Leicester win Premier League: How title-winning season unfolded
By David Bowers
Last Updated: 03/05/16 4:08pm
After Leicester City claimed their first league title in the club's 132-year history, Sky Sports reviews a memorable season for the Foxes.
After a miraculous escape from relegation last season, Leicester were discounted by many at the beginning of the 2015/16 campaign. A year of hardship was expected, but the Foxes have spent nine months defying the odds.
Having arrived into the season as 5,000/1 outsiders, Leicester have achieved the impossible by claiming their maiden Premier League title. We look back at an incredible season for Claudio Ranieri's Foxes...
Won v Sunderland 4-2 (H), Won v West Ham 2-1 (A), Draw v Tottenham 1-1 (H), Draw v Bournemouth 1-1 (A)
At 3pm on August 8, Leicester City began their season as one of the favourites for relegation. At 3:25pm, the Foxes were 3-0 up against Sunderland with Riyad Mahrez getting his sensational season off to a blistering start with two quick-fire goals after Jamie Vardy had opened the scoring. Marc Albrighton added another as Leicester claimed an impressive 4-2 win, before heading to Upton Park a week later.
Buoyed by their opening day win over Arsenal at the Emirates, West Ham were expected to ease to a comfortable win over Ranieri's men, but another impressive performance saw Leicester head into half-time with a two-goal lead. Dimitri Payet netted 10 minutes into the second half but the Foxes held on and moved to the top of the Premier League table, before draws with Tottenham and Bournemouth consolidated their unbeaten start to the season.
After scoring four goals in three games, Mahrez's wonderful start to the season had reportedly attracted teams across Europe, but Ranieri held on to the future Player of the Year after issuing a warning to those potential suitors: "We won't sell him so it's much better if they don't ask."
What they said
Ranieri's appointment was initially ridiculed by many, but an impressive start silenced the Italian's doubters. His secret? "I told my players, 'When you go on the pitch and you hear the song Fire from Kasabian, that means they want warriors'. I want to see them as warriors for the fans."
Won v Aston Villa 3-2 (H), Draw v Stoke 2-2 (A), Lost v Arsenal 2-5 (H)
Having returned from an international break, Leicester's unbeaten start to the season looked to be under threat, with Aston Villa taking a 2-0 lead after 63 minutes at the King Power Stadium.
However, a sensational comeback led by goals from Ritchie de Laet and Vardy had seemingly salvaged a point, before Nathan Dyer struck on 89 minutes to claim all three points for Leicester in a pulsating affair.
Another fightback followed a week later when Mahrez and Vardy scored to claim a draw at Stoke, who had earlier led 2-0. Their unbeaten record would eventually grind to a halt following Arsenal's 5-2 thrashing of them at the King Power, but Leicester would still occupy a top-six position - and were crucially eight points clear of the relegation zone heading into October.
Dyer's winner at the King Power Stadium sent shockwaves around the Premier League, and offered a warning to those considering taking Leicester lightly. A brave header - one which briefly knocked the Swansea loanee out cold - was representative of the fighting spirit that would typify Leicester's battle-hardened approach.
What they said
Despite two impressive comebacks, Vardy issued a warning to his fellow players ahead of October: "It's becoming tiring. We have to go a few goals down to start playing. We need to be starting as we're finishing games - it's as simple as that, and not leave ourselves a mountain to climb."
Won v Norwich 1-2 (A), Draw v Southampton 2-2 (A), Won v Crystal Palace 1-0 (H), Won v West Brom 2-3 (A)
Their month got off to an excellent start with a 2-1 win on October 3 at Norwich; a win that moved Leicester up to fourth in the table.
After a two-week international break, a theme running through Leicester's season re-emerged with a 2-2 draw at Southampton - their third comeback in five games, meaning they had recouped five points from losing positions.
Vardy scored in his seventh successive Premier League game to down Crystal Palace at the King Power, before the ex-Fleetwood striker netted again a week later as the Foxes claimed a 3-2 win at West Brom, with the impressive Mahrez bagging a brace in the space of seven second-half minutes.
