In the realm of the ridiculous
May 3, 2016 5:41 AM   Subscribe

Leicester City Football Club has won the UK's Premier League title, an event which bookies were giving 5,000 to 1 odds against at the beginning of the season. As a result, bookmakers will be paying out £25 million, the biggest loss in British history on a single sporting market, with some people winning £10,000 on £2 bets. Striker Jamie Vardy broke a league record for goals scored in consecutive games. The team's new manager, Claudio Ranieri, was initially viewed as an uninspired choice; in another betting market statistic, he was initially considered the most likely manager to be the first to lose his job this season. Ironically, the game that sealed Leicester City's victory was a drawn match between Tottenham City and Chelsea, a team that fired Ranieri in 2004.
posted by kyrademon (62 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Eden Hazard scored an absolute screamer for Chelsea to win the league for Leicester. He's had a bad season; his last goal at Stamford Bridge won the league for Chelsea this time last year.

my brain cannot yet accept Leicester as champions. Every time I read it my eyes just sort of skip over the text and I go haha, no? ANYWAY
posted by corvine at 5:53 AM on May 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Because sometimes The House doesn't win and that is sweet. So happy to see them do it (and as a Chelsea household we humbly accept all thanks and praise) especially after that first half last night. One of my best friend's husband is from Leicester and it's entirely possible that he is happier today than when his kids were born.
posted by billiebee at 5:54 AM on May 3, 2016 [9 favorites]


Liverpool 8th and Chelsea 9th! I love it. How many 10s of millions of £s more did they spend than Leicester? And Aston Villa relegated - again.

It's almost enough to make me forget about the collapse of Everton.
posted by sudogeek at 5:55 AM on May 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Hello is Mourinho, unemployed special one. People say to me, "Hey Jose, how come Leicester can win premier league but you don't even have one special job?" I say: OK, yes, I am not yet manager of Man U. But maybe if I replaced Ranieri at Chelsea, it was so he could win with Leicester. And maybe if Chelsea did badly this year, it is so Leicester could do better. And maybe if I left Chelsea, it is so they could improve to beat Tottenham. So really maybe this Premier League championship is really because of Mourinho. I can win league in England, in Italy, in Spain, and now I win League without even managing the team who wins. And why? Because I am a special one.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 5:58 AM on May 3, 2016 [50 favorites]


> "How many 10s of millions of £s more did they spend than Leicester?"

The entire Leicester squad was assembled for the amount of money another team spent on a single player.
posted by kyrademon at 6:05 AM on May 3, 2016 [7 favorites]


You could well add #keepmefiweird to the tags. Because... yeah.

Congratulations to Leicester again. Around December I said that if they passed a tough cycle in February (at Spurs, Liverpool, at ManCity and at Arsenal) in first, they'd be very hard to displace, and after Spurs dropped 5 (when they had to win 4) against West Ham and Arsenal a few weeks ago, I had the impression the title race was just a mathematical possibility.

Hopefully this will start a new era in English football, and in 5 years we'll have 8 or 9 different PL era champions, as opposed to 6 in the first 24 years. The football world is more interesting when the Cloughs led the Derbys and Forests to titles and when Wolverhampton, Leeds and Everton had a say on the title race.
posted by lmfsilva at 6:16 AM on May 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


All things considered, Chelsea could have done a lot worse. A big drop from the previous season but at least they're not Aston Villa, so there's that.
posted by tommasz at 6:20 AM on May 3, 2016


Such a fantastic story. Everyone loves an underdog, and Leicster is the under of underdogs.
posted by caddis at 6:20 AM on May 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's been a wonderful season in so many ways. What I've especially loved is hearing the most seasoned journeyman football broadcasters blurting out mid-game (any game, not just Leicester or a title contenders) 'I just don't want this season to end!' That's how good it's been -- one of those seasons you just want to stay in and enjoy as long as possible.

Big cheers to the fearless Foxes. We got to watch you believe in yourselves.
posted by grounded at 6:23 AM on May 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


The Guardian's Football Weekly podcast is always a good listen.
posted by carter at 6:24 AM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


(And by this is the quidnunc kid's destiny reveled to be that of The Next Robbie.)
posted by wenestvedt at 6:28 AM on May 3, 2016


Next up: Tonight, Atletico will defeat Bayern and, on May 28, Real Madrid. Atleti for the UCL trophy! That'd make the football year in Europe complete. I know Atletico is a much bigger and richer team than Leicester but still small compared to the giants. Also, Leicester next year in the Champions League, that'll be cool. Hope they manage to kick at least some big asses there.
posted by sapagan at 6:30 AM on May 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's been a great season with lots of teams performing well like Bournemouth, Watford, West Ham, and I'd include Spurs in that too. It's great to see more actual competition and unfamiliar teams competing. I'd love to see West Ham in the Champions League, which is still possible.

