It’s hard to believe that as I sit here writing this Leicester City are the Premier League champions. Arguably, what Claudio Ranieri and his players have achieved is the biggest shock in the history of English football, maybe world football, although I’m not educated enough to know about what's happened in every other country to claim that.
When Nottingham Forest won the First Division championship in 1977-78, having just been promoted from Division 2, it was an astonishing achievement but they were very much seen as an underachieving club and at least had positive momentum on their side.
But Leicester have battled very different odds, and you can’t really compare football today to then. The pace of the game means that far more physical demands are placed on the players so you have to utilise a bigger pool, which requires squad depth. Unlike 40 years ago, the massive financial disparity means that the big clubs in England can pick from some of the best players in world football.
Yet Ranieri somehow managed to cobble together a team of warriors and utilised his vast experience to guide them step by step to the peak of the Premier League, winning the competition with two games to spare.
English football should thank Leicester for what the club has done for the game, shattering the financial cartels that are in operation and humiliating those who labour over financial excuses, proving that spending insane amounts of money is not necessarily the only route to success and 'poor' clubs can compete with their cash rich peers.
Although some have said that Leicester have achieved the “impossible”, Atletico Madrid are not far behind. Despite having a much higher profile and a much weightier history, the Spanish club is achieving miracles on an annual basis. They won the Spanish title with a wage bill of £54m – only £6m more than Leicester’s - and challenging for major trophies has become an annual event.
However, what Leicester’s achievement does show is how, for many clubs, money has actually become an OBSTACLE to success. In their desperation to compete and stay at the top, clubs have spent vast sums of money, wrecking stability and team unity. As Leicester City have proved, if you want to challenge the best and succeed, the same footballing tenets remain: strong defensive discipline, tactical awareness and a team mentality that ensures you are stronger than the sum of your parts. Having a good manager helps of course, but Leicester, and Chelsea in recent years, have also proved that changing managers can lead to instant success if the right conditions are in place.
Chelsea, Man City and Man Utd should all hang their heads with shame at their underachievement this season. All three clubs have the financial might to provide the best possible infrastructure for their players and the resources to cherry pick the best footballers and managers from the four corners of the globe (expensive or otherwise).
As we know, Arsenal are a law unto themselves and have become a stale, boring, dead club whose manager has failed from every conceivable angle. Every lame excuse Wenger has come up with over the last decade has been trampled to dust by the success of a multitude of other clubs around Europe with far fewer resources and better managers.
Despite the Premier League being pretty awful to watch for the most part this season, Leicester have made what was expected to be a tedious and predictable season a fascinating and memorable one. Tottenham should also be applauded for their contribution. If it wasn’t for them, Leicester would not have had a challenger.
I watched Spurs’ hopes vanish in smoke on Monday night against Chelsea in spectacular fashion. Albeit entertaining, it was, at times, a brutal and ugly game. A very young Tottenham side became embroiled in the heated, supercharged atmosphere. Realising the title was slipping away – and with no margin for error, they were reduced to committing some reckless fouls, albeit mostly tactical.
Many Arsenal supporters will, and have, ridiculed Tottenham’s failure last night, but will secretly be envious. Spurs clearly have a far superior manager, their season was competitive to the very end and the players have a passion and spirit that is completely absent in their North London neighbours.
To me, Spurs are not the enemy - they're just another football club. I have found their football entertaining at times this season and applaud the job Mauricio Pochettino is doing. However, like Leicester there is no doubt that they have benefitted from the underachievement of their peers.
The Wenger/Kroenke Out protest at the Emirates on Saturday was a damp squib because there were around 10,000 empty seats vacated by unhappy supporters, of which a significant proportion probably would have protested had they bothered to turn up. It gave the illusion that Wenger has far more support than he actually does, something he has already latched onto in a desperate bid to manipulate everyone's perception of him.
Unfortunately, the clown will still be at Arsenal next season, but hopefully we’ll see a continuation of protests that will become better organised, bigger and louder, wearing him down and making his position untenable as he hopefully comes to the end of his tedious reign in 2017.
Alexis Sanchez’s behaviour on Saturday was strange. A team player, always positive – he stormed off the pitch when substituted in the 84th minute. Arsenal were winning 1-0, he had played most of the game and it was out of character because there was no logical reason to behave like that - unless of course this is the beginning of him trying to engineer a move away from the club.
As I warned a couple of weeks ago, Wenger has let down Sanchez and Ozil by not surrounding them with players who can help them fulfil their potential. By not signing their contracts, they are clearly not committed. If Wenger stays, I predict they will leave before long.
Sanchez’ behaviour, and the lack of an explanation, could be nothing or a lot more than nothing. His body language will be interesting in Arsenal’s final two games.
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