We are currently in the midst of one of the most unpredictable and topsy-turvy seasons in Premier League history. The table makes for shocking reading as last season’s great escape artists, Leicester City, sit clear at the top. However, The Foxes aren’t the only club in the United Kingdom who are looking to cause a massive upset in their domestic league, as Aberdeen currently sit joint on points with Celtic at the summit of the SPFL.
Never in their wildest dreams would either club have imagined they had a genuine opportunity at league success; what with Celtic continuing their expected domestic domination in the absence of bitter rivals Rangers and Leicester only escaping relegation to the Championship by the skin of their teeth last season.
To give you an idea of just how extraordinary the present situation is, if you had placed a £10 double bet on both Aberdeen and Leicester winning their respective leagues at the start of the season you would be on course to winning just shy of £3.4 million.
Aberdeen have capitalised on a very average Celtic side and have only lost four league games so far. Moreover, The Dons have managed to defeat Ronny Deila’s side twice already this season, a feat they couldn’t achieve in four attempts last campaign. This has presented them with their best opportunity for league glory since the 1984-85 season, where they lifted the trophy (when Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge).
There has long been a financial gulf between the Old Firm and the rest of the clubs in Scotland and this is still very much present with regards to Celtic and Aberdeen. Derek McInnes highlighted this in a recent interview when he stated that the £1.5 million and wages spent by The Hoops’ on their new signing, Erik Sviatchenko, was the equivalent to his entire budget.
Conversely, Aberdeen only added one signing in January – Aaron Lennox on a free from Conference South side Hayes & Yeading United. Given that Celtic had also spent big in the summer on misfiring striker Nadir Ciftci and Scott Allan you’d expect them to have no problem winning the SPFL at a canter once again. In essence, Derek McInnes has been able to build a squad which has closed the gap on Celtic and challenge for the league title on a relative shoestring.
However, whereas Aberdeen are known to be the best side outside of Celtic in the SPFL the same cannot be said for Leicester. After last season Leicester’s main goal would have been reaching the 40 point mark to ensure Premier League football for another season.
Nobody could have imagined that The Foxes would continue their winning form from the end of the last campaign, especially given the sacking of Nigel Adkins and the then contentious appointment of Claudio Ranieri. Instead we’ve seen Claudio Ranieri’s side blow away their big-spending competition with high-tempo counterattacking football.
The Foxes current squad cost a total of £54.4 million which may seem pricey, but when you compare that to the Premier League’s top clubs it pales into insignificance. Spurs spent £161.1 million to assemble their current squad, Arsenal £251.9 million and Manchester City a whopping £418.8 million. What these big clubs cannot buy is team spirit, something that this current Leicester City side has in abundance.
Whilst Manchester City shelled out £42 million for defensive flop Eliaquim Mangala, Leicester have a team with numerous player of year candidates whose transfer fees don’t even come close to totalling that of City’s French defender. Jamie Vardy (£1 million), Riyad Mahrez (£400,000) and N’Golo Kante (£5.6 million) have been stand-out performers and are likely player of the year candidates, but the likes of Danny Drinkwater (£1 million), Robert Huth (£3 million) and Wes Morgan (£1 million) have also played a vital part in the team’s success.
Aberdeen’s achievement to close the gap on one side is impressive, but Leicester have managed something beyond that. They’ve transformed themselves from certain relegation candidates to becoming the most unlikely of title contenders, in a league boasting the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and both Manchester clubs.
Sure Chelsea and Manchester United have struggled, Arsenal have shown inconsistency and Manchester City have defensive woes, but Leicester have only lost two games and have taken numerous big scalps along the way. The Foxes eased through their recent game against City and looked like they belong in the upper echelons of the league.
Many would agree that Leicester winning the Premier League would constitute the greatest ever achievement in English football. Only Brian Clough’s newly-promoted Nottingham Forest side winning the old Division One title back in 1977-78 can act as a comparison to the current situation we find ourselves in.
Can they both pull off the seemingly impossible? One thing’s for sure, neither club will ever have a better chance of domestic glory. Aberdeen will be well aware that Rangers are likely to be back in Scottish Football’s top flight next season and that Celtic will add to their squad. Similarly Leicester will face a rejuvenated Chelsea, a City managed by Guardiola as well as the usual title-chasing suspects. Essentially it’s now or never for the underdogs of Scottish and English football.