The Runner Sports

Chelsea Clinch Title For Leicester City

Claudio Ranieri has had quite a day. The diminutive little Italian manager took a quick trip back to his home country, had lunch with his 96-year-old mother, and earned the most improbable championship in the history of sports. If there are two things that I could not have predicted for this season, the first would be that I would be cheering for Chelsea FC to not lose to anyone, and the second, that I would be able to type the words ‘Leicester City are the champions of England.’ Alas, both of those things happened today. First, I suppose I should briefly discuss the actual football that transpired, before reveling in the greatest underdog story of all time.

Stamford Bridge hosted one of the most absurd, yet beautiful London derbies I have every been privileged to watch. Chelsea managed to play the first forty-five minutes with all of the banality that they have carried into every fixture this season. Tottenham entered the locker room with a very comfortable 2 goal lead and seemingly were poised to put the onus back on the foxes to grind out another result. The second half was quite a different affair. Eden Hazard, who made no secret about his preference to have the foxes as league champions graced the pitch and brought with him an urgency that has been sorely needed for the blues. Hazard brought pace and passion, and as Chelsea brought themselves within a goal of the Spurs, Tottenham responded with an increasing recklessness that saw very little punishment from Mark Clattenburg. Chelsea gained more and more control of the match with every minute, and Tottenham finally conceded one of the better team goals of the season scored by the Belgian game-changer to level the score. The final whistle blew, and Tottenham’s pure white jersey seemed more an ironic garment than the kit of a proud club.

The Spurs miraculously finished the match with eleven men on the pitch, but their nine total bookings, three fights, several unseen challenges demonstrate exactly the lack of composure and class that has defined every club outside of the champions. Dier, Lamela, Walker, Rose, Vertonghen, Kane all could have been presented with red cards for persistent infringements, and Dier should have been issued a straight red card for his malicious, high-booted, studs up challenge on Cesc Fabregas. Had Tottenham found net one more time to win this match, the Spurs would have become the world’s most hated club and probably would have to provide Clattenburg with a security detail for the rest of his days. Pochettino and his squad’s palpable, desperate despair can be summarized in one word – justified.

And that is exactly the way to describe Leicester City’s championship. Never before has a team, manager, and town felt more justified in their success.

The Foxes stand as proof of what we all tell ourselves but never believe: hard work pays off. Leicester City was the hardest working, most gut-checked squad in all of football this season. The amount of times they had to overcome a deficit to win is staggering. Ranieri, who has been criticized for tinkering with lineups too much, made fewer changes to the starting eleven than any other squad. Wes Morgan shattered the notion that the Premier League is too physically taxing to have success in all competitions by leading his Jamaican squad to several crucial victories. Jamie Vardy is the definition of “started from the bottom.” The English striker plays with a tenacity that can only be compared to Luis Suarez. He is direct, passionate, aggressive, and unrelenting in his approach. Riyad Mahrez made a name for himself as an incredibly smooth left footed technician. Mahrez has secured himself a reputation as one of Africa’s top strikers. Ngolo Kante is the most underrated central midfielder in world football today, quietly covering the entire pitch, playing fundamental, hard-working, mistake free football, and is fittingly the heart of this squad in the middle of the formation. If Kante gets a chance to play for France, he will undoubtedly be the reason for control in the central part of the pitch.

Outside of the beauty of the Cinderella story, it’s the little details of this team that makes it such an enjoyable title run. Jamie Vardy’s record-setting start to the season was the first hint that the Foxes were not to be reckoned with. As we approached the halfway mark of the season everybody – pundits and fans alike – began saying this is incredible, but surely the run has to end. I point to myself in that category as I jokingly said that it would be amazing if Leicester won and Chelsea were relegated. As the team from the Low Midlands took over the top spot of the table, journalists began to ask Ranieri about potentially winning the league, to which Ranieri responded, “I’ll be comfortable when we have a five-point lead with one game left.” After the Foxes’ game yesterday, Ranieri announced he would not watch Tottenham play Chelsea because he wanted to go have lunch with his 96-year-old mother, and then on the journey back to England, he called Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink to thank him for his team’s second-half performance, allegedly through tears. As the Blues and the Spurs fought in the tunnel post-match, the Foxes watched the match and celebrated at Vardy’s house giving us all a very intimate look at their elation thanks to a social media post by Christian Fuchs.

And that is the crux of this story. A squad of players that were all booted from the academies of bigger clubs for being mediocre just did something that was anything but. This Leicester City team is a shining example of all that sports preaches to us: sportsmanship, work rate, passion, class, team chemistry, I could go on. There is simply not enough time to properly praise this achievement. Now if you’ll permit me all that I have left to do is await the trophy presentation, and hopefully not cry as the sun sets on the most enjoyable Premier League season of all time.