It has happened. The moment has finally arrived. Leicester, yes Leicester, are the new Champions of England. We all knew this was coming, yet we still had to pinch ourselves after referee Mark Clattenburg blew the final whistle at Stamford Bridge, the home of the outgoing champions.
Passing on the title hurts. Chelsea captain John Terry made that clear after his side's draw against Tottenham handed Leicester the title. But deep down, beneath the true professional that he is, must be a football fan that is cherishing the Foxes' triumph. Such is the fairytale element in Leicester's march to glory that it has appealed to every football lover around the globe. From surviving Premier League relegation to English champions, the romance of Leicester's journey just can't be overlooked.
Due to its compelling narrative, it is almost impossible to analyse this feat as every other title triumph. But it is important that we look beyond the story, the fairytale and regard the events that culminated in this historic victory.
Premier League champions over the years have been a combination of beauty and the beast. One need not look too far behind as Chelsea's title triumph in 2015 provides the perfect example. After mesmerizing the audiences for the first part of the campaign, Chelsea needed to shift gears and adopt a more pragmatic approach to complete the title win. For all the beautiful football that Ferguson's Manchester United sides played over the years, it was those gritty last-minute wins that made all the difference in the end.
The difficult times came early for the big boys of the Premier League this season, and one after the other, every club bit the dust. Chelsea and Manchester United couldn't find the steel when it mattered and their soft underbellies were exposed. It seemed that only beauty would prevail and Arsenal could be champions, until one of the little boys matured into a man.
A managerial change that involved the entry of the experienced Claudio Ranieri at Leicester, wasn't seen as the smartest thing to do at the time. Many felt it would threaten to end the upward curve that the Foxes portrayed under former manager Nigel Pearson at the end of the 2014/15 season. That uncertainty was quickly put to rest as the Leicester started the Premier League with a six-game unbeaten run. However, it was brutally ended by an in-form Arsenal side who ran away 5-2 winners at the King Power Stadium in September.
Back then, had anyone tried to predict the outcome of Leicester's season, they would have said that the East Midlands club was on a downward slide. But grinding out results home and away that included a last-gasp equalizer at Southampton, Leicester managed to conjure yet another unbeaten run that had defending champions Chelsea and Jose Mourinho on its victim list.
The Premier League at that point had two unthinkable narratives developing. The possibility of Chelsea's relegation and Leicester's title tilt. The only perfect way to sum it up was that both of these had an equal chance of turning into reality, but with each bordering on the impossible.
It was just a matter of time, they said. Leicester were top at Christmas and three winless games thereafter seemed to prove their critics right. But when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Leicester were amidst a storm at White Hart Lane in January as a rampant Spurs side had them on the racks. Without a goal in over six hours of football, Leicester saw light at the end of the tunnel in the form of Robert Huth who put Leicester in front against all odds. Facing 17 shots from Tottenham on that day, Leicester managed to guard their net and eke out a 1-0 win.
Leicester's title charge was beginning to take shape but with the big guns on the horizon, an acid test awaited them. Handsome wins over Liverpool and Manchester City showed Leicester could do it against the very best and suddenly the phrase 'it was just a matter of time' had a very different meaning to it.
Loss to Arsenal meant that time felt like eternity for the Leicester supporters, but whenever a question was thrown at Claudio Ranieri's men, they came up with the answers. It wasn't all sunshine and a few clouds hovered over during the final lap to the title. Like every other champion though, there was a fire in Leicester's belly with the smell of silverware teasing their nasal senses. Down by a man and a goal against West Ham, the Premier League dream seemed to be blurring a bit until Leonardo Ulloa snatched an unlikely point.
The absence of Jamie Vardy, Leicester's top scorer was a big blow. Ulloa though had other ideas and his brace against Swansea pushed Leicester closer. Vardy wasn't missed at all. Going to Old Trafford is never easy and that's the last place Leicester would want to play when chasing the title, but the Foxes secured a hard-fought point at the Theatre of Dreams despite playing the final few minutes with ten men. Challenges brought the best out of Leicester and that's the stuff champions are made of.
At the same time elsewhere in the Premier League, fallen giants Manchester City had already began planning for next season and installed Pep Guardiola as their new manager for the upcoming term. Manchester United's Louis van Gaal continued to frustrate the Old Trafford faithful. Chelsea were boasting an unbeaten run while languishing at the bottom of the top half and Arsenal began their usual end-of-season-slump. None of them could quite ride out the respective storms that came their way.
The real men though, were at work. Striving to be the best, scaling mountains on the way to the top. A final unbeaten run of ten games and counting bridged the gap between dream and reality. The kid who laid the first building block of the bridge is now a man and the only one around. So it is perhaps fitting that he is now crowned the king!
Published Date: May 04, 2016 03:19 pm | Updated Date: May 04, 2016 03:21 pm