Football | 1 year ago
Zero things we learned from Leicester City's title challenge
'They have shown us that anything is possible'

During the ineffective yet comic protests against Arsene Wenger at the Emirates on Saturday night, one angry fan held up a piece of paper which seemed to capture the zeitgeist, even if it turned out the zeitgeist was wherever the protesting supporters were not.

“Wenger - 12 years of excuses," it began, before delivering its zinger: “Ranieri - 9 months, champions.”

For a rationalist like Wenger, the idea that he might have anything to learn from something as random as unpredictable as Leicester City’s rise to the top of the Premier League will be hard to embrace.

Wenger will have to endure it for a while. The wider world is gripped by Leicester City right now, and the wider world likes a message to go with its human interest stories.

The message from Leicester’s rise may well be that nobody knows anything, a comforting one in an age when so much is supposed to be explainable.

Or it could be that everything we know is wrong, which would also lead to some agonising in those places where they are assuring their clients they know or will soon know everything.

But there may be another lesson to be learned from Leicester’s title success or, more precisely, it may be that there are no lessons to be learned from Leicester’s title success, and the absence of a lesson is the thing we have to absorb.

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Most of us have read the stories of the things that were as improbable or more probable than Leicester winning the league. Only the deranged will now be betting on them or planning their lives on the basis of, say, the pope playing for Rangers or President Obama revealing the moon landings were faked.

There will be many others who say it demonstrates that anything can happen, but this won’t lead to a series of copycat events.

For months now, people are being asked if they can “do a Leicester” when, as it stands, Leicester may yet not do a Leicester.

Ireland’s chances of winning the European Championships have not altered because of Leicester City, but Martin O’Neill will be asked to link the two events in some kind of rallying cry before Ireland’s tournament begins next month.

Leicester Backing the Blues Campaign in support of Leicester City

None of the reasons advanced for Leicester’s success, including the sceptical and accusatory, explains why they are seven points clear at the top of the table.

Maybe it is just the need within all of us for meaning that looks for some wisdom in this fantastic story of bravery, luck and a very short injury list.

Journalists shamefully admit they had predicted Leicester would be relegated as if they were economists who had failed to see the crash coming rather than sports journalists who nobody listens to anyway.

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In this time of confusion, others have taken comfort in whimsy, so Gary Lineker's tweet that he would present Match of the Day in his underpants if Leicester won the league has attracted some interest. It has captured the imagination of those news reporters in search of a human interest angle because the most improbable football story of the modern era isn’t enough.

Like many things seen as 'only a bit of fun', this is profoundly unfunny. 

Lineker is a Leicester fan and he should be allowed to enjoy this moment, but there are plenty of valid reasons for the BBC deciding they don't want this to happen. They could have simply say they are trying to protect the integrity of the programme, although it's debatable if Gary Lineker presenting in his underpants is worse than Jermaine Jenas analysing fully clothed.

Leicester Backing the Blues Campaign in support of Leicester City

We can look forward to that next season, but for now we can marvel in the improbability of this season, taking joy from the thought that a man like Claudio Ranieri can have a moment like this, without trying to make sense of it all.

This weekend has seen many wonderfully detailed profiles of Ranieri explaining why his career was building towards this point. They have been a necessary counterpoint to the idea advanced earlier in the season that he has done well by doing nothing which again were a progression from the pre-season predictions that he would be a calamity for all concerned.

Yet all of these viewpoints had a validity based on past events, although suggesting a great man theory of history as the reason for Leicester’s success may be the most implausible of all.

Ranieri was said to have become a little irritated by the idea that he had simply arrived and decided to keep things going, but there is nothing wrong with that, except for those who think a leader should be a man of action.

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“It’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t play,” Miles Davis said, and Ranieri has understood this key tenet of management.

UEFA Champions League 21/10/2008 Juventus Manager Claudio Ranieri Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Getty Images

In these last few weeks, he has done a lot more. He has looked like a man who has taken something from his life, who has found meaning in the years of frustration.

Ranieri has provided a sense of peace and calm when Leicester needed it most. He has made their rise seem emotional and extraordinary, while never allowing it to appear impossible. He may have been the best manager Leicester could have appointed if they had wanted someone to guide them to the title when they led by several points in April.

The lessons might be learned instead from those who have failed. Perhaps Leicester are the shoeshine boy talking about the stockmarket for the Premier League, the moment when it became clear that the big clubs had become directionless and dumb, slowed to the point of incompetence by the idea that they had enough money to make any problem go away.

Their failure is easier to explain than Leicester’s success, but that is the reason to enjoy it.

There is no lesson to be learned from such a random event. Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and the pope will never play for Rangers or any professional club.

Leicester City have shown us that anything is possible, but it is only extraordinary because it will never happen again.

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Leicester City, Arsene Wenger, Claudio Ranieri, The Seventh Day