One game at a time: Foxes hotshot Jamie Vardy reveals the secret to Leicester’s success ahead of Arsenal showdown
England striker is adamant Leicester remain unfazed by the mounting pressure of the Premier League title race as the shock leaders prepare for a summit meeting with Wenger’s men on Sunday
Jamie Vardy is adamant Leicester City remain unfazed by the mounting pressure of the Premier League title race as the shock leaders prepare for a summit meeting with Arsenal on Sunday.
For the first time this season, Claudio Ranieri’s side find themselves the bookmakers’ favourites to be crowned champions after their fairytale rise reached a new high with last weekend’s stunning 3-1 win at title rivals Manchester City.
The Foxes sit five points clear of second-placed Tottenham Hotspur and third-placed Arsenal with just 13 games remaining and the previously unthinkable prospect of the unfashionable outfit winning a first ever top-flight title is now a genuine possibility.
But the task of successfully completing an unexpected title bid proved too much for Liverpool in the closing weeks of the 2013-14 season and many pundits still believe Leicester’s unheralded players, who only last year were fighting to avoid relegation, will crumble in similar style.
However, England striker Vardy, whose 18 goals and effervescent displays have been the driving force behind Leicester’s surge to the top, insists there are no signs of any nerves in the camp ahead of this weekend’s crucial clash with the Gunners in north London.
“We’re just enjoying it aren’t we? We’re enjoying the ride,” Vardy said. “If you start thinking about it too much it’s going to affect you, it’s as simple as that.
“We’ll just continue to do exactly the same thing we’ve done all season.
“Arsenal are up there, we’re up there, (Manchester) City are. We’ll just take every game as it comes, knuckle down and hopefully keep picking points up.”
Arsene Wenger’s team pounded Leicester in a 5-2 victory inspired by an Alexis Sanchez hat-trick in September and in the process extended their 22-year unbeaten league record against the Foxes to 18 matches.
But Vardy is confident Leicester, steeled by their recent triumphs at City and Tottenham, have learnt the lessons of their heaviest defeat of the season and will provide more obdurate opposition for Arsenal this time around.
“No doubt it will be tough against Arsenal, we know the players they’ve got are world class but although we lost 5-2 when we played them last time we did show that we can hurt them,” Vardy said.
“I think it’ll be a matter of us tightening up a bit defensively and, as we’ve seen, we’ve kept a lot of clean sheets recently.”
Just hours after the final whistle at the Emirates Stadium, attention will turn north to Eastlands, where City host Tottenham in the other fixture with major implications for the title race this weekend.
Buoyed by four successive league wins, Mauricio Pochettino’s team harbour hopes of a first English title since 1961.
Tottenham have made a habit of failing to fulfil their potential whenever they have started to look like title contenders in the past, but Pochettino, who took charge last season, sees far more resilience in the current squad.
“I think we are different people now,” Pochettino said.
“It’s difficult to explain but today we live in the present and everyone at the club believes we can win every game.
“This is important. To speak about the past is not fair because we have shown we can get success from the season.”
City can’t afford another slip after the Leicester loss because they are down to fourth place in the battle to qualify for the Champions League, with fifth-placed Manchester United six points behind before heading to second-bottom Sunderland.
United announced record earnings of £133.8 million for the second quarter of the financial year on Thursday.
But, after the frustration of conceding a late equaliser in the draw against Chelsea last weekend, United manager Louis van Gaal desperately needs a victory to keep his team’s European hopes alive and quell the constant speculation that he faces the sack.
Liverpool, dumped out of the FA Cup by West Ham United in midweek and rocked by their fans’ recent walkout over ticket prices, could also do with a morale-boosting win when they face bottom-of-the-table Aston Villa.