Not surprisingly, the English FA charged Robert Huth with violent conduct on Tuesday, meaning he expects to serve a three-match ban for pulling Marouane Fellaini’s hair during Leicester City's 1-1 draw with Manchester United on Sunday. Huth will likely not appear in any of Leicester City’s final two games of the season.
Unfortunate as Huth’s actions may have been on Sunday, they cannot even attempt to overshadow or partially cover up the German’s impact on Leicester City’s fairytale story. More than any other player, the 31-year-old central defender transformed the Foxes from a famished pack headed for relegation into the greatest underdog story in Premier League history – or sports history, rather.
In many ways, Leicester City can be defined by two eras: before Robert Huth and after Robert Huth. Prior to Huth’s arrival in Leicester, the Foxes had lost 15 of their 24 Premier League fixtures, which was good enough for last place. Since his arrival, Leicester City has only suffered seven defeats in 50 Premiership matches.
Jamie Vardy joined Leicester City in 2012. Riyad Mahrez started playing at the King Power Stadium as early as January of 2014. Even with Mahrez and Vardy, Leicester City sunk to the bottom of the Premier League table after 12 rounds and did not once pop up out of last place until a full 20 rounds later.
Huth’s arrival at the club almost immediately transformed the defensive fortitude and fundamentals of the first 11. A team that could not stop leaking goals to such an extreme that it should have been called the Titanic miraculously began to fight for results and win games.
In his first four months wearing the Foxes’ blue shirt, Huth helped limit Leicester City to only four defeats: away to Arsenal, away to Manchester City, away to Tottenham and home to Chelsea. Away losses to big clubs near the top of the table and a home defeat to the champions hardly require explanations.
With Huth, Leicester miraculously managed a stunning conclusion to the 2014-15 season that featured seven wins and a draw over the final nine matches of the campaign. With the veteran leading from the back, the Foxes suddenly turned into a stingy defense that allowed only seven goals over those final nine games – three of those goals coming in a 3-1 defeat to champion Chelsea.
Plain and simple, Huth changed Leicester City.
Maverick midfielder N’Golo Kante and magisterial manager Claudio Ranieri did not arrive at the club until the summer after Huth had entered the fray and helped rescue the team from certain relegation. Without the former Stoke City defender, Ranieri likely would have passed up the lower division job, and Kante would still be a largely unknown player regardless of his performance in the Championship. Instead, Kante expects to be in France’s midfield during the European Championships.
With Raneiri and Kante, the 2015-16 campaign continued forward and built on the defensive foundation Huth’s arrival had spurred. Alongside club captain Wes Morgan, Huth led a league-winning Leicester City backline that deserves as much of the credit for writing history as the underestimated talents of Mahrez and Vardy. The fact that Huth did not earn a spot on the PFA Premier League team of the year remains baffling.
Over the 36 games the Foxes needed to secure the Premier League crown, they only suffered three defeats: twice to Arsenal and away to Liverpool. Clearly, Arsenal is Leicester’s kryptonite, but luckily for the Foxes, the Gunners failed to put together a lasting title challenge.
Instead, Huth led Leicester City to the title with defense, especially after Christmas. Following the 1-0 defeat to Liverpool on Boxing Day, Leicester tightened up at the back and allowed only nine goals over the remaining 18 matches of the campaign, including 12 clean sheets. In fact, Arsenal scored seven of the 34 goals Leicester City conceded during the historic season, and the Gunners remain the only team to score more than two goals over 90 minutes against the newly crowned champions.
Huth also picked his spots when it came to contributing to the attack. He only scored three goals during the campaign, scoring twice in a 3-1 victory over Manchester City at the Etihad and producing the winner in a 1-0 win over Tottenham at White Hart Lane. Arguably the toughest six points in Leicester’s season came directly via the 6-foot-3 Huth, who literally rose to the challenge and scored in the most meaningful matches of the season.
Huth may not be allowed on the pitch for the final two matches of the season, but his contributions should be celebrated even louder than the others. As the only Leicester City player on the pitch with Premier League title experience, Huth had a greater impact on the Foxes than any other player. Without him, Leicester City would not even be in the Premier League. With him, the Foxes pulled off the great escape and the greatest upset in sports.
Now, Huth and Leicester City are champions of England and, seemingly, the world.