That’s right, it’s 9pm GMT on a Wednesday and instead of the usual musings of Mr. Paul Williams, you’ve opened up today’s column to be greeted by the rather less exciting diatribes I more commonly offer up on a Friday evening. I’ll do my best to channel my inner Paul to help make you more comfortable, with an imaginary Tomcat nestled on my lap and a rather deeper voice than usual…
(For the record, Paul is unwell so here’s wishing you better, mate)
Another thing that’s also unexpected, of course, is the upper end of the Premier League this year, most specifically the name of the team in blue at the summit: Leicester City.
Everyone loves an underdog (Tomcat excepted). Certainly if you’ve watched any games involving Arsenal on TV in the last few decades at least, you’ll have been treated to the dulcet tones of such punditry greats as Michael Owen and Owen Hargreaves enthusing about whoever we are facing.
Leicester have taken that sentiment to a whole new level this year, with their cheaply assembled squad and lovable manager bouncing back from being wronged by one of the big bad clubs (Chelsea) to exact revenge. It’s like a Hollywood script.
And of course, if it were happening at the expense of anyone other than ourselves, we’d all be gleefully indulging in such sentiment too. Indeed, I haven’t quite adjusted to the idea of feeling threatened yet and as long as we win on Sunday I suspect I’ll continue to feel that it was more favourable to see Leicester take points off City and Spurs in spite of them currently being above us. A little indulgence is good for the soul after all.
The thing is though, everyone likes an underdog until they stop being that humble character that we can all relate to. It’s a bit like those ‘diamond in the rough’ bands who give up who they are and turn a bit too mainstream, like when Maroon 5 quit making their edgier tracks in favour of mainstream pop or when <insert Paul-esque reference to an obscure band no one has actually heard of…>
The point being, no one likes an underdog who forgets that’s they’re the underdog.
On Sky Sports News this week, there’s an interview on their interminable loop with a Leicester fan who brags about only needing to beat the small clubs to win the league because Leicester are no longer a small club.
Now, when you consider that by extension this logic makes Chelsea once again a small club, it becomes quite funny. But equally, it ignores the very reason most ‘neutrals’ want to see Leicester win: Leicester are the club of the people, the small club done good, the promise that if they can compete for the league, so can any other. It’s the same reason that Jermaine Defoe was also in the press this week talking about how if Leicester can do it, why can’t Sunderland?
So, Leicester, I have a plea for you:
Don’t turn Spursy on us.
Every year, we put up with the refrains from Tottenham fans and players alike about how this is their year, how there’s a power shift, how north London is turning white, yet every year those claims falter by May just as surely as the sun rises in the East.
If you’re going to win the league, do it going into the last game of the season still feeling like you’re the little guys with nothing to lose, and the ultimate prize is to win. I don’t want to hate you, even while you’re sitting above us in the table, so please don’t ruin that.
It’s a bit like old money vs new money – there’s something infinitely more ugly about people who flash the cash having come into it than people who are comfortable with where they are because they’ve always been there. There’s a certain class about clubs like Arsenal and, though it pains me to say it, Man Utd and Liverpool. By contrast, the likes of Chelsea and Man City haven’t quite managed to rise above the oil money that’s swilling around them.
Leicester are very much the revelation of the season, the humble triumpher over conceited bigger fish. Stay true to that so that you don’t become just another Tottenham. One is quite enough, thank you.
On Sunday, Arsenal cannot afford to treat Leicester like the underdogs – perhaps that’s why Arsene has been foraying into mind games for the first time in a while in calling the Foxes favourites for the game. Not everyone playing away at Arsenal is an underdog but equally no one (in England at least) who comes to the Emirates can realistically be genuinely described as favourites.
If we go out all guns blazing and try to blow Leciester off the park, it might work. Certainly this Arsenal side playing at their peak can take anyone apart on their day. But given the way our finishing is going at the moment, it just as likely won’t. Most teams that have attacked Ranieri’s men this year have been easily picked off on the counter attack – to be honest, it continually amazes me how many teams still play straight into their hands like that – we can’t make the same mistake.
Matthew described Leicester as a sort of budget Invincibles on this week’s Daily Cannon podcast, and there’s a certain truth to that in the way they play with a swashbuckling freedom. But that’s also why if we sit back and keep it tight to start with, the temptation may prove too great to resist and then we can really play them at their own game. And that’s when we’ve got them.
Of course we need to win at the weekend so that we can gain relative to at least one of Spurs and City, and of course close the gap on Leicester themselves. More than that though, we need to win so that we can wholeheartedly continue to enjoy Leicester’s remarkable success at the expense of our more illustrious rivals.
After all, everyone loves an underdog – as long as they don’t rise above us.
And with that, it’s time to give Tomcat a quick cuddle and head off the find out what Jo has done for dinner tonight…
Get well soon Paul.