Vardy scored in his eighth successive Premier League game in the win at the Hawthorns, joining Daniel Sturridge and Ruud van Nistelrooy in an exclusive club of strikers to have achieved that feat. The Dutchman's record of 10 was in sight. "It's important Jamie Vardy continues to work for the team," said Ranieri.
What they said
Ranieri had promised to treat his players to a pizza if they kept a clean sheet, which came against Crystal Palace: "I think the most important ingredient is team spirit. The second most, is enjoyment.
"And maybe on the top - a little bit of luck. It's like the salt on the top! The fans are the tomatoes. Without tomatoes, you have no pizza."
Won v Watford 2-1 (H), Won v Newcastle 0-3 (A), Draw v Manchester United 1-1 (H)
N'Golo Kante was proving to be a superb acquisition for Leicester, and he grabbed his first goal of the season in a 2-1 win against Watford, with Vardy extending his scoring run to nine consecutive games.
The frontman would score again in a comprehensive 3-0 victory over struggling Newcastle to level Van Nistelrooy's record, with the Dutchman's former club Manchester United the next team up for the high-flying Foxes.
Vardy duly obliged and wrote his name into Premier League history by becoming the first player to score in 11 successive games, but a 1-1 draw prevented Leicester from leapfrogging Manchester City at the top of the table; with just goal difference separating the two sides.
"It's 11, it's heaven for Jamie Vardy! Hold the back page, hold the front page - a Leicester player has smashed the record," bellowed Martin Tyler after Vardy squeezed the ball past David de Gea on November 28.
The King Power reached a crescendo of noise as fans began to dream of their first-ever league title.
What they said
"If I let it get to me, it would have affected my performance," Vardy told Saturday Night Football. "So I've just been keeping my head down and concentrating. It was just another game we wanted to get three points in."
Won v Swansea 0-3 (A), Won v Chelsea 2-1 (H), Won v Everton 2-3 (A), Lost v Liverpool 1-0 (A), Draw v Manchester City 0-0 (H)
Talk of Mahrez as Player of the Year began to gather pace as the Algerian netted a hat-trick in the 3-0 win at Swansea; propelling Leicester to the top of the Premier League.
Leicester then ramped the pressure up on Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho after a 2-1 win at the King Power, before ensuring that they would top the league at Christmas following a 3-2 victory over Everton at Goodison Park.
The Foxes fell to only their second defeat of the campaign with a 1-0 loss at Liverpool on Boxing Day, before responding with a goalless draw at home to Manchester City. Arsenal headed into 2016 as league leaders, but Leicester's charge showed little sign of faltering.
Mahrez jinked past Cesar Azpilicueta and arrowed a sumptuous strike beyond a helpless Thibaut Courtois, leaving reigning champions Chelsea hovering above the relegation zone. Mourinho would be sacked three days later.
What they said
"What Leicester have done is a fairy tale. Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante, who is one of the signings of the season, have all been playing so well," said Sky Sports pundit Thierry Henry.
"The belief they have to beat anyone put in front of them is incredible. Leicester City are a great example to other clubs that don't perhaps have the riches available to clubs in the top six."
Draw v Bournemouth 0-0 (H), Won v Tottenham 0-1 (A), Draw v Aston Villa 1-1 (A), Won v Stoke 3-0 (H)
The New Year got off to a frustrating start as the usually-reliable Mahrez missed a penalty as Leicester drew 0-0 with Bournemouth, before Leicester secured an enormous result at White Hart Lane as Robert Huth headed the Foxes to a 1-0 win over title rivals Tottenham.
A draw at Villa Park would send Leicester back to the top of the Premier League, with the competition becoming their only focus following their 2-0 defeat to Spurs in the FA Cup four days later.
An emphatic return to form then saw Leicester see off Stoke 3-0 at the King Power to send Ranieri's men three points clear at the top. The impossible became possible.
The January transfer window threatened to disturb Leicester's cohesive unit, but Ranieri emerged on the other side with his squad intact. Mahrez and Vardy were linked with moves away, but the duo committed to the cause - and were joined by new signings Daniel Amartey and Demarai Gray.
What they said
"It is a crazy league because, if it was a normal league, Leicester would not be at the top," said Ranieri.
"I want to be the most crazy man and team in the Premier League."
