Firstly, this is the first time I’ve actually made a pun in my title, so kudos to that. Next, let’s talk about the preposterousness of the situation created by Leicester and Chelsea.
It looks like we are living in a parallel universe, folks, where a club can go on to climb to the top of division one all the way from division three, which is where Leicester was two years before they got promoted. Yeah, credit to Vardy and Co., but really, what it shows more than anything else is that the Premier League is the most competitive league in the world. The Barca’s, Real’s, and Bayern’s might have, arguably, the best squads in Europe, we might even add PSG to that list now that they’ve pretty much destroyed Ligue 1, but they are all in a league where the other teams that are not competing for the top four are so far below them financially that it is almost impossible for them to compete. Mind you, the problem is all about the magnitude of that gap.
Just to make this concept more understandable, let’s use examples. Sunderland, we can all agree, is a club that is clearly fighting to avoid relegation this season. And its ‘counterpart’, per se, in Spain can be Las Palmas just for the sake of this argument. Sunderland is financially much better capable of competing against the top clubs in England than Las Palmas is capable of facing the top clubs in Spain. This is more or less down to the fact that the Barca’s and Real’s produce so much more revenues every year that it’s downright impossible for other clubs in their league to compete against them. On the other hand, even though in England the likes of Man City, Man Utd and Chelsea possess the resources to put together an elite team, the resources that are available to the lower ranked teams are also significantly higher than in other top divisions, making it more challenging for the top clubs to get the players that they want. Which also makes it harder for them to add the depth needed in their squad to truly make a statement at winning the Champions League.
With that said, let’s look at the phenomenon that is Leicester City. Their position this season is obviously mostly creditable to their pizza-giving manager Claudio Ranieri and, perhaps, the hottest duo in world football, Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy. But, in my opinion, more than that is the help that they’ve gotten from the league itself.
Consider this: Leicester City, who lead the league, have accumulated 35 points over the course of 16 games, and while that’s quite impressive with them just losing once on the way, Bayern Munich, who are top of the Bundesliga, have played the same number of games and gotten 43 points. For those of you who do math like Mourinho did when calculating Ranieri’s age, that’s a 20 point difference. But, for us, normal ones, it’s 8. The gap is quite significant even though the number might seem a little bit deceptive.
Also, something else you might want to take note of, Bayern have a goal difference of 37.
And, Leicester’s goal difference? +12.
During the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Chelsea at the King Power Stadium on December 14, 2015, in Leicester, United Kingdom.
Now, given that we are talking about a team that’s a potential favorite for the Champions League vs. a team that was supposed to be staving off relegation, those facts seem a bit harsh. But they speak the truth. Leicester is top of the league, not just ‘coz of Vardy and Mahrez’s goals, but because the others have suffered from inconsistencies throughout the campaign due to the immense competitiveness that the teams that have traditionally been at the mid-to-bottom region in the table have offered. The harshest of the ones suffering from this said inconsistency is Chelsea, the defending champions.
Their game today was a symbolic performance from Leicester’s perspective, as they outworked and out-muscled Chelsea’s players for every single ball in the first half, and repeating the process at the start of the second. This also shows the willingness of the Premier League clubs to work hard and fight against the opposition regardless of the differences in their quality.
The shame that surrounded the Chelsea players seemed to only deepen their own miseries further, as it seemed to say: “we are better than you, even though we are losing to you”. Mourinho will be a lucky man to keep his job after this one though I think Abramovich might sympathize with him given the fact that Hazard had to exit the game at half-time due to an injury.
In the Champions League context, if only the top English clubs fought against the European elites without prioritizing their egos, like a Stoke or a Leicester fight against them in the Prem, they might actually survive through the knockout stages and get a few more trophies in that tournament.