Finally, the tide has turned. Each previous Leicester victory had passed with disbelief, but qualified disbelief: ‘They will fall away eventually’, ‘wait until they play the big teams’, ‘Leicester won’t win the league; they can’t.’ Such an accomplished win away at their closest challengers is all it took for the Foxes to be taken seriously as contenders. Hell, contenders? Leicester are favourites. Favourites to win the Premier League. Christ
The consensus seems to be that Leicester are at the top of the table and in the hunt for the title because they have unstoppable momentum. In any sport, the importance of momentum can’t be denied, especially when it comes to improbable wins or late surges. However, as in life, not every situation in the world of sports is the same.
In the 2013-14 season, Liverpool’s incredible dash for the title had incredible momentum. With Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturbridge in full flow, Liverpool were smashing their way past teams scoring three or four goals a game, sometimes even five or six. The problem was that they often conceded two or three as well. It took one team to stop them from scoring to derail their title bid at the bitter end.
While not scoring at the remarkable rate of that Liverpool team, Leicester are still tied for the most goals scored in the league with Manchester City. The major difference however, is that Leicester have displayed an ability to find solutions when they’ve had trouble scoring. Even when Jamie Vardy didn’t score for a month and Riyad Mahrez missed two penalties that resulted in four dropped points, the Foxes lost only once. This, despite facing a set of fixtures that would have been difficult for the any of the league’s established elite, let alone this season’s upstarts.
To me, this speaks of great reservoirs of mental strength as well as the squad’s tactical versatility. It could all still fall apart, but if Leicester do win the league, I would rate Claudio Ranieri’s acumen and the squad’s focus and work ethic as the primary reasons for success above momentum.