Won v Liverpool 2-0 (H), Won v Manchester City 1-3 (A), Lost v Arsenal 2-1 (A), Won v Norwich 1-0 (H)
In arguably the most eventful month of Leicester's season, the Foxes secured a magnificent 2-0 win over Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool - with Vardy once again stealing the spotlight with a contender for goal of the season; a 20-yard volley that flew past a sprawling Simon Mignolet.
The league leaders then stunned Manchester City four days later with a 3-1 win at the Etihad Stadium, with Huth's two goals sandwiching a super strike from Mahrez, who ended an 11-hour goal drought.
Having picked up 28 points on their travels this season, Leicester headed to title rivals Arsenal with confidence - but suffered an agonising 2-1 defeat after Danny Welbeck netted an injury-time winner.
Ranieri's men bounced back with a late goal of their own, Leonardo Ulloa scoring in the 89th minute against lowly Norwich to send Leicester five points clear of Tottenham and Arsenal.
In a monumental month for Leicester, it's difficult to choose one highlight - but Vardy's goal against Liverpool created an electric atmosphere inside the King Power. The Leicester fans continued with their 'we are staying up' chants, but they knew a greater achievement was in reach.
What they said
Speculation continued over the long-term future of Mahrez, forcing Ranieri to issue the winger with a firm warning: "If Riyad plays well he continues to play. If he thinks about other teams he comes with me on the bench."
Draw 2-2 v West Brom (H), Won v Watford 1-0 (A), Won v Newcastle 1-0 (H), Won v Crystal Palace 0-1 (A)
Craig Gardner struck a superb free-kick to help West Brom to a 2-2 draw at the King Power, which gave Tottenham the chance to go top - but West Ham claimed a 1-0 win over Spurs to keep Leicester at the top of the pile.
Having failed to keep a clean sheet in their first 11 games, the win at Palace saw Leicester claim their fourth shutout in five games. "They're underestimated defensively. They're tight and it's difficult to create against them," said an admiring Alan Pardew.
Mahrez's goal at Vicarage Road broke the deadlock in a cagey game, and sent Leicester 11 points clear of fifth-placed West Ham as they closed in on their Champions League ambitions.
The Algerian hobbled off with a hamstring injury which threatened to disrupt Leicester's title charge, but Ranieri allayed fears by claiming he was just 'tired and had a little cramp'.
What they said
"We did watch him and he is a spectacular player," Germany boss Joachim Low said of Vardy after scoring in England's 3-2 friendly win over Germany.
"He is a player who is straightforward and is always looking to find the gap in the defence and get in behind the defence. That is where it hurts the most and I think that is one of his biggest qualities."
April / May
Won v Southampton 1-0 (H), Won v Sunderland 0-2 (A), Draw v West Ham 2-2 (H), Won v Swansea 4-0 (H), Draw v Man Utd 1-1 (A)
Leicester claimed their fourth successive 1-0 win, with captain Wes Morgan scoring against Southampton, before Vardy scored twice to down Sunderland 2-0 - their fifth successive clean sheet.
A controversial game on April 17 with West Ham saw Ulloa score a last-minute penalty to salvage a 2-2 draw, after goalscorer Vardy was given a second yellow card for diving. The latter's unsavoury reaction to referee Jon Moss' decision would earn him a further one-game ban.
The Foxes got back to winning ways in style, thumping Swansea 4-0 at the King Power as Ulloa deputised for the suspended Vardy with two goals. They missed out on the chance to confirm the title when they could only draw 1-1 away at Manchester United, but they didn't have long to wait for glory to be theirs as Tottenham could only draw at Chelsea the following day.
Following a sensational season, Mahrez - nominated alongside Vardy and Kante - claimed the PFA Player of the Year award. "Without my team-mates I wouldn't get this award," the former Le Havre player said.
"It's extra special because if the players vote for me it's because they've seen I've been great this year so I'm happy."
What they said
"We don't want Tottenham to win the Premier League, the fans, the club and the players," the 2014/15 Player of the Year Eden Hazard told Chelsea's club website.
"In football you never know, we hope for Leicester because they deserve to be champions but we will see. We have a big game next week against Tottenham and if we can beat them it will be good."