"40 points? Hahahahaha."
Watching this season unfold as 32 year-olds reminds these two writers of things that have happened and things that are about to happen. While we hope Leicester defy logic and win the Premier League, just for the sheer audacity of it, we fear that the bubble will (inevitably?) burst as our thoughts fall on Kevin Keegan’s Entertainers and John Gregory’s Villa. Or Arsenal. We look back to inform the future.
No season ever exists in isolation, which is why this one is so exciting. Halfway through, we have Leicester looking down on everyone else, lighting up the league with their counter attacks, and the elegance of Riyad Mahrez complemented by the frenetic, bulldozing Jamie Vardy. Palace, Watford and West Ham are 6th to 8th. Chelsea are three points off the relegation spots. No game has been a forgone conclusion all season and it’s a marvellous thing to behold.
So can Leicester do it? Just like Newcastle of 95-97, they have become everyone’s second team and, as we all know, everyone’s second team wins absolutely nothing. That is the way of things. Natural orders don’t ordinarily topple. Four months of an onion masquerading in a fruit bowl does not an apple make.
The way that Leicester have achieved their position in the league though would suggest that natural orders COULD topple. However, only West Brom have had less of the ball than Leicester this season. And the trick to that is surely twofold – firstly, Leicester are still going into games, especially away from home, as underdogs so the home team feels bound to boss possession, which plays right into the hands of a team who are electric on the break (it also helped Norwich win at Old Trafford, and can reasonably explain brilliant results for West Ham and Palace away from home - not least the fact that West Ham won 3-1 AT Palace, as well as winning at Arsenal, Liverpool and City). Secondly, the Foxes have no superstars and so egos are not getting in the way of playing a high pressing game whereas elsewhere it has been known to happen.
And to give the season a ‘throwback’ feel that has perked up the most jaded of older fans, 4-4-2 is reaping rich rewards at Leicester and Watford. As no less an authority than Roy Hodgson once remarked: "By playing 4-4-2, you've got 'twos' all over the field. I would always be looking to find a team that can play with a back four." This probably adds to why Leicester are winning hearts and minds by the week – they speak of a time when Brian Clough was wringing every ounce of effort and talent from a Derby County or Nottingham Forest.
While the short-term stories continue to astound though, there is still a long-term arc that looks highly likely to produce the usual predictable Premier League conclusions. Arsenal and City are very much in the hunt, and winter, as they say, is coming. While it’s open at the top for the moment, this period brings with it a congested schedule (how much energy do you need for high-energy counter-attacks against City and Liverpool in the space of four days, for example? Leicester’s next two games are MASSIVE) and, as Sir Alex Ferguson always knew, a true test of squad strength. It also, famously, brings a January transfer window - a tricky time to know whether to stick or twist.
Nevertheless, the optimists in us want to believe there is no reason Leicester cannot win this non sequitur of a season and produce the biggest shock in top flight English football since Ipswich won the title back in 1962, 12 months after securing promotion. It is the entire fabric of the Premier League this season that seems to underpin this feeling of flux so far, with Leicester at the centre of the maelstrom. Aston Villa might have won one game all season. But that was at the Emirates. Long may it continue.