MARILYN Monroe once said: “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” I’m not sure if she employed second sight and an interest in the 2015-16 league season, but her words do seem to meet the case. As things stand, Leicester City sit seven points clear at the top of the league with six games to go. This time last year they were seven points adrift at the bottom of the league. No-one saw this coming.
It wouldn’t have been too much of a flyer to assume back in August that an ex-Chelsea manager would win the league, but I doubt if many thought it would be this one.
This is infuriating and intriguing in equal measure. Had this bizarre concatenation of circumstances occurred two seasons ago when Liverpool were wiping the world aside with a nonchalance that bordered on arrogance, we would have pretty much been in the box seat.
In fact, I’ve just checked the stats and after 32 games — ironically, following a home win against Spurs — we had 71 points. That would put us two clear of Leicester and, by extension, nine points ahead of this Spurs incarnation.
Of course, back then we dropped five points in those final six games and that was enough to confine us to a second place and a 15-month hangover, but that return would have probably have taken us to the gloryland and tops off week-long parties in the palaces of the mighty.
Frustrating isn’t the word.
Things coalesce. Claudio Ranieiri had the serendipitous find of the decade in Jamie Vardy and the best centre-back pairing in the league in Wes Morgan and Robert Huth while, for their part, Spurs finally saw the Gareth Bale money settle into a genuine title challenge. Add to this the falling away of the others — the usual Arsenal quick, slow, slow, quick season, Chelsea’s implosion and whatever the hell is happening at Manchester City, and those two teams have snuck past them. Fair play to them.
Should Leicester win the league it will be the greatest achievement since Forest were promoted in 1977 and took the league the following season. I know, I know. Things were different then and almost anyone could mount a title challenge.
Derby County won the league in 1972 and little old QPR took us all the way in 1976 while Watford were runners up in 1984 and there’s little chance of things like that happening now, but that Forest achievement was incredible. As things stand they’re the only team in Europe to have won more European Cups than domestic league titles. Imagine Leicester winning two Champions League titles in the next two seasons. Exactly.
But in this maddest of all maddest years where are Liverpool? Well, that’s easy. We are in ninth place. Ninth bloody place. Low even when compared to our most vanilla of campaigns.
They say the table never lies but it seems that we’re somehow better than that. You’re either shaking your head viciously at that view or nodding in a ‘yes, I know what you mean’ fashion. We could have been siblings in a previous life, you and I.
Ninth with eight games to go. That’s pretty bloody awful, even when you stand it up with a justifiable mountain of caveats.
We’ve had our moments. The Europa League has been noteworthy, particularly our first tête-à-tête with Manchester United in Europe and we’ve been to Wembley and were a few dodgy penalties away (Phil) from silverware, but ninth just stinks.
How has that happened? Have we simply been beaten by our biggest rivals? Well, no. Spurs, Arsenal, City and Chelsea have yet to beat us over 90 minutes this season. Of course, us being us, means that the wettest United side in generations took six points off us, but that’s just what we do. If the stakes are high we can generally be considered to deliver, but if there’s a run-of-the-mill element or we’re getting somewhere, a Watford or Southampton can bloody our noses. Typical Liverpool.
We could have utilised our occasional fearlessness and harnessed it to our advantage while the football laws were having a year off but, as Presuming Ed points out at the end of Withnail and I, we have failed to paint it black.
And that’s infuriating. The enemy have left the back door open and we’re stood on the front step, drunkenly stabbing around our pockets for our house keys.
This sounds like I’m criticising the club. I’m not really, although everyone should look at ninth place — ninth? — and then at their own feet for a minute or two.
This season has been yet another of “transition” and, as Jürgen was knackered and needed to work on his tan, we couldn’t bring him in after the 6-1 debacle and throw an impressive transfer budget at him to get to work on things earlier.
Instead, he’s had to muddle through a season that was pretty much on its arse by the time he came in and was left with another man’s squad to do his work. It seems Leicester had the monopoly on miracles this season.
He’s done well, too. He’s stopped us clutching at each other’s throats for a minute, which in itself is something to admire, and he’s moved a few people, notably Divock Origi, up a few notches in their development. But you can’t expect anything. Events have conspired to lead Leicester to near nirvana while a knackered German, who quite rightly fancied a bit of time off, has taken away our shot at the title.
There is some good to come from this though and it’s this: Football has gone all quantum.
It’s true. The natural laws of football have all gone mad. You can take a measurement in one place but while you’ve made an assessment something odd has happened elsewhere.
Loads of teams have tonnes of crisp banknotes to throw at good players but it no longer correlates to anything quantifiable.
The two best strikers in the league have come from non-league while the other has been around the country on a litany of loan deals. We tried to do what you’re supposed to do and spent £32million on proven Premier League goalscoring ability. That went well. I’ll be amazed if he’ll bother buying his winter coat in town.
The old formulas no longer work if this randomness is to continue sufficiently long enough to become the norm. If Leicester can take the league with a lad from Fleetwood and Robert Huth then we can win it, too.
I mean, alright, others can do the same and Swansea City have as much chance as we do, but I subscribe to the idea of random particles flying off all over the show and landing in such a way that we blag a league. After all, we’ve tried logic and its inherent complications and short-fallings and we’re in ninth. Sodding ninth.
Okay, this isn’t much of a philosophy to build a workable campaign but so far this season I’ve seen West Ham win at Anfield, United beat an Arsenal side with two teenagers and a midfield who, shall we say, winter well. I’ve seen Liverpool score seven goals against City and Emre Can try to block a shot with his face while lying on the floor. This extends into my personal life, too. Last night, I witnessed my 65-year-old uncle belt out Some Might Say on karaoke at his own retirement party. Eyes screwed up in concentration while trying to shout the tiles off the ceiling. I’ve given up on rational thought and normality. All bets are off.
Every team has been susceptible to craziness at some point this season, save for Villa who have been reassuringly bad from start to finish.
Okay, I’m only half serious. God doesn’t play dice with the universe and all that and before too long a natural order will settle and the big money teams will take the big money prizes, but this season is a welcome one — a throwback to a time when there were more than four teams in with a shout of success.
It’s just a vicious shame that we weren’t ready or prepared for this typhoon of insanity, so while there’s a smile at Leicester for tearing up the league it’s accompanied with a sense of “bastards”.
At least the manager is a bit mad too so maybe we are prepared in some way should this continue.
That’s got to be worth something.