TWO years ago I decided to start writing a book. It was to be a work of fiction and would centre around a lowly football club that would defy the odds to win the league title. They would be a team of misfits brought together by an inspirational manager to overcome the money and the power of the giants of the game to steal the hearts of the nation.
Then I thought, “Nah, that would be too far-fetched. I’ll write about zombie caterpillars or something.”
I wanted to write the book initially as an act of defiance. All I ever heard from people was how you couldn’t write good football fiction because the game is too unpredictable and exciting enough in reality. I disagreed and thought there was absolutely a formula for writing a story that could still capture the imagination — you just had to go with something that was incredibly ludicrous, yet strangely plausible if you opened your mind a bit, as with zombie caterpillars.
It has often irked me down the years when you hear commentators say, “You couldn’t write a story like this!” Have you seen some of the stories that have been written throughout history? Shakespeare? Dickens? Tolkien? Rowling? They’re a tad more impressive than Wigan winning the FA Cup (as good as that was).
You could quite easily have written the Leicester story. I very nearly did. But there is very little point when it happens for real. To paraphrase Jason Statham in Snatch, to actually see Leicester City win the Premier League title… is quite a fucking thing.
As I’m sure many of you will have, I found it slightly vomit-inducing to be cheering on Chelsea last night — albeit Spurs made it easier by turning into a gang of thugs determined to prove that Mark Clattenburg had left his red card in his other shorts — but it was in the name of Leicester City defying the 5,000-1 odds and winning the Premier League title. It is such a heart-warming story for so many reasons.
Then I took to Twitter and saw a load of good Reds fuming about it.
We would all have much rather seen ourselves at the top of the table and taking advantage of numerous clubs having dreadful seasons, of course, but this was surely a better outcome than Tottenham winning it, or Arsenal, or Manchester City?
As far as I can tell, these were the main reasons for said fume:
- Leicester City have won the title before Liverpool
- They only needed 77 points to do it
- Next season everyone else will be stronger
- Jamie Vardy looks like he should be handing out flyers for free shots in Magaluf rather than lifting a Premier League trophy.
Here are my ripostes:
- Football was not invented by Sky in 1992, so no they haven’t
- More a sign of the strength lower down the league than the weakness at the top. My bet is it’ll be a similar total next season
- Will they? (I’ll address that shortly)
- Yes he does to be fair, but then so does Alberto Moreno (Unbelievable, Jeff!)
However, the one argument that I can appreciate might trouble people, and is perhaps the most pertinent of all, is that Leicester and Claudio Ranieri winning the Premier League trophy essentially makes a mockery out of all of Liverpool’s previous excuses for not being able to win a title since 1990.
The outrageously talented writer of this parish, Ian Salmon, has also done a piece you will have read by now that touches on the scenario that it could have been us, and makes good arguments of why other teams who should have won it, didn’t.
There is another way of looking at it though.
Leicester have blown the door wide open for anyone to challenge for, and win, the title. They have built this team on good scouting, a solid team ethic and a cool and calm manager. Not billions of pounds and a bad bell like Jose Mourinho in charge. They have turned on its head everything we thought was needed to lift the league title.
It can prove to be a catalyst for teams like Liverpool, as I believe it was for Spurs.
Let’s not forget that Spurs were no-one’s favourites to win the league either, but they were the only ones breathing down Leicester’s necks by the end, and it seemed to me to be as much about them looking at Leicester and saying, “Well if they can do it…” than anything else.
There have been valid reasons for Liverpool being unable to challenge in the past, such as competing with much stronger versions of the big guns, losing out on titles to teams getting 90 points+, or with City in 13/14 when they won their last five on the bounce, but there have also been seasons where Liverpool have faded away when you can see right in front of your eyes it’s been because they’ve looked at other teams’ spending and said, “How do you compete with that?”
Leicester have now not only dispelled that excuse, but held it up by its ears and dropkicked it into the sea. They saw it as any other team only being 11 players plus subs and that they, as another 11 other players plus subs, can beat anyone at football over 90 minutes.
Of course history will tell you that this is far from the norm, and it is likely that Leicester’s heroics are a complete anomaly and will never be allowed to happen again, but of course Liverpool aren’t starting from anywhere near as far back as Leicester did.
Many are calling this the greatest shock in the history of sport. There have been other one-off events, tournament wins, cup wins, boxing matches etc, but in terms of an underdog maintaining such an unlikely high level for a whole season, there are few if any stories as incredible as this (granted Ian, Forest aside).
