A Cinderella story or a wildcard/underdog story, it all makes for an interesting story in football and sports in general. The story of the unlikely which inspires a sense of belief in ourselves that we are truly capable of the unthinkable even when we are written off. The Golden State Warriors did the unthinkable in the NBA last season as Steph Curry led an unfancied side to the greatest triumph in arguably NBA’s history.
It is shaping up to be a two-way street to the Premier League title as Leicester City and Tottenham continue to walk the walk without necessarily talking the talk. They both had to dig deep to get a victory against two relegation threatened teams in the shape of Norwich and Swansea, but the roar from both the Kings Power Stadium and White Hart Lane after the final whistle epitomized the significance of those victories.
Leicester City suffered a last gasp defeat in the hands of title rival Arsenal at the Emirates and often times, defeats like that breaks even the toughest of serial winners who have built a vault of mental strength. Obviously, the question if Leicester City could bounce back from such a defeat hovered around Leicester City before Claudio Raneri gave his men a week break since their non-involvement in any other competition apart from the Premier League and right until the 89th minute, when the question was answered through a back post goal from Ulloa.
Before that moment it felt like the defeat at the Emirates had done more damage than just three points dropped and three points gained by title rivals but a ridiculous never-say-die spirit of Leicester City found a way which essentially sent a message to the others that they don’t break easy.
Leicester City have earned the same number of points (28) in their home games as Manchester City and Tottenham despite having played a game less than both teams. The Foxes’ fans have seen their team defeated just once in the Premier League at the Kings Power Stadium, the lowest so far in the league. They are a tough nut to crack at home as many have seen this season, and only Arsenal has earned maximum points there while Manchester City, Bournemouth, Manchester United and Tottenham have walked out with just a point.
If you were impressed by their performance at home, even more impressive is their displays away from home which has earned them the same number of points as their home games (28), in a league where limbs would rather be broken than points to be earned at opponent’s home ground. Leicester City have more points than any other side away from home in the league and that is all you need to know about a team who is comfortable playing both home and away.
The naysayers are perplexed and have become short of any pessimistic reasons to predict why this can’t be a more than a happy ending for Leicester City, who they had predicted would not be anywhere near the top four by last December but here they are still top with two months to go.
At the start of the season, Tottenham could be viewed from two separate perspectives; wild card or underdog? An optimistic Tottenham fan would have viewed his team as wild card rather than serious contenders for the title. Even their wild card status is hinged on their aspirations of securing a Champions League finish rather than sustained title push while a realistic Spurs fan would have seen his team as underdogs; always underachieving even though the talents at their disposal seem capable of more.
Mauricio Pochettino is tossing such view points out the window with what looks like Tottenham’s best chance of winning the Premier League title since 1961. In terms of balance, consistency and getting the best of the entire squad, no team seem to be at Tottenham’s level this season. Currently, they are the most in form team in the league with six consecutive victories while also maintaining an unbeaten streak away from home since their opening game defeat at Manchester United.
In their victory against Norwich, Nacer Chadli came up with the equaliser which is the fourth time in their last six games that a substitute has directly contributed to Tottenham’s victory. In past seasons, many of Tottenham’s criticism is their lack of squad depth or the inability of their bench to contribute as equally or near as equal to what the starting eleven does. Under Pochettino, such criticisms can rarely be seen as his young side which is the youngest in the league are full of ambition, flair and an uncanny level of maturity expected from such a young side.
That maturity reflected in the way they handle the turn of events against Swansea when they went a goal down and were playing against an inspired opposition goalkeeper who made series of saves. As the match looked like it was moving out of Tottenham’s grasp, they kept their cool and focused on breaking their opponent rather than getting frustrated.
There is a saying in football which is sort of cliché that ‘defense wins you the championship’ and history has shown that, it is not exactly straight forward with five champions in last 10 years not having the best defense in the league but if that was is to be considered, Tottenham has the best defense in the league. Added to that, Tottenham are joint top with Leicester City on the highest number of goal scored in the league which shows balance in defence and attack, the hallmark of any league winner.
As we approach the tail end of the season, both Leicester City and Tottenham have played and earned their spot on the summit of the Premier League table but as two roads gets to the point of one, which team deserves to be the one on the road to an unprecedented league glory?
Follow Joseph Bassey on Twitter – @akajoebass