Although Leicester were 5000/1 to win the Premiership this season, was Arsenal’s Invincible season better?
In case you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that Leicester City won the Premier League for the first time ever after Spurs drew 2-2 with Chelsea on Monday night. With two matches left to play, the Foxes currently sit at the top of the table with 77 points, while our north London rivals only have 70. It’s, therefore, impossible for them to catch up during the remaining fixtures and Leicester were crowned at the final whistle at Stamford Bridge after failing to beat Manchester United at the weekend.
Leicester were an astonishing 1000/1 – 5000/1 to win the Premier League this season. At this stage last season, the Foxes sat in 14th place with 41 points after narrowly escaping the relegation zone. Although 5000/1 seems a little far out considering there are only 20 clubs in the Premier League after all, there’s no doubt that no one, least of all Leicester fans, expected them to win the title the following season. In fact, according to the Mirror, Justin Bieber is just as likely to become President of the USA. Yep.
Another huge sporting achievement that springs to mind is Arsenal’s Invincible season. We took the crown from Preston North End, who went 22 games unbeaten (18 wins, four draws) during the 1888-89 season. The Gunners went 49 games unbeaten in total; winning 26 and drawing 12 in one season. It was huge, not just in terms of Arsenal’s history, but for sport as a whole.
With this in mind, it got me thinking: which was better? Leicester winning the League or the Invincible season?
Firstly, we need to look at the odds of going a whole season unbeaten. During the 2003/04 season, we managed to earn 90 points after failing to lose one match. Mentally, this is an unimaginable task. As Betting Expert points out, whether you win the League or not, going unbeaten is incredibly difficult and is roughly 850/1. If we look at Chelsea’s Premiership win the next season, they actually finished with a higher point total than our Invincible season and their standard score (basically, how they did compared to the rest of the League) was also greater (2.55 as opposed to our 2.53). However, Chelsea lost one match; they won more but they also didn’t go unbeaten.
Much like Leicester’s Premiership winning team, the Invincible team were both lucky in terms of injuries and had a certain togetherness that defied the odds.
However, as much as you can compare the two teams, there are also several variables that make them completely different. Looking at the two starting lineups, Arsenal’s was typically: Jens Lehmann, Kolo Toure, Sol Campbell, Ashley Cole, Lauren, Freddie Ljungberg, Patrick Vieira, Gilberto Silva, Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry.
Among this team were experienced, international footballers who’d won numerous accolades before this. This squad was used to winning at all costs. It was this talent, mixed with passion, gall and maybe a bit of luck that helped Arsenal go 49 games unbeaten.
Now, looking at the winning Leicester City starting XI, it looks a little different: Kasper Schmeichel, Wes Morgan, Robert Huth, Jeff Schlupp, Danny Simpson, Christian Fuchs, Riyad Mahrez, Danny Drinkwater, N’Golo Kante, Jamie Vardy, Shinji Okazaki.
Although it could be argued that there are strong characters among the Foxes’ starting lineup, they’re hardly world beaters – or so we thought.
On the flip side, Leicester had a huge amount of luck this season. Although this doesn’t necessarily take anything away from their victory, they have had 11 penalties awarded (scoring nine) in their favour – double what anyone else in the League has been given (over five times what we’ve been awarded but hey ho). During Arsenal’s Invincible season we scored zero penalties. That’s right: ZERO.
In addition, while it’s hard to declare what a constitutes a ‘lucky goal’, the Foxes had several deflections off players and the post go in. Sometimes, luck does go your way. It’s also hard to tell how caught up officials got in the ‘fairytale’, whether consciously or not, and let certain things slide (*cough* Huth *cough*).
This is why it’s difficult to compare which was better, the Invincible season or Leicester winning the League. Both are brilliant in their own right and both make the history books. If we’re looking at odds, the Foxes ‘win’ hands down and, on paper, with the players we had in 2003/04, as unlikely as it is to go unbeaten, if anyone was going to do it, it would be us. However, in my opinion, there are too many independent variables which set the two achievements apart.
What do you think?