As beguiling as Mahrez is, and as energetic as Vardy is, Kanté is just astonishing to watch. I heard last night I think that he only had three yellow cards all season.
posted by idb at 6:31 AM on May 3, 2016


Yeah...it's pretty exciting for Leicester, I guess...


*kicks ball, ball bounces across open goal mouth, hits far post, deflects out behind net*
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:35 AM on May 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


So, for us USian non-soccer types, is it fair to say that this was a full-on Major League style Springtime for Hitler championship, or were they just supposed to be terrible because of the new manager and a dearth of talent?
posted by Mayor West at 6:40 AM on May 3, 2016


"Leicester rank 18th in terms of possession in the Premier League this season, have recorded the lowest pass success rate, and only two teams play more long balls."

So apparently, you don't even need to be particularly good at footballing.

(Well done Leicester, actually fully deserved, and a great story all in all!).
posted by thingonaspring at 6:41 AM on May 3, 2016


Last night, my interwebs erupted in cheers across continents.
posted by infini at 6:50 AM on May 3, 2016


I don't understand a word of this whole thread. But I get the sense that some ridiculous rag-tag team of underdogs that nobody believed in has pulled themselves together, dug deep, and found the grit and spirit within themselves to overcome adversity and become champions.

So good for them! If someone will just give me a few names and some appropriate football terms to work with, I shall write the screenplay forthwith.
posted by Naberius at 7:00 AM on May 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


They benefited a lot from having so many key rivals take themselves out of the race. Chelsea imploded completely. Man City underperformed, were distracted by the Champion's League, and beyond a certain point were just waiting for next year to start with a new manager. Man Utd have been a shambles since Ferguson left. Liverpool were floundering til Klopp took over. Arsenal did an Arsenal. Only Spurs really performed. At least some of those teams are likely to improve considerably next year.
posted by kersplunk at 7:05 AM on May 3, 2016


So apparently, you don't even need to be particularly good at footballing.

Well, Leicester plays a counterattacking style of soccer football, where they let the other team hold possession until they slip up and leave an opening, so those stats make sense. It's not so much not being good at footballing as playing a different style that the Premier League hasn't really seen before.
posted by thecaddy at 7:14 AM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


dat hazardgoal tho...something keeps gettin in me eye
posted by Zerowensboring at 7:18 AM on May 3, 2016



So, for us USian non-soccer types, is it fair to say that this was a full-on Major League style Springtime for Hitler championship, or were they just supposed to be terrible because of the new manager and a dearth of talent?


This is beyond even Major League. This is beyond insane. The bookies had them winning the league at 5000 to 1 odds.

Seven things more likely than Leicester’s incredible title win
posted by josher71 at 7:23 AM on May 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


Stoke City had a ton of injuries otherwise they would have won the league instead of Leicester.*

*may not actually be anywhere near true
posted by josher71 at 7:25 AM on May 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


Only Spurs really performed.

Well. Up to a point. Mr. Machine is an Arsenal fan, and when I got home last night, I was greeted at the door with a glitter bomb of delighted schadenfreude.
posted by joyceanmachine at 7:26 AM on May 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


I meant that at the start of the season Spurs would have been happy with second - the other teams will have expected more than they got, especially how wide open things turned out to be. I'd love Spurs' upward trend to continue - it makes a difference from their normal pattern of only being good in years ending with 1.
posted by kersplunk at 7:39 AM on May 3, 2016


The other thing is it's virtually unheard of for a small team not have key players lose form or get injured - the big teams can afford to buy strength in depth and rotate players to rest them, or cover for injuries. There's something incredibly old school about basically putting the same team out every week and being carried along by two strikers in amazing form. A couple of years ago Spain were putting out teams consisting entirely of midfielders, and the idea of playing anything close to a 4-4-2 seemed laughably backwards.
posted by kersplunk at 7:47 AM on May 3, 2016


Seven things more likely than Leicester’s incredible title win

"1000-1: Sir Alex Ferguson wins Strictly Come Dancing."


You know, I would watch this. I feel like Sir Alex is actually rather light on his feet.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:00 AM on May 3, 2016


So apparently, you don't even need to be particularly good at footballing.

