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Biggest 180s: Leicester City goes from virtual unknown to Premier League champions

Scott McLaughlin
September 17, 2018 - 3:12 pm
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This week’s entry in our Biggest 180s in Sports History series takes us across the pond to the English Premier League.

Prior to the 2015-16 season, you’d be forgiven for never having heard of Leicester City. But by the end of the season, the Foxes had written one of the most incredible championship stories in sports history thanks to a remarkable 180-degree turnaround from the previous season.

In 2014, Leicester earned promotion to the Premier League for the first time in 10 years. But midway through the 2014-15 season, it looked like their time in the top flight of English soccer was going to be short-lived, as they sat in dead last, seven points below the cut line for relegation. They managed to stay up thanks to a strong finish to the season, though, as they won seven of their final nine games.

Despite the impressive escape, and despite bringing in an experienced manager in Claudio Ranieri that summer, there was still absolutely no reason to think Leicester would make any kind of meaningful noise during the following season. In fact, some bookmakers offered odds as long as 5,000-1 on Leicester winning the Premier League title.

Leicester got off to a fairly promising start with three wins and three draws in their first six matches, but then appeared to crash back to reality in a 5-2 loss to Arsenal on Sept. 26. But instead of struggling after that, the Foxes went on a remarkable run over their next 10 games that saw them win eight and draw two while climbing into first place by Christmas, just one year after they were in 20th place at the same point in the season.

Jamie Vardy scored in a Premier League-record 11 straight games during that early-season stretch and went on to finish the season with 24, tying him for second in the league. Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante also emerged as major contributors with breakout seasons that established them as the stars they are today.

The Foxes lost just two of their final 31 games, beating up on middle- and lower-tier teams while also earning wins over traditional “Big Six” powers Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester City. Not only did they win the Premier League title -- their first in the club’s 132-year history -- but they ran away with it. Leicester clinched the championship with two weeks left in the season and wound up finishing 10 points ahead of second-place Arsenal, capping off arguably the most improbable championship season in sports history, and one of the biggest 180s ever.

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