Leicester are ‘welcome sunshine in Premier League darkness’

Date published: Friday 1st November 2019 12:26

Johnny chooses someone or something in football that deserves celebrating for what they’ve done this week.

 

Who’s this week’s hero, Johnny?
This week’s heroes are currently third in the Premier League having conceded joint fewest goals and scored the third most goals, nine of which were notched up last Friday in an absolutely historic away win. They’ve won four of their last five games and are many people’s tip to break the top six hegemony due to at least two and possibly three of those six being capable of being a bit awful, just as they were when our heroes won the title in 2016. That’ll be Leicester City, then.

 

What have they done to deserve this then?
0-9!!! C’mon!! 0-9!!!

Such an away win is remarkable, whoever it is achieved against. Had Leicester City beat Morcambe 9-0 it would still merit a huge accolade but to do so against a fellow Premier League club was just stunning. When a side is 5-0 at half-time the normal course of events is for them to win the game 5-1. The incentive to score four more goals is normally absent but The Foxes were absolutely rampant, admittedly aided by the Saints being down to ten men.

It was as though their opponents were absent from proceedings entirely with just 272 passes completed compared to Leicester’s 709 and 6 shots to 25. Their lack of competitive spirit was the most shocking element of all, committing just three fouls.

It broke many Premier League records, but as we know Premier League records are a phoney distinction based wholly on a league name change and thus should be entirely disregarded as historical perspective. We judge records against the entirety of history, not against brand name periods.

With two hat-tricks, one from Ayoze Perez and another inevitably from Jamie Vardy, it was the biggest margin for an away victory in the topflight in the entire 131-year history of the Football League. Yeah, no mere 27-year period, 100 and bloody 31 years. How do you like them apples? All the more incredible when in football’s early years, really big wins were more commonplace. The biggest away win ever in football league history is Sheffield United’s 10-0 win over Port Vale in 1892 but that was in the second division. This puts the win at St Mary’s into proper perspective. This was a win for the ages. Extra, extra special. No mere Premier League record but one of English football’s most incredible results of all time.

What’s more, it was Southampton’s biggest ever defeat as an English league side in any competition ever and let’s face it, they do get a massive hammering every now and again.

It also served to highlight just what an excellent team the Foxes are and how they can, given half a chance, totally overwhelm a side that isn’t prepared to go toe-to-toe with them.

The seem to have the rare ability to strike fear into an opposition. They also have the sheer stones to be relentless, tenacious and just downright gritty. They seem incredibly fit and can blow a side away, or grind out a result. Whatever it takes, they can do it. The fact that all were disappointed by their loss at Anfield last month is a sign of just how far they have come and no-one will be surprised if they win the return game at the King Power on Boxing Day.

 

Media reaction?
The Guardian accurately headlined their report ‘Vardy and Pérez hat-tricks see Leicester smash nine against Southampton’.

The BBC went with ‘Lethal Leicester serve notice of intent’, which does make them sound a little like a landlord evicting a tenant.

The Leicester Mercury ran a story about a 74-year-old Canadian ‘Leicester fan accidentally bet on City to beat Southampton 9-0’ and in doing so won £346, which seems a paltry return for such an unlikely outcome.

The Independent missed the greater historical perspective in the result opting for a headline ‘Foxes equal Premier League record win with nine-goal thrashing’ because the Premier League has hypnotised so many into defining everything via its own existence, even when to do so is to the detriment of the achievement.

The ever more weird politically extremist rag – The Daily Telegraph – also did the Premier League’s bidding with a headline that looked written by Richard Scudamore.

‘Leicester City equal Premier League record win with nine-goal rout over sorry Southampton.’

Finally, congrats go to the Southampton FC website for its noble understatement in headlining its match report ‘Saints Fall To Heavy Home Defeat’. Ooof, you got that right.

 

Anyone grumpy about it?
Well, everyone. Because we all wanted them to score ten, didn’t we? Quite why, I don’t know. There is just something special about reaching double figures in a sport which is by and large very low scoring. And while a double figure win does occasionally happen for the home side, it just doesn’t for the away team. To have missed out by one on that achievement was very frustrating. However, this is being incredibly churlish, I know.

Sky were broadcasting the game and by all accounts were somewhat stuck between making A Big Deal about this score (purely focusing on it in Premier League history terms, of course) whilst worrying that it might show just how dysfunctional the league now is. When a club that has spent over £100 million on transfers in the last two seasons might get handed their arses so profoundly, it weakens the argument that a league awash with money attracts the best footballers in the world. And it also helps prove that the fees paid for such players are totally random and no measure of anything.

