We’ve long since passed the time when we have to take Leicester City seriously.
It was all a bit of laugh when they were top throughout the first half of the season but now, with just 13 games remaining, they’re laughing at us.
Four teams can, realistically, be said to be in the title race – Leicester, Man City, Arsenal and, sickeningly, Tottenham. Just six points separate the top four
So who is best placed to seal the deal in this crazy season in which it looks like no-one really wants to win it?
At Arsenal, we are surely hoping that they have suffered their dip in form and are gearing up for an assault on the title. Manchester City have been blipping all over the place for the entire season but Leicester and Spurs have been pretty steady so must surely have one on the horizon, right?
Goal difference sees Arsenal in last place of the four contenders for Chelsea’s pathetically-defended trophy. They have just 17, scoring less than the other three (but only Tottenham have conceded fewer). Spurs also have the best goal difference – an impressive 26 from a side that normally (to my mind, anyway) hover around zero for most of the season. After years of searching, and failing miserably, in Mauricio Pocchetino, they have finally found a manager to make them less ‘Spursy’.
From the next set of fixtures, it doesn’t look like we will be seeing Leicester dropping off, with theirs the most favourable of all the challengers, while Arsenal’s are probably the most difficult, especially when you factor in the small matter of Barcelona in the middle.
Next five fixtures:
Leicester – Arsenal (a), Norwich (h), West Brom (h), Watford (a), Newcastle (h)
Tottenham – Man City (a), Swansea (h), West Ham (a), Arsenal (h), Villa (a)
Arsenal – Leicester (h), United (a), Swansea (h), Tottenham (a), West Brom (h)
Man City – Tottenham (a), Newcastle (a), Liverpool (a), Villa (h), Norwich (a)
It matters not, it seems, where Leicester play as their home and away form are practically identical.
Tottenham aren’t much different in that regard either, losing one more at home than away.
Arsenal are much tighter at home than they are on the road, conceding 15 when away compared to just seven at home in the same number of games.
City draw more away than they do at home, but while their defeats are evenly spread their goals certainly aren’t. They’ve netted a whopping 34 at the Etihad but just 13 when they play away – a bit of a problem, perhaps, considering four of their next five are outside Manchester.
Pressure will play its part and only one of the four sides has experience of actually winning a league – City – but don’t count out the lessons Arsenal would have picked up in the last two FA Cup finals, nor the influence of Petr Cech, Per Mertesacker, Tomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta, Mesut Ozil, Mohamed Elneny, Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck and Alexis, both on the pitch and behind the scenes, who’ve all won leagues or major trophies.
Arsenal are not a club without leaders, despite what people think simply because they don’t have a maniac on the pitch screaming and shouting at teammates (Flamini doesn’t count, no-one listens to him).
Leicester don’t have that in their ranks, nor do Tottenham, but the Foxes have something that none of the other sides do – lack of expectation.
We’ve yet to see what the pressure of going for a league title will do to the Foxes, but until now they’ve had the freedom to play without anything being expected of them. They’ve already had a season beyond all dreams and are safe from relegation – no doubt their stated goal at the season’s start.
They have literally nothing to lose (if you discount the Champions League money and chance to become Champions) because they were not expected to do any of what we’ve seen them achieve this season.
That freedom is immeasurable in the effect it can have on a side. Don’t believe me? Just look at Leicester and see for yourself.
So has any of this help answer the question, ‘who will really win the league?’
In this crazy season, it’s just as hard to predict the winner now as it was to predict that Chelsea would embarrass themselves so brilliantly after winning it themselves.
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