Thursday 27 October 2016

Joe Molloy: Leicester miracle becomes serious possibility

Joe Molloy

Published 11/02/2016 | 02:30

Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez celebrates after scoring against Manchester City. Photo: PA
Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez celebrates after scoring against Manchester City. Photo: PA

So this Leicester City business is getting serious now. A few weeks ago, after Arsenal's limp loss to Chelsea, I bemoaned the creeping inevitability that Manchester City would win the title in a finale ill-befitting this most erratic of seasons. I also mentioned in passing that pretty soon this Leicester threat would have to be taken seriously, but not quite yet. How could you?

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Even now it feels a touch romantic to fully accept their favourites' tag. We still want this story to happen, more than we expect it to; two decades of Premier League football have demonstrated very clearly that money wins out, particularly over the course of a 38-game season.

And yet we are 25 games in and must surely be passing the point of quirky happenings or unsustainable form.

There was a moment against Manchester City last Saturday when Marc Albrighton received the ball on the near touchline and produced the most audacious and unexpected of early, direct passes to Jamie Vardy, who uncharacteristically botched a very good opportunity.

It encapsulated a lot about the Leicester way; why their possession stats are so low, why their pass completion stats are on the floor and why they're so thrillingly dangerous.


It was perhaps the kind of pass we don't see attempted enough in these more sanguine, sophisticated times. It was also memorable because it came from Albrighton. When did he start playing these kind of passes? How did this happen, all of it?

Leicester have, beyond everything else, been a testament to the collective.

In any walk of life, individuals can produce exceedingly brilliant things in a proper, functioning system.

Systems are understandably difficult. Most never come close to allowing everybody hit their potential; it is impossible to predict or plan for the perfect dovetailing of so many variables, not least given the vast array of human failings. Leicester do about as well as any group can hope to.

Claudio Ranieri said this week he has never witnessed a team spirit like it.

Mistakes are applauded and dealt with. Whatever heady cocktail of chemistry is at play, it must be a joy to be around the training ground.

Each passing week the whole enterprise is fuelled further by results on the field and the adrenaline of a title chase, very different to the pressure of a relegation fight.

In an era defined by financial prowess, this is a proper freak occurrence. It has a 'now or never' feel to it.

I have never seen a 5,000/1 shot beat the odds, in any sport. Cue squeaky bum time.

Irish Independent

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