However, if you break it down, the formula for Leicester’s title win looks a bit simpler. They have:
- A solid dependable keeper who communicates well with his defence
- Two defensively sound if unspectacular full backs
- Two organised centre backs who know their limitations and head everything away
- Two centre mids who sit and protect the back four, one who tackles and intercepts everything, the other who spreads passes from deep (Mascherano and Alonso-lite)
- Pace, creativity and end product on both wings
- Pace, gnarliness and end product up front
- Subs who will run through a brick wall for their manager
- A manager who has ultimate faith in his players
- Pretty much no injuries to key players
With Jürgen Klopp in charge, would it be so unlikely for Liverpool to achieve similar? The biggest question mark there would be keeping injuries to the bare minimum. With a new fitness coach coming in, if that can be addressed then there’s no telling the impact it could have.
Then of course there’s recruitment. It’s been bordering on embarrassing the last few years, and it is definitely something that needs improving on. Again, Leicester have shown that it doesn’t always need to be big names and big money, or you could be harsh and say Liverpool’s speciality, small names and big money.
People point to Leicester’s form at the tail-end of last season as an indicator of what was to come this season, which is valid. However, if you look at Liverpool’s form in games where Klopp has had close to his first choice XI, it’s pretty impressive too, no? Many of the hiccups have come in games that fell between Europa League clashes when mass rotation was needed.
The bad results of the last week and a half have come without Can, Henderson, Origi and Sakho. Four players who would likely have been in Klopp’s XI for Thursday if available.
Do you really think Leicester could have kept up this form without Drinkwater, Kante, Huth and Vardy all at once?
Then there’s this talk about the big teams all definitely improving next season. I’m not so certain about that one.
Next season will see Pep Guardiola have to get used to the Premier League with a squad that at the moment largely consists of players who will struggle to execute his preferred system.
Antonio Conte will also have to get used to the Premier League and revive a Chelsea squad that has stumbled almost as consistently as Leicester have triumphed. That is an absolutely massive job, especially for someone who isn’t even starting in the role until late July.
Manchester United will either be continuing with Louis van Gaal or swapping for Jose Mourinho. Either way their squad isn’t anywhere near balanced enough to win a title anytime soon, and there’s a good chance they’ll finally lose their lifesaver David De Gea to Real Madrid.
Tottenham look strong now, but as we know all too well, narrowly missing out on a title you feel you should have won can have incredible effects on the psyche of a squad and a manager. There’s every chance they’ll start next season slowly, and could have to spend the summer fighting off suitors for their star players, especially Harry Kane.
Arsenal are Arsenal. They will finish fourth.
Leicester will still be strong I’m sure, but with all eyes on them and the extra commitments of a Champions League campaign I can’t see them going another whole season without experiencing significant injury issues, though of course they cannot be underestimated (again).
And neither can we.
We will have Klopp as our manager, who will have had 10 months more experience in England than Guardiola and Conte, and in all likelihood will either have a team full of piss and vinegar after winning the Europa League, or a squad with no European football at all, and so a greater opportunity to focus on each league fixture with a near full-strength team over 38 games.
We should also have a squad that is closer to the one that he wants, and not one that he inherited from another manager, who had entirely different ideas on how football should be played.
There is a lot of work to be done at Melwood for Klopp and his team over the summer, but this season has shown that if you work hard enough and hit the right notes, you can overcome those who have far greater reach and spend in the transfer market.
I say well done to Leicester, and I’m happy for their achievement. I’m happy to see fans who are genuinely surprised that they have a chance to feel what it is to win the league, rather than the self-entitled celebrations that ensue when one of the regulars wins it again.
I love it because I can see the passion and the genuine glee in the eyes of the Leicester fans and players, and because I am sure that with Jürgen Klopp in charge, Liverpool fans and players have every chance to experience the same thing before too long.
Up the odds-defying Foxes.
Up the ‘everything to look forward to’ Reds.
You couldn’t write it.
Bring on Thursday.
It does, for me. highlight out position as the Premier League era biggest failure, in that of the teams who haven’t won the Premier League, we have significantly spent far more than everybody else in (not) doing so.
By now, given our outlay, we should be sitting on at least a couple of titles I’d say. And now teams who have spent far less are picking up titles.
This years very disappointing league campaign doesn’t help.
Leicester are deserving of the title and Spurs are deserving of second place, but let’s be honest, if Liverpool, United, City and Arsenal hadn’t had such injury problems, and those two teams hardly been troubled by injury, then it would have been a different story, that is patently obvious. There was one time this season when we had a team of potential first teamers all injured. Not taking anything anyway from Leicester’s wonderful feat, but stuff like this comes into play. Injuries make a huge difference to title challenges.
