Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Let's Talk About Leicester City

I assumed it would wait another week having checked the score at halftime. Tottenham was up 2-0 on Chelsea and given how Spurs have been playing of late, I assumed that was that. Glory delayed- but perhaps not denied. A little while later, I saw something float by me on Facebook about 'the entire country cheering that Chelsea goal' and quickly found NBC Sports to catch the final minute. Chelsea pulled out the 2-2 draw and the Premier League title belonged to Leicester.

(And boy did it get chippy at the end... Spurs, I think, felt the moment slipping away and got frustrated. Chelsea, well, Chelsea gonna Chelsea, I think people would say- I saw something on Twitter pointing out that it was very like Diego Costa to actually get injured and end up pointing to the wrong side of his face, but there you go.)

But Leicester: as a dutiful Arsenal fan, I think I'm obligated to express my relief that Tottenham didn't actually win the League- though without a shopping spree and something palpable changing this summer on the part of Arsenal,  I wouldn't count Tottenham out for next season. They're young, hungry and their speed (from what I've seen) is damn near terrifying. Next year could very well be their year. However, let that not diminish the glory of the Foxes.  Let's consider:

At the end of last season, Leicester barely staved off relegation. Their off-season was something of a dumpster fire and at the start of the season the odds were 5000-1 that they would win the title. (Lots of bookies were crying at the end of yesterday's game, I'm sure.) There's really no perfect parallel to US sports... maybe if that final shot had gone in for Butler it might be close. It would be a little like UCF (0-12 last season) running the table this season, crashing the playoff and beating Alabama in the Title Game. Hoosiers (with their basketball rings) comes closer- but that was a movie. The whole notion of Leicester City winning the title seemed ridiculous even in January, yet here we are.

Does this mean that the era of the Top Four (Chelsea, Arsenal, ManU, Man City) Dominance could be coming to a close? Maybe. Especially if you consider the insane amount of television money that's coming their way. The teams that survive this season stand to make even more money the next- the numbers quoted in the article linked would be the American equivalent of $218,089,500 for the top of the heap to $145,393,000 to the bottom. If you can stay up this year and aren't a complete fool with your money, suddenly mid-table clubs have some money to throw around.

You've already seen inklings of it this season: West Ham sit in 6th, Stoke City in 10th, Watford in 12th and even Bournemouth is clear of the drop zone (for now/probably) in 15th.  Crystal Palace fell off as the season progressed, but at the start of proceedings even they looked capable of putting a scare into a big dog now and again. While the big dogs probably will always be the big dogs at the top of the heap, I think what could develop over the next few seasons is a situation where someone else could elbow their way into the conversation now and again- and maybe even steal it out from under the big dogs altogether. Leicester wasn't supposed to do this. But in doing so, they've proved that it's possible to be done- and with truly stupid amounts of money flowing to all the clubs next season, the puppies will have the ability to make a run at the big dogs going forward- and perhaps even win.

But in the meantime: enjoy one of the greatest stories ever told in sports. This isn't a movie though. It's for real.

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