This weekend was a definitive one in terms of the Barclays premier league race for the title. Arsenal’s feint hopes of staying in the race were well and truly put to pasture with a careless draw at the hands of West Ham. That result left two teams still in the chase, one with a hand on the trophy and the other with just eyes on the prize – Leicester and Tottenham respectively.
Leicester City had the advantage of being seven points clear and an earlier kick for their fixture away to Sunderland. Tottenham would have to wait. Sunderland proved stubborn in the fist half at the stadium of light but Leicester were equally stubborn but a clinical ruthlessness would see them claim the three points with two goals from Jamie Vardy late on. This meant that the foxes were now ten points clear at the top with Spurs due to kick off their match versus Man Utd at White Hart Lane. Kick off was delayed due to Man Utd’s coach being stuck in London Traffic and this only added to the drama. Much like the game at the stadium of light, Man Utd proved to be tough enough resistance for the first half of the match but capitulated during the second half and Spurs would end up putting them to the sword with three goals in six minutes from Alli, Alderweireld and Lamela to keep the title hopes alive.
The gap remains at seven points at the top of the table in favour of Leicester but with five fixtures left for both teams to fulfil, the race for the title is far from over.
Leicester City’s remaining fixtures:
- West Ham (h)
- Swansea (h)
- Man Utd (a)
- Everton (h)
- Chelsea (a)
Tottenham Hotspur’s remaining fixtures:
- Stoke (a)
- West Brom (h)
- Chelsea (a)
- Southhampton (h)
- Newcastle (a)
With no easy fixture remaining for Leicester including tricky away trips to Man Utd and Chelsea those that believe the job is done might be a touch premature, yes, they have the points on the board and others around them would undoubtedly give anything to be in the position they are, one thing that this Premier league season has demonstrated is that just about anybody can beat just about anybody on their day – Aston Villa the only exception as they are only capable of beating themselves to a ticket to Dubai or a shisha pipe or indeed a managerial sacking.
Spurs too face a difficult run in with difficult away trips to Stoke and Chelsea and home ties against West Brom and Southhampton sandwiched in between. The final game of the season for them sees them take on either a relegated side or one fighting to the death to remain in the Premier league in the shape of Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle – assuming that Leicester have not wrapped it up well before.
In the context of the 2015/16 season its perhaps no coincidence that its these two that remain. Of course not many would have predicted Leicester to be topping the table given the great escape from relegation they went through in the previous season – apart from a few lucky Leicester fans that took a punt on their team at odds of 5000/1 desperate not to hit that cash out button. The teams themselves are very similar, work horses that have a sprinkling of genuine quality amongst them. It is clear to see that both teams are enjoying their football under managers that are at completely different stages of their careers.
When Ranieri was appointed following Nigel Pearson’s ignomonius demise, many scoffed and placed Leicester as favourites to be relegated but this is a man that has learnt from all his experiences in football and to a certain degree changed as a man and not a coach. He is enjoying it, embracing it and encouraging his players to do the same. Pochettino is a relative novice, just starting out on his career journey – thats not to diminish is obvious rising star. After promising signals of his talents at Southampton he found himself at White hart lane where he yet again assembled a team that would deliver on his demands – young, hungry and committed.
Its no coincidence that two of the hardest working teams are in the race for the title, substance over style has won the race whatever the outcome. This however does not mean that the quality of both sides has not been illustrated on more than one occasion – individually and collectively. When names such as Vardy, Mahrez, Alli and Kane are mentioned its impossible for football fans not to recall a moment of genuine quality from all. Those managers spouting nonsense about philosophies and legacies could learn from these two managers, keeping things simple, working hard for a common goal and putting round pegs in round holes. Philosophies do not win football matches – Louis Van Gall – players do, in a lot of cases philosophies don’t even put smiles on the players’ faces let alone the fans’.
So, why is the race still on for these two teams? Simple, the finishing line has never been considered, its never been a factor. Both teams have done what every ten year old boy wants to do at half time of the F.A Cup final – get outside and play football with a smile on their face, this, coupled with hunger, hard work and little gems of class means that it is not all over and the hurdles in front of them are just another step towards that finishing line and a Premier league winners medal and a whole host of well deserved plaudits.
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