Claudio Ranieri building to repeat Leicester’s ‘strange year’

As he prepares his team to face Arsenal, Claudio Ranieri is already determined to prevent Leicester’s successful season from being a one-off despite saying the Foxes are ‘having a strange year’.
Leicester have been installed as Premier League title favourites after opening up a five-point gap at the top following last weekend’s 3-1 victory atManchester City.
The Foxes only just survived relegation last season after an incredible finish in which they won seven of their closing nine matches under previous manager Nigel Pearson.
The 64-year-old Ranieri was a surprise choice to succeed Pearson following his ill-fated short spell in charge of the Greece national team.
But Leicester have lost only twice in the Premier League and in Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy, who have scored 32 Premier League goals between them, possess two of the players of the season.
Ranieri’s side face another huge test of their title credentials at third-placed Arsenal on Sunday, but the veteran Italian says his aims have not changed since his summer appointment at the King Power Stadium.
RANIERI’S TARGET
“When I signed, our objective was clear – to build this team, gradually bringing it to the top spots,” Ranieri told Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport.
“We know we’re having a strange year, we’re doing well because the big teams haven’t found their rhythm, but our plans won’t change next year beyond what happens at the end of this season.
“We must continue to build to target, in the next three or four years, the top spots in the Premier League and fighting for the Europa League. If we do all this in advance in one year we mustn’t applaud ourselves, next year we’ll start again from scratch.”
MAHREZ MAGIC, SCHMEICHEL SECURITY
“This year Mahrez has given us incredible magic,” Ranieri added.
“Technically I don’t know who he resembles, he has immense quality and is our reference point: when we need to create, we give the ball to him.
“Vardy on the other hand has a unique characteristic, he runs at 1,000 miles an hour and always at the same speed.”
Ranieri, the former Chelsea, Juventus and Roma boss, also praised goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, who has been ever-present in the Leicester defence.
“Schmeichel has a big personality, he gives security to the team,” Ranieri said.
“He has incredible feet, he plays the ball 50 metres as if he was a trequartista (playmaker).
“Because of this the defenders play the ball to him too, knowing they can trust him with the ball as if he was a normal player.”
MATCH FACTS
• This is the first top flight season since 1984/85 that not one of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City or Manchester United occupy either of the top two positions after 25 matches. On that occasion Everton led Spurs by four points. The Toffees won their 26th fixture 2-1 at Leicester on their way to becoming champions (Spurs finished third).
• If Leicester (53 points) win they will set a new club PL record for most points in an entire single season (55 in 1999/2000).
• Leicester could remain unbeaten in their first seven top flight matches of a new year for the first time since 1963 (11 matches).
• Leicester (28 points) have the best away record in the PL this season (Arsenal next 24).
• Leicester have lost only one of their last 16 PL away fixtures (W10-D5), the 1-0 defeat at Liverpool on Boxing Day. That is the only PL away match the Foxes have failed to score in this season.
• Leicester City won the first Premier League meeting between the clubs, 2-1 at Filbert Street on 23 November 1994. They are winless in all 18 PL matches against Arsenal since then (D6-L12). It is the Foxes’ longest top flight winless streak versus a single opponent.
• Leicester drew their first PL match at Arsenal, 1-1 on 11 February 1995. They have lost all eight PL away fixtures versus the Gunners since. The Foxes have only had longer top flight away losing runs against Chelsea (11, 1909-1958) and West Ham United (10, 1977-1999).
• Arsenal are unbeaten in 18 top flight home matches against Leicester (W15-D3), since the 2-0 defeat at Highbury in the old Division One on 8 September 1973 (goals by Len Glover and Mike Stringfellow).
• Leicester have lost 12 PL matches against Arsenal, joint-most versus a single opponent with Manchester United.
• In the reverse fixture this season, Arsenal won 5-2 on 26 September with goals by Theo Walcott (18′), Alexis Sánchez (33′, 57′, 81′) and Olivier Giroud(90+3′). Jamie Vardy (13′, 89′) scored for Leicester.
• Arsenal are the only team who can do the PL double against Leicester this season. Chelsea, Spurs, Manchester City and Crystal Palace all did the PL double versus the Foxes in 2014/15.

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