And obviously, Saints fans must be wondering what on earth is going wrong. But then once you’ve let in six at home, nine seems no worse really.

 

What the people say
Not a huge response this week. I still find it surprising that many fans have few feelings or observations of a team that they don’t personally support, when it is not one of the biggest teams. LCFC are especially easy to enjoy from front to back, so perhaps it’s even more odd that there wasn’t a flood of input. But we start, as ever, with a 4_4_haiku.

Harvey Barnes. Everyone at WBA knows he is the real deal. Far superior to Mount, Sancho and all those others with better PR who are supposedly ahead of him. LCFC have potentially the best player in England

They’re a club that have had to deal with extreme highs and devastating lows in the last few years, and the way they’ve handled both situations is extremely commendable.

Seeing Leicester happy (particularly Vardy, Chilwell and Maddison), just brings me joy finally for some inexplicable reason.

I was there and it was…ridiculous. But I loved the 90 minutes of relentless hunger from the Foxes. No let up.

Leicester City now hold the record for the biggest ever top flight away win (9-0 vs Southampton in 2019) AND the biggest ever top flight away defeat (0-12 to Nottm Forest in 1909)

 

What does the future hold?
There is much excited talk about whether LCFC can ‘break’ the top six at least for one season. While it would be fun for them and us, it really has come to something when we’re being asked to get excited about a team finishing sixth or fifth. If that isn’t an illustration of a competition that isn’t working properly, then nothing is.

However, we have to thank the Foxes for their title win in 2016 because without that incredible event, no club outside of the top six could even have any pretence that such a feat could happen and in doing so they have made what was impossible seem merely massively unlikely and that is as much as can be asked for in these times.

It is also worth noting that when a club and its supporters sets it sights lower and accepting title wins are outside the realms of possibility, as Rodgers does, properly aiming at a top-six place does at least provide something to strive for. Throw in a committed cup run and you’ve got the perfect template for all the ‘also-ran’ teams in the Premier League to follow. I mean, do give it a go, at least.

Should they achieve top-six status, the next task will be to maintain it when Arsenal, Manchester United and Spurs are not so inconsistent. Then again, maybe those two clubs and others will continue to be badly run and/or managed and thus give the East Midlands club even more chances. All we can do is hope that they continue to make incursions into the financial cabal because a competition isn’t a competition at all when we know the small pool the highest achievers will always be drawn from.

And what about Brendan? He’s still great value, still occasionally looks like he’s varnished himself with teak oil, still has something of the Hobbit about him, but does seem to have ironed out some of the most self-regarding tics. He has not been spotted running around the streets of Leicester sniffing the air for cooking mince yet, but surely it is only a matter of time. We can but hope.

The trouble is, he’s doing such a great job that one of the most ridiculously wealthy clubs will eventually want to employ him. We must hope that Rodgers is keener on making Leicester as great as possible and that will be more satisfying for him than getting Arsenal to third or whatever.

How long the club can keep being this good is probably in large measure dependent on how long Jamie Vardy can keep on being Jamie Vardy. An absolutely peerless footballer in a role that he has all but made his and his alone, he shows no signs of slowing down or losing any appetite at all for chasing the ball down.

An absolute one-off and a force of nature like none other playing today, there is no more thrilling sight in football than to see him chasing a long ball, toe-ending it past the defender and taking a cross-shot to beat the goalkeeper or going down to win a penalty. It’s brilliant that you, me and defenders all know it is going to happen, but still can’t stop him.

For all the sophistication the game can offer, ultimately such physicality is still the most exciting part of the game. The fact he appears to be half human, half ferret and appears to actively feed of negative energy just makes him all the more admirable. The more dislike is shown towards him, the stronger he gets. Opposition fans need to stop getting him riled up, he’ll only hurt you more if you do that. Love is Vardy kryptonite. The fact he has become a sort of anti-hero who is likeable for not being likeable is one of the game’s great conundrums.  He is irreplaceable and it is hard to see they will ever be the same again once his race is run.

That being said if he continues to play like this until he is 38, it wouldn’t surprise. The boy’s not normal and thank the lord for that. And while Jamie Vardy is still having a party, LCFC look set to prosper. They are welcome sunshine in the Premier League darkness.

John Nicholson

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