The English talk about football a lot.
As an Arsenal fan, I want to be talking about our chances of winning the league or our chances of winning a third consecutive FA Cup.
But I’m not.
I want to talk about the amazing implosion of Chelsea and the amusing troubles of Manchester United.
But I’m not.
I know a few Spurs fans. They probably want to talk about their chances of winning the league for the first time in more than 50 years.
But that’s not the topic of the day.
There’s only one proper subject in English football at the moment: Leicester.
I struggle to convey how extraordinary it is what they have done.
At the moment, they are top of the league with 25 of 38 games played. A year ago, they were bottom: 20th out of 20.
For a long time last season they weren’t just bottom, they were so far from safe that they were considered to have no hope of staying in the Premier League. Three teams drop each season. I can remember trying to work out which teams were doomed: “Leicester and two out of the nearest five,” I thought.
Leicester already made football history by surviving. They went on a remarkable run (winning seven of their last nine games) that people said was the “greatest escape” ever.
Usually, a team that has done such a thing will 1) keep the manager that turned the tide and 2) invest heavily in new players to stop from getting into such a dangerous position again.
Leicester replaced their manager. And spent very little by the standards of modern football.
Very approximately, any “decent” player costs around £12 million. A good striker costs £30m. The “top, top” players now are almost impossible to put a price on. Gareth Bale’s (undisclosed) transfer fee to Real Madrid is believed to be something like £86 million.
The other day, Leicester beat the second place team in the league with a starting line-up that cost a total of less than £23 million. I believe Shinji Okazaki, at £7 million, was their most expensive starting player.
The team they beat was Manchester City: 3-1, away from home. A team that cost about ten times more than Leicester’s eleven. Until that point, people were still thinking Leicester were sure to collapse at some point in the season.
Gary Lineker, the former footballer and presenter of the most popular football programme in the UK, made an amusing joke after Leicester won well on the opening weekend of the season: “Leicester top of the league”. The joke was that he, a Leicester man, thought he would never get the chance to say that again.
Today, six months on, people not only think Leicester can win the whole thing, a lot of people want them to.
I enjoy football but in the modern era it is too much just won by the same old teams; usually by the club with the richest owner who has splurged the most money. If Leicester buck this trend, it would be remembered by football fans for a hundred years. They were a 5,000 to 1 bet to win the league at the start of the season.
I still hope Arsenal will win the league. They have a decent chance. But the romantic in me wants Leicester.
After all, Arsenal are going to win the FA Cup.