If any other team had been 7 points clear with 3 games to go, the title race would’ve been over.
But all year long the attitude towards Leicester’s incredible form has been ‘don’t worry, they’ll fall away eventually’. But how wrong we all were. In the end, they strolled to the title. They went top at the end of January and have been ever since. Even after they defeated Man City there were ‘going to fall away’. It took until April for everyone to realise that hang on, they might just do it. They just haven’t let up. They kept fighting, kept believing and have got what they deserved. However, when Spurs went 2-0 up to Chelsea at half time on Monday, everyone thought ‘this might not be over yet’. Leicester’s story has been so remarkable that it was never plausible that there would be the dream ending, but in the end they did it easily.
Leicester’s current point tally is 77 – they will get no more than 83 points this season. A comparatively low tally. And plenty of people have said that Leicester haven’t won the league, but the big teams have lost it.
This season has been weird. There’s no other way to put it. No team has achieved what was expected – either more or less. Chelsea have underachieved. At the start of the season everyone was backing them to retain their status as champions this season, but what actually happened was an unthinkable flop. Mourinho was gone after 4 months, and Guus Hiddink has guided them to mid-table, no higher. That’s been by far the most dramatic failure, but other teams have performed very below par too. Arsenal have had an underwhelming 2016. They came into the year top, and the favourites to overcome ‘inferior’ Spurs and Leicester. And they should have done. Instead, they slipped down the league, struggling to a third place finish most likely. This should’ve been their year, and as it didn’t work out Arsene Wenger’s post should be under consideration. Manchester City have been good in Europe (though are 1-0 down to Real Madrid as I am writing this) but they face a fight for fourth with Manchester United. City and United have both arguably had poor seasons, and you’d expect them to take advantage of Chelsea’s downfall, but they have both been inconsistent and quite boring at times. Liverpool have been fairly bad, and Everton have performed below expectations too.
So for those who say the big teams lost the league, maybe you are right. But what we have seen is ‘smaller’ clubs stepping up to the plate and having quite superb seasons.
West Ham have played super football, led by talisman Dmitri Payet, and deserve their top 6 place and Europa League football next year. Slaven Bilic has been a revelation, and a little more grit and they could easily be occupying a Champions League place – although this won’t happen, they have had a fantastic year and have very strong foundations for the future at the Olympic Stadium.
In any other year, Tottenham Hotspur would be the deserved champions and an incredible underdog story. Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Eric Dier… the young English contingent have been superb for Spurs this campaign and they have played some excellent, attractive football. The players are so fit and run constantly for the 95 minutes they are out on the pitch. Their desire to win has been what has propelled them and Leicester to occupying the top two positions. Mauricio Pochettino has been a revelation at the Lane and if they keep hold of all their players (which I think they will) I reckon they will go on and win the league next year.
Have Tottenham lost the league? No. Just like Liverpool two years ago, they have put in a valiant effort and have played out a season their fans will never forget, but ultimately have been pipped to the post by the most unlikely of champions.
Last July, I backed Leicester to go down BOTTOM of the league and labelled the appointment of this man as uninspiring. The opposite is true.
Their hard work, team ethic and sheer quality has been too good for the Premier League. They had nothing to lose, were 5,000-1 outsiders, but they started well and never stopped. The players have said the squad is like a ‘band of brothers’, and their belief and work are things to admire. It is probably the greatest sporting story ever. Everything else there is to say has already been said in the press. Just never forget Leicester, 2016.
And so for those of you who think that Leicester didn’t win the league, that Spurs, Arsenal, City, Chelsea lost it… If this isn’t winning, then I don’t know what is.