By now you’ve read the numbers, the plaudits, the hyperbole and celebration of it all. All deserved, scraped and fought for, Leceister City won the Barclays Premier League without actually playing on Monday. It was the heated cross-town rivalry between Tottenham Hotspurs and Chelsea Oligarchs that determined the champions’ fate. Chelsea roared back to tie Tottenham and hamstring the Spurs’ last hopes of keeping up with the Fearless Foxes.
This year’s Leceister FC was a panacea for international football. They were such a force of luck, energy, positivity, and consistency, that everything seemed to be written. They were pulled together through excellent scouting, redemptive second-chances, and hard work. There were no big-money transfers — N’Golo Kante cost less than £10 million, chump change in a league ruled by oil money.
Even when Jamie Vardy revealed that he isn’t the greatest dude, then scored in eleven straight games, the narrative remained relentless. Although Vardy popped in the most goals, the beating heart of the team’s attack was Riyad Mahrez, whose timeliness, touch, and sense of space created as many goals. Unsurprising that he was named the player of the year in the Premier League.
The team had spine. The triad of N’Golo Kante, footballing golem Robert Huth, and team captain Wes Morgan all combined as a formidable shield for 2nd-generation starting Premier League goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. Kante prowled the field with speed and ferocity like a Strong Safety, never putting a wrong foot or mis-timing a tackle. Huth and Morgan were mobile pillars, dominant in the air and just fast enough to survive. Austrian Bundesliga castoff, Christian Fuchs, was a learned presence on the flank and provided reliable crossing service.
There’s also the luck. Leceister used the fewest players of any team this season, 23. Once famed for being such a restless manager they called him “The Tinkerman,” Claudio Ranieri barely changed his lineup all year. He barely had to, sustaining few injuries throughout the year. This, more than anything, is the most un-repeatable aspect of Leceister’s title.
Though if you saw him, Ranieri’s kindly visage might make you wonder what he was doing not feeding ducks bread at a pond, he played luck’s harp expertly. He retained the assistant coaching staff so the players wouldn’t hate him. He made Jamie Vardy not shoot in practice, so as to have more time to be racist in private. This worked out in heavenly fashion, as everyone was essentially healthy for the entire year, they all loved and fought for each other, and they turned out to be champions.
The solution might not be billions, or a “special” manager, or galactic star power. Sometimes it’s more about the lightning and how you catch it.