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    • #5763
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      By Abayomi Kalejaye

      They played, they shocked and they conquered.

      They were never meant to survive – yet they did.  EPL title was never meant to happen – but it did. Since the inception of the world, occurrences that have transcended the ambit of human comprehension and have wholly defied logic are few and far between. And when Leicester City were crowned EPL champions on Monday night – following Tottenham's 2-2 draw with Chelsea – the world had witnessed a mystery that was both unfathomable and inexplicable in equal measure.

      The 2015/2016 EPL season will go down in history as one of the most – if not the most – anomalous in world football.

      For a squad which cost a total of £52.8m (Kevin De Bruyne’s transfer fee of  £58m actually costs more than Leicester’s  team combined), compared to Manchester City’s £411.0m, their season objectives certainly doesn't extend beyond survival and, if possible, a top half finish on the table.

      In a rather surreal season where the elite teams all faltered spectacularly, it was still an improbable task for Leicester to accomplish regardless of the regular title-contenders' unusual inconsistencies. Preceding EPL champions Chelsea, for one, had their most disastrous season in a long while – a cataclysmic campaign that saw the wretched departure of the beloved 'special one'.

      Manchester City, somewhat unsurprisingly, flattered to deceive. A smorgasbord of comically pathetic defending and frequently toothless attacking forays characterized City's EPL campaign which, like Mourinho, saw Pellegrini pay the prize with his job.

      In North London, the team competing for the EPL title wasn't Arsenal for once: their fiercest rival, Tottenham, was. As it has been customary, Arsenal didn't surprise anyone with their underwhelming title campaign; except, maybe Wenger himself. The ideal scenario and predominant sentiment among most Arsenal supporters would be for Wenger to resign. But the possibility of that translating to reality is about as likely to happen as Sir Alex Ferguson coming out of retirement to play professional football for Arsenal.

      Tottenham on the other hand have had their best season in recent memory and are on course to finish second on the league table after giving Leicester a vigorously belated title chase.

      Superintended by a manager that was deemed a perennial failure, Ranieri’s Leicester devised a resolutely tactical template that catered for both the top and average teams. Their ability to play without the ball was crucial in stifling opponents’ attacking play. In fact, Leicester have averaged 45% possession in their games. Their ferocious speed and ruthless finishing enables them execute countless counter-attacking play.

      With Vardy and Mahrez, they possess two lethal attacking weapon that have scored thirty-five goals between them in the EPL so far. So much is Leicester’s potency upfront that they have only fail to score in 3 consecutive matches this season.

      Quite interestingly though, Leicester have exhibited a trait peculiar with title-contending teams – resilience. Their ability to grind out wins – especially the regular 1-0 scorelines – has enabled them maintain the goal of attaining the holy grail of the EPL competition. As a matter of fact, Leicester have never lost two games in a row; their worst spell this season was a three games winless streak.

      Relatedly, the Foxes have evinced a superb team spirit that bore marked semblance to the Greek team that, against all odds, won Euro 2004 after beating Portugal in the final; as well as the Atletico Madrid team that won La Liga in 2014, in a league containing super powers – Barcelona and Real Madrid.

      The major catalyst behind this stupendously unprecedented success, Claudio Ranieri, has no doubt shamed his critics, chiefest of which is Jose Mourinho. The former Chelsea manager once said: “He (Ranieri) has lived for five years in England and still has trouble saying good morning and good afternoon,” Mourinho said. “He is almost 70, and he has won a Super Cup and another small cup. He’s too old to change mentality.” As it has turned out, Ranieri is the one lifting the Premier League trophy while the unemployed Mourinho watches from his sofa. Interestingly, with little resources at his disposal, Claudio Ranieri needed 294 days from his appointment to win the Premier League, a record which sees him eclipse Jose Mourinho who brought the title to Stamford Bridge 332 days after becoming the Italian’s successor at Chelsea in 2004.

      In addition to winning against the ‘lesser’ teams, Ranieri was able to mastermind victories against Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City.

      And he couldn’t be happier with what would arguably rank as his greatest achievement in football: “I'm so proud. I'm happy for my players, for the chairman, for the staff at Leicester City, all our fans and the Leicester community. It's an amazing feeling and I'm so happy for everyone,” he said. “I never expected this when I arrived. I'm a pragmatic man, I just wanted to win match after match and help my players to improve week after week. Never did I think too much about where it would take us.”

      Another Leicester fan who never expected this success was Gary Lineker. After questioning his appointment, Lineker vowed to present Match-Of-The-Day, a Sports programme, with his underpants on. Such was the skepticism accorded Leicester’s title pilgrimage.

      While this triumphant fairytale – once a delusional dream – eventually now has morphed into an implausible reality, it is refreshing for once to know that money, plenty of it, couldn’t buy success in the quaestuary world of football.

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