I’m with Ian. Sick of hearing everyone all season saying that Leicester have changed everything. They haven’t. They’ve just won an unbelievable title; it’s not been their job to change football forever. That’s part of the reason why they won it because they just concentrated on winning the next game with what they had to play with.
No aspiring elite team is going to start replicating their ‘two yard dogs at centre half booting everything to the back of the stand’ defending. Guardiola isn’t going to stand by and watch a fucking Bournemouth title challenge or whatever go on next season. Leagues will go back to be getting won on 85-90 points by teams who can afford the wages of world class players as opposed to lads that have been milling about in relegation scraps or the championship for years.
Oh and Istanbul is better than frigging teenage wizards or little fellas with hairy feet.
There is only one thing here I disagree with. If Leicester winning the title on a shoe-string budget is a middle-finger to any club it’s Liverpool. We’ve spent massively over the last few years with virtually nothing to show for it and Leicester have, in a sense, made a mockery of that.
Regardless of our lack of league success over the last few decades, Liverpool were usually one of the few clubs you imagined had a legitimate chance of winning the league. If it wasn’t us, it’d be United, City, Chelsea or Arsenal.
Now, we’ve been stripped of any pretence (which should have been the case anyway really). It’s easy to say most teams have had a bad season but, with the exception of Chelsea, they’re all pretty much going to finish above us.
And the worst part is, we’ve actually played really well at time.
The truth is we need some good replacements – Goalkeeper, Centre Back, Left Back, Holding Midfielder, Winger and probably another Striker.
Meaning we’ll be spending a lot of money again – which would have been the case either way really.
That’s a good way of summing it up. It’s like we are the overgrown teenager, still living at home and paying no rent in our mid-20s, railing about the injustice of the system and how it has prevented us from ever finding work or a girlfriend.
Meanwhile, our kid brother’s just turned 16, has quickly found himself a job and is taking the pretty girl from the hairdressers out on the town this coming Friday night.
I think we can forget about talk of 77 points diminishing Leicester’s achievement. They’ve won it somewhat cosily, like a racehorse that only won by a couple of lengths, because the jockey didn’t go all out hands and heels knowing that it was unnecessary. They have the demeanor of Champions. They look like grown men who have decided that they want something and have gone ahead and taken it.
Our 2013/2014 team was obviously easier on the eye and more exciting to watch, but victories were achieved with a kind of wild desperation. We were a house of cards, albeit a hugely impressive one. End the end, that’s how we fell.
Leicester have been easily the best Premier League team for about 50 games now. Dynamic and aggressive, yet also calm and resolute. It’s how we used to be, when we just rolled up our sleeves and got on with winning the damned thing.
They’ve made us look a little ridiculous, but at least now there is nothing left to blame and we might finally move forwards.
‘Leicester have been easily the best Premier League team for about 50 games now. Dynamic and aggressive, yet also calm and resolute. It’s how we used to be, when we just rolled up our sleeves and got on with winning the damned thing.
They’ve made us look a little ridiculous, but at least now there is nothing left to blame and we might finally move forwards.’
Agree with all of this. It stopped being a ‘fairytale’ a long while ago. Instead it became a tale of the best team in the league winning the league. It was all very logical.
All the pretence is now gone, which is exactly how Klopp will want it. He doesn’t really do excuses, nor is he interested in covering his own arse.
It’s quite clear that rafa’s gonna win the title at Newcastle next year…
signing a better keeper will be a necessary condition for winning the league next season so is bringing in a new goalkeeper’s trainer. people are yet to realize how s*** John Achterberg is. probably because he is not in the lime light. but ever wonder when and why Reina became so poor. coincidentally it was in the same year (2009) Achterberg was appointed. Mignolet was decent at Sunderland until now. when Klopp recalled ward from Aberdeen, I told a friend he was never going to improve with that man as his trainer. a younger keeper with a promising start to his career is now being shifted to Huddersfield because he had a s*** trainer . we can sign Oblak or Neuer next summer and that won’t improve our goalkeeping situation with Achterberg still in charge. it’s not straight forward but trust me – signing a new keeper with him in charge will be cos 90.
That’s the spirit – get the Mignolet dig in. Wouldn’t be a TAW comment section without one…
back to the point of the article – Leicester won this title as much last season as this. Had they scraped up with a GD changing win on the final day then this season doesn’t happen – But wining 7 and drawing 2 built the platform. If they lost Vardy or Mahrez for more than 3 games between them this season doesn’t happen. If Drinkwater and Kante, as DMs, collect more than 3 yellow cards and pick up a standard suspension, this season doesn’t happen. Huth and Morgan missed 1 game between them. Had they actually played more than 42 games all season then this season probably doesn’t happen…and so on.