The point of the game is to score and not be scored on. The current flavor of the day is (IMO, tedious) possession football, with a thousand and one safe passes until the ball reaches the wonderboy in front who kicks one in after leaving a defender in the dust. if Leicester tried to do that, they'd be on the other end of the table. You have to play with the talent available, not with some bizarre attachment to the ideals of beauty. Lopetegui (former Porto coach) prized a mindblowingly dull posession game, in part because our defense is made of wet tissues. When his replacement arrived, we went from an 0.62 GA/G and 4 points behind to 1.28 and 17 points or whatever because he's completely clueless on what kind of team he has. Egil Olsen's Norway got a bad rap for being dull, but for instance, using their tallest players as wingers against teams playing man to man coverage meant that that a player like Jostein Flo (who's 1.92 /6'4 ) would be marked by a wingback who's usually anything between 1.65/5'4 to 1.82/5'11. In 1990, they finished their World Cup qualifier with just 6 points, but when the first FIFA Rankings appeared in 1993, they were 5th, and spent the rest of the 90s in the top 20.

So, yeah, Leicester might not be the best example of sexy attacking football, but they are impressively good at what they do.
posted by lmfsilva at 8:01 AM on May 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yes, the teams that did best against the Foxes were the ones that let them possess the ball. They were completely out of their element. I'm surprised more teams didn't do it.

The on-field antics in the Chelsea/Spurs game were ridiculous. Clattenburg totally lost control of that game. At least two Spuds should have been shown Red.

Also, 12-13 cards shown, but not one to Diego Costa, Satan incarnate? WTF Spurs?
posted by zakur at 8:15 AM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


For confused U.S. readers, here is a rough equivalent for what just happened.
posted by kyrademon at 8:24 AM on May 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


The on-field antics in the Chelsea/Spurs game were ridiculous. Clattenburg totally lost control of that game. At least two Spuds should have been shown Red.

Also, 12-13 cards shown, but not one to Diego Costa, Satan incarnate? WTF Spurs?


Yeah he set such a bad precedent not booking Walker early on and then had to keep handing out free passes. There wasn't much chance of him hanging on to control by the time Spurs were losing their heads late in the second half. To be fair to Costa (who I intensely dislike) he was provoked a lot - including that crazy attempted eye-gouging which I assume Dembele's going to face a penalty for? - and he was relatively well-behaved.
posted by billiebee at 8:33 AM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's not so much not being good at footballing as playing a different style that the Premier League hasn't really seen before.

It's, of all things, the style you see here in the US. It's what you play when you lack for talent. Compress the field, disrupt the passing lanes, then go on a break when you have an opportunity. It's also why the US national team is 89 minutes of ennui and one minute of glory.

Thing is, it shouldn't work. Tiki-taka is all about possession and ball movement. Totaalvoetball taught that it's about the formation, not the position. Together, there's no way defensive, counterattacking football has more than a handful of chances a game to work. And yet, Leicester won the title that way.

It'll be interesting to see how football evolves now in the face of the vulnerabilities shown in the current style of play. Will the counterattack make a comeback? Will someone evolve tiki-taka to be more about playing the possession game at speed? Will the wing come back?
posted by dw at 8:35 AM on May 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's almost enough to make me forget about the collapse of Everton.

Indeed, same here. As @SoCalEverton put it yesterday:
Leicester won the damn league. Wow. Good for them. Let's applaud them on Saturday. (Then beat them.)
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:38 AM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have been following this all season (via Rog & Dave-o at Men in Blazers), but yesterday the notion hit me that this Leicester team is kind of like the 1987 Twins: low-budget, not one of the top media markets, players who have been there for a while, decent players developed through the system.

Are there any people conversant in both sports who could critique this notion? It would really help my rather superficial understanding of EPL.

(Of course, they'll probably scatter to the four winds by next season, but still: pretty sweet!)
posted by wenestvedt at 8:44 AM on May 3, 2016


wenestvedt, it is more like a baseball team that was in the minor leagues last year won the minor league and in doing so obtained advancement into the major leagues. This year they won the world series.
posted by zyxwvut at 8:51 AM on May 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


Good point, I forgot about relegation/promotion.

Yesterday the Hang Up and Listen guys (and their guest) pointed out that Leicester made something less than one-third as many lineup changes this season as most other teams, which really points up how lucky they were about injuries.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:59 AM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Fortunately, our cable package includes NBCSC, so I've been able to watch the last couple of games, both thrillers. Very happy for the Foxes and their long-suffering fans!
posted by languagehat at 9:24 AM on May 3, 2016


Leicester also didn't have to worry about the Champions or Europa league this year, and they were eliminated early from the FA Cup (by the Spurs no less), so their starters were playing fewer games.

(If Palace wins the FA Cup but still gets relegated I am going to be so pissed.)
posted by thecaddy at 9:37 AM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's not 5000 to 1 odds but I know of a farmer in North Dakota that