It’s fair to suggest that at the beginning of the season, hopes were not high for Claudio Ranieri’s return to the Premier League. Indeed, we ‘fessed up to being doubters a few weeks ago: We, like you, thought Leicester was getting a nice, avuncular man who would tinker endlessly, smile beatifically, and then lose to whichever team is the Premier League equivalent of the Faroe Islands. (Chelsea? Ho ho ho.)
We were wrong, obviously; we’ve covered this. But it’s slowly becoming apparent just how wrong we were. It’s not just that Leicester is second in the table and getting points out of its games. Nor is it that Ranieri’s men clearly have, as demonstrated by Sunday’s comeback, a fine team spirit and attitude. Nor is it even that Riyad Mahrez is clearly a god who got bored of nectar and ambrosia and came down to slum it among the mere mortals.
It’s that they’re all of the above but also the most fun team in the league. Probably. Possibly? Okay, fine, we’ll agree to settle for the most fun team in the league this weekend and carry on, okay? There’s no pleasing some people.
There’s Mahrez, obviously, but there’s also Jeffrey Schlupp gamboling his way down the wing, Wes Morgan clanking around at the back, and the introduction of the frankly adorable Nathan Dyer has only made things better. Even the strange cocktail of pace, gristle, and snarl that is England’s Jamie Vardy is diverting to watch—sprinting here, flinging himself to the floor there—so long as he’s not discussing racial politics. And beyond the players, there’s a commitment to adventurous play, to direct running, to plundering the space. Yes, they were chasing the game for most of Sunday afternoon, and yes, they were playing Tim Sherwood’s Aston Villa, and yes, they’ve had a relatively easy run of fixtures, but still.
All of which is great for Leicester fans and casual Leicester observers, of course, but slightly embarrassing for the Premier League’s aristocracy. There’s no actual requirement for big teams to entertain loyal season ticket purchasers, but it’s certainly something they should be aiming for, if only because taking up all that space and making all that noise and then delivering up the sterile control of Manchester United, or the lifeless witlessness of Liverpool, or the incoherent impotence of Arsenal, or the chaotic incompetence of Chelsea, or whatever Tottenham think they’re up to … well, it’s borderline criminal.
We’ll let City off, since they’re at least scoring goals, but the rest of them are being shown up by a genial journeyman and a midfield containing Danny Drinkwater. Leicester probably isn’t going to finish in the top four, and might well collapse in a heap once the big games come around, but for now, Leicester is making its supposed betters look like a bunch of miserable chancers. Which is all you can reasonably ask.
If Jose Mourinho Was Literally A Volcano update:
Fire pours from the sky. Great fissures appear in the trembling earth. Dread Hephaestus stalks the land, his club foot leaving ash in his wake, his hammer trailing flames. Black clouds billow and swell and diminish the sun; people, tiny people, run squealing and screaming from the anger of their awakened planet. And a giant river of molten lava stops for a second, asks how much longer another river of lava is going to be—because it has a town to swamp and a photogenic young couple to trap on a rock—then has a little swear.
Finally, a note on the biggest game of the weekend, Liverpool’s trip to Manchester United.
The second half contained three good goals and a bit of running around, but the first half contained … nothing. Actually, Nothing. Not just a lack of stuff, but the vicious all-consuming Nothingness from the Neverending Story, an absence that cannot be seen even as it chews away the fabric of reality.
It was boring, yes, but it wasn’t unexpected. Louis van Gaal is too terrified by the prospect of conceding a goal to truly embrace the joy of scoring one, while Brendan Rodgers is just counting down the days until next summer, when he gets to buy another 12 new players and destroy the confidence of all the ones he already owns. Maybe he’ll make it; maybe he won’t. But while both men can guide their clubs however they like, we, the innocent victims of their inadequacies, need to take action.
Basically, Liverpool, Manchester United, we’re confiscating the status of this game. No more montages, no more buildup, no more “18 plays 20,” no more of this “the greatest rivalry in the league” nonsense. No more attention. Period. If you’re going to play like non-entities, you can be treated like non-entities. Because you haven’t just let yourselves down. You’ve let Sky Sports down. You’ve let Standard Chartered and Chevrolet down. And you’ve let the whole country down. Several countries, actually. Now, apologize to the whole class.