It was much a perfect storm for them as anything else.
Next season is next season. It wont be like this one, and wont be like the one before that. It’ll be something different. That’s why we do what we do each season.
From memory, we’ve watched three 2-2 draws against garbage at home (Newcastle, Sunderland and West Brom) where the opposition have scored easy and crap goals from all of about 2 to 3 shots on goal. Points chucked down the drain.
It’s rightful criticism of a gaping, head-smackingly obvious weak spot in the team for the last 5 years. Even Reina who was world class under Benitez was lashing balls into the back of nets his last couple of years. In this time De Gea has won United a sickening number games season on season on his own and no one at Liverpool’s twigged? I’d bite your hand off for even 25% of De Gea. Instead I hear “Mignolet’s improved recently”, “he’s had a quiet month”, etc. And then Newcastle put one half-decent ball in the box for the first time all game…
Someone not inept for far too many games to mention of his 3 years here sees us gain significant points and placing in this league. The lad in between the sticks for the new champions isn’t a freak of nature like his old man or De Gea but what he is is competent. It doesn’t take much.
Are you Mignolet’s Ma?
He is the most glaringly obvious weak link in the side, he’s bound to get mentioned.
Leicester winning the league will ensure we will likely never win it.
It will underline FSG’s policy of buying cheap players as investment vehicles.
NOTHING THIS CLUB DOES IS ABOUT ANYTHING OTHER THAN PROFIT.
Leicester’s one off league victory statistically proves nothing. The correlation between squad value in both Champions League and Domestic leagues is undiminished.
THERE IS NO PROFIT IN COMPETING IN EITHER CHAMPIONS LEAGUE OR PREMIER LEAGUE
There is profit though in qualifying via the Europa, as you can do so with a poorer quality, thinner squad. Hence our current league position and the quality of squad that played at Swansea. The focus is on PROFIT. Even if we do qualify for the Champions League, we will be demoted to the Europa where we will try to qualify again with a mid table squad made up of punts…that’s where the profit is.
Of course, if we are lucky enough to find a Vardy or Mahrez, then we will sell them on to a club that is looking to seriously compete, as we did with Saurez.
Its more profitable.
This is LFC under FSG.
look at what has happened and where we are after 6 years. Look at the progress in the league and then look at the profits. Look at the quality of signings, when signings have been made.
FSG need to go.
Oh dear, you poor thing. Are you ok? Need a lie down maybe?
Are you lying down and asleep? Do you need to wake up?
it’s fine fella. really, it is.
Your point is?
That your a whining, over dramatic gobshite. I think that was the point. If not you are.
Intelligent reply that.
The spelling is even correct.
You sheep like imbecile.
If you can’t counter any points, because you can’t understand them, don’t reply as you just make a cunt of yourself. As per usual, no doubt.
Now fuck off.
Actually, the spelling isn’t even correct, it’s “you’re” not “your”
You dip shit.
“Would you take 84pts?”
Well this year isnt a total dissappointment yet. We started with a man of no directions & concluding with a man of real knowledge. We had another european historical comeback that only we can do. We have 2 new interesting players to welcome next season, 4 alongwith ings & gomez. It has already ensured that we wont have to throw money unlike last year. Again if we cud overcome overjoyed yellow submarine tomorrow, we will have unlike last year a final day of the season to look forward to on 18th may. For now we have a renewed HOPE.
Bit confusing this. You say Leicester have proved anyone can do it, but then go on to point out how the likes of Man City, Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal will struggle to do it – and therefore pretty much rule them out.
Not ruling them out at all, more questioning the theory that they’ll all ‘definitely’ be stronger next season.
Is it me or is there a feeling of anti EPL amongst top European talent, and do these
Players now prefer to ply their trade in the Spanish and German leagues which are less demanding on the body. Just trying to work out why the quality is so poor these days. I mean Leicester/Spurs 1st/2nd? Something is amis.
Btw this blows the conversation wide open in a very positive way, as I prefer to look at what is possible if Clubs stop trying to just buy success and do their due diligence when properly scouting talent, get away from trading via agents and use the money saved to reduce match tickets and give more to the fans which will in turn help boost fan moral hence the match day atmosphere. Although sadly I agree FSG may cynically attempt to adopt Leicester’s success model in order to boost profits. I’m Really in 2 minds, but generally it’s got to be good for the game has it not??
Be interesting to see what is said if Man City win club football’s biggest trophy after spending the most in the summer.
Would that mean clubs should spend loads on players or they shouldn’t…