There have been numerous superlatives to describe Leicester City’s title success – and it is rightly being talked about as one of the greatest upsets and achievements in sport. Nottingham Forest fans will no doubt put their club’s achievements in the late 70's up there and rightly so – what both teams have done in their respective eras is nothing short of astonishing.
It feels as if the current Premier League is still recovering from the post Sir Alex Ferguson vacuum. Nobody looks to be in a position to dominate, and the Foxes – under the stewardship of Claudio Ranieri – have just looked around at each other and thought, why not us? No one looks like they are going to rule the game for a while, so let’s have a crack at winning at least one of these things. An established order towards the top is seemingly no more.
Manchester United are still looking around for the winning formula, post-Ferguson; Jose Mourinho’s second spell at Chelsea did not have the longevity that was desired; Arsenal somehow managed to be Arsenal again; Tottenham improved but did not improve enough to win their first league title in 55 years; Manchester City were puzzlingly awful at stages during the league season; Liverpool changed their manager with their campaign going nowhere from early on.
They were the sides expected to be up there. And as for Claudio Ranieri, it is just an example that great things do sometimes happen to the nicest of people – and all the more deservedly it is historic.
But is this a new established order? Of all the clubs that were expected to make up the top six, four of them are more likely to start next season with a different manager than this one.
Liverpool appointed Jurgen Klopp in October, Manchester City have announced Pep Guardiola will arrive at the Etihad Stadium, Antonio Conte is the next permanent manager of Chelsea and Louis van Gaal’s future at Old Trafford is firmly under the spotlight.
Arsene Wenger is facing his now seasonal unrest at the Emirates Stadium as well. There have been many game changers in terms of management. Clubs demand better, it feels like they are saying this can not happen again. They are all, in some way, looking at this season as a missed opportunity.
Ranieri, the morning after winning the Premier League title, said that a top 10 finish is on the cards next season. He may well be right. The Foxes will have more games next season, this campaign may well have been a one-off, but it is in keeping with the way he has managed expectations and hype surrounding his players throughout this extraordinary campaign.
Not only has he led a side that has shocked so many, but he has blurred the lines for next season. Are Leicester going to do what Blackburn Rovers did and tumble down the table? Or are they going to follow up their success at home with silverware in Europe like Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa when they were the surprise champions?
The knock-on effects for Leicester as a club will be dramatic. Some have been saying that their players will be hand-picked away for big money. That may be the case but why would you want to leave right now with another historic season in the Champions League ahead of you? Qualification for that tournament, along with the tangible success of the title, will go a long way to attracting players – as well as the story behind it all.
Only time will tell whether this is the flash in the pan, or whether Leicester will be there to stay. Tottenham have put together a good challenge but there is a side that still has plenty of improvement left in them yet. One would think that a Manchester City side under Pep Guardiola is going to be a strong candidate at the top for a few years, Manchester United are expected to find someone to make them challenge again, and Jurgen Klopp did not take the Liverpool job just to make up the numbers.
There is that, and the silent success of this season in West Ham who have shown rapid progression. Things have been shaken a little, everyone has that little bit of hope ahead of next season. Every side will probably look at next season as an opportunity to establish themselves at the top, and hope to continue again.
So far this decade, no one has retained the Premier League title, and now the league seems more open than ever ahead of next term. We may as well not do our predictions in August because the chances are they will be wrong… again!