his short time at the King Power stadium, has been keen to stress the collective effort both on and off the pitch as the reason behind Leicester's success.
Ahead of their Super Sunday clash against Southampton, we profile five of Leicester's unsung heroes this season...
Vardy and Mahrez may be taking all the plaudits in attack for Leicester, but Okazaki's contribution cannot be overlooked.
Signed for £7m from Mainz last summer, the Japan international has featured in all but two of Leicester's Premier League games this season, scoring five goals.
The 29-year-old's game-to-goal ratio may not be as prolific as some of his team-mates, but he has scored some crucial goals in his side's rise to the top of the table, including a spectacular overhead winner against Newcastle earlier this month.
Okazaki's goals have secured seven points for the Foxes but it is his work-rate that has made a real impression on his team-mates and supporters at the King Power.
"Shinji works his socks off, week-in, week-out, he deserves something like that," Drinkwater said after Okazaki's winning goal against Newcastle. "It was a special goal, a special moment for us."
Christian Fuchs made just two appearances from the bench in Leicester's first seven Premier League games following his arrival on a free transfer in the summer.
The Austria international finally got his chance from the start in Leicester's 2-1 win at Norwich on October 3, and has been ever-present since.
During that run of 24 games, Fuchs has not only helped Leicester pick up 12 clean sheets, but has also added a dimension going forward with his expert delivery and long throw.
A set-piece specialist, Fuchs has three assists to his name, including the pass that allowed Vardy to break the Premier League goals record in consecutive games against Manchester United.
Steve Walsh - Head of recruitment and assistant manager
In February Leicester's head of technical scouting, Ben Wrigglesworth, joined Arsenal as a first-team video scout, but the appointment led to many to suggest the Gunners had got the wrong man.
That's because the club's head of recruitment, Steve Walsh, who has also been linked with a move to the Emirates Stadium, is the man credited with bringing Okazaki, Fuchs, Kante, Mahrez and Vardy to Leicester.
In his second spell with the Foxes, Walsh, who has also worked with Chelsea and Newcastle, works alongside Craig Shakespeare as an assistant manager to Ranieri.
But it's in his guise as the club's head of recruitment where he should take many of the plaudits as the squad he helped assemble attempts to secure a maiden top-flight crown.
Craig Shakespeare - Assistant manager
Shakespeare may not be a household name for many people outside of Leicester but he's been a crucial figure behind the scenes for Ranieri's title chasers.
The 52-year-old is the man credited with helping the club's transition from Nigel Pearson to current boss Ranieri.
Like Walsh, Shakespeare worked with Pearson during two spells with the Foxes but he was kept on by the Italian, and helped to keep continuity between the two regimes for the players.
And Ranieri, who Shakespeare enjoys a fine working relationship with, has been quick to reward that success with Sky sources reporting both Shakespeare and Walsh are close to agreeing new deals that will see them stay at the club until 2018.
"I have asked that they have signed the same contract as me because I have a very good relationship with my staff," Ranieri said earlier this month. "I prefer that everybody is happy with everything. The sooner they can sign, everybody is happy and we can continue to grow up."
During his time in charge at Leicester, Pearson would regularly be seen sitting in the stands watching games next to the club's performance analysts.
Senior first team performance analyst Andy Blake and first team performance analyst Peter Clark were the men who would be seen working away on their laptops next to Person, providing the manager with replays and logging the action.
Pearson may not be in charge anymore but the analysis team he helped to build has the reputation of being one of the best in the business, and Ranieri agreed.
While the Italian is seen more in the dugout than the stands on a matchday, Blake and Clark, alongside tactical analyst Adam Sadler are still in position at the King Power Stadium providing the very best analysis of opponents, tactical feedback, post-match analysis and stats.
Analysis at Leicester is not just constricted to a matchday either, with technical scout Ollie Waldron providing analytical insights into the performances of prospective transfer targets.
And judging by performances on and off the pitch at Leicester, it all seems to be working very nicely.
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