If you believe the press, Leicester City are the best side ever to play in the Premier League.
Of course, we all know that the real best side ever to play in the Premier League is our very own Invincibles, achieving a feat that none has even come close to since.
I thought it would be fun to look at how the Foxes stack up against our own heroes in a couple of different areas.
There’s a certain magic to a settled line-up.
This season, both Leicester City and Tottenham have been able to field a broadly consistent line-up by dint of negligible injuries and no European games (in the case of the former) or no European games of any real standard (in the case of the latter, up to but not including their humiliating elimination). As a result, it’s fairly easy to identify the preferred starting XI of both sides.
For Spurs, Pochettino favours a team comprising: Lloris, Rose, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Walker, Dier, Dembele, Eriksen, Alli, Lamela and Kane. Six of those players have played 30 league games already, with four more able to achieve the feat between now and the end of the season.
However, Ranieri’s standard lineup – Schmeichel, Fuchs, Morgan, Huth, Simpson, Albrighton, Kante, Drinkwater, Mahrez, Okazaki and Vardy – makes that look like child’s play.
Nine of them have already started 30 games this season, and the remaining two (Fuchs and Simpson) will be able to join them in that feat if they play the remaining four games between now and May.
To repeat: all eleven of Leicester’s favoured team will have started (not just appeared) in almost every game.
To put those numbers in perspective, just four Arsenal players have hit the 30 game mark (Bellerin, Monreal, Giroud and Ozil) and even Giroud drops out if you restrict those numbers to starts rather than appearances.
Three more have the possibility of hitting those dizzy heights, namely Koscielny, Ramsey and Cech, but that takes the total to just seven and misses our first choice midfield from the start of the season in the shape of Coquelin and Cazorla, as well as last year’s Player of the Season, Alexis.
The Arsenal side of 2003-04 was perhaps the most recent season when we had a very firmly defined first XI.
The Invincibles, despite notable mentions for Edu, Parlour and Cygan, are more or less regarded to be a team of Lehmann, Cole, Campbell, Toure, Lauren, Pires, Gilberto, Vieira, Ljungberg, Bergkamp and Henry, in no small part because of the consistency in team selection.
It’s also perhaps the most recent season where we haven’t suffered a major injury to one of our best players!
Come rain or shine, my recollection of that historic year was that you didn’t need to read the teamsheet before a game because you knew exactly who would be starting.
In fact, that consistency of selection (and availability) surely contributed to the fear they instilled in their opposition – they knew what was coming and they were powerless to stop it.
But given that feeling of consistency, how does it stack up against Leicester’s class of 2016?
In that record-breaking year, nine of the squad hit the magic 30 game mark (Bergkamp and Vieira both fell short) so not a million miles short of Leicester’s 11 out of 11.
However, if you look at starts then that drops to seven.
I wrote last week about the bonkers number of minutes Leicester’s players have been able to clock up, and one of the most amazing statistics is that they’ve been able to start their first choice XI in 19 of their 34 games.
Some of that is even down to taking a while to find their first choice full backs – since Danny Simpson and Christian Fuchs came into the team the favoured XI has started 19 out of 27 games – over 70%!
And what about having the best player in the league?
In Amy Lawrence’s ‘Invincible’, Vieira talks about how the rest of the team knew they just needed to keep a clean sheet to win the game, since “when you have Henry and Bergkamp, something is going to happen.”
There are more than a few comparisons to Leicester mark 2016 who, despite the noises made about Drinkwater and Kante, are where they are in no small part because Vardy and Mahrez have delivered the goods and left the rest of the team to ensure that a single goal is enough.
This season, Leicester have won by a single goal on no fewer than 14 occasions, and in those kind of tight games, having top marksmen can make all the difference.
Yet for all their brilliance, Vardy and Mahrez have hardly hit the dizzy heights of Henry in that spectacular season. 22 and 16 goals respectively are still some distance off Henry’s 30, even allowing for the four remaining games.
Still, not to be sniffed at compared to Arsenal’s best this season – Alexis and Giroud have 12 apiece, and even on per 90 statistics trail Mahrez let alone Vardy.
Leicester may be in pole position to win the Premier League, but they have been luckier than the Invincibles and less clinical.
However, there’s no denying that they have been infinitely more consistent than our own 2015-16 vintage, and that is something that we simply must put right next season if we are to have any hope of getting back to winning ways.
And getting back to winning ways is surely the only way the Arsenal fanbase will ever get off Arsene Wenger’s back and allow him to depart in time, with dignity attached.
I hope we turn things around for my own sake, for Arsenal’s sake, but also for the sake of a manager who deserves to go, when the time comes, with his head held high and to the plaudits he deserves.
Roll on the summer.