The remarkable rise of Leicester City from relegation candidates to title contenders is the EPL’s story of the season in which none of the big four, if you can call them so, have shown the form to pul
The remarkable rise of Leicester City from relegation candidates to title contenders is the EPL’s story of the season in which none of the big four, if you can call them so, have shown the form to pull ahead. With 15 matches to go, Claudio Ranieri’s Foxes are sitting pretty at the top with 47 points, three ahead of both Manchester City and Arsenal. If Leicester do manage to go all the way, they will surely become the story of the league's 127-year history itself. This has been such a crazy season that it appears tailor-made for a fairy tale finish. Ranieri is not coy about his teams title chances any longer; the Italian has realised that Leicester truly belong to the trek to the summit.
With modest means Leicester have made a mockery of money power with their consistent excellence. Manchester United fans can’t come to terms with the transfer funds squandered by manager Louis van Gaal to assemble a team that is 10 points behind the leaders. Whether one likes it or not, the EPL is the most popular league in the world and the storming run of Ranieri’s boys must be grabbing it even more eyeballs in all corners of the globe. Even the long-suffering fans of Arsenal will be able to temper their grief at the end of yet another fruitless league season if Leicester clinch the title. Manchester City’s supporters — whose population is not appreciable in any case — can take refuge in dreams about life under Pep Guardiola next season if their team’s toil in the league comes to nought this term. Neutral fans would be keen to see Leicester fend off the challenge of Arsenal, who believe they have class, and City, who doubtless have the cash, on the home stretch.
Leicester aren’t a smash-and-grab team. There is nothing in their terrific run that suggests that lady luck is ensconced with them. The likeable Foxes have the right mix of graft and guile. Unless the whole team is pulling together, such a Cinderella season isn’t possible.
The biggest plus for Leicester is they don’t have the burden of expectations the big four are saddled with. For a team perennially accustomed to relegation worries, a place in the title race can be liberating. The coming fortnight will determine Leicester’s title fate, as they are set to meet Liverpool (home), City (away) and Arsenal (away). A decent return from the triple challenge should zip the mouths of doubters.
Jamie Vardy (16 goals) and Riyad Mahrez (13 goals) have been pivotal to Leicester’s surge to the top. The former’s transformation from non-league existence three seasons ago to an EPL hotshot is a dream shared by all young footballers. Vardy is not a spring chicken, but, at 29, he is enjoying an Indian summer. The artistry of Mahrez demands a separate column. The Algerian aesthete is destined to land in a bigger club next season and his absence will leave King Power Stadium palpably poorer.
Meanwhile, Dele Alli of Spurs may have won the Goal of the Season contest with his sensational three-touch volley against Crystal Palace last week. It was as good as the strike of Colombia’s James Rodriguez against Uruguay at the 2014 World Cup, if not better. There was a suggestion of incredulity in England manager Roy Hodgson’s eyes at the stands because he wouldn’t have thought such a goal was possible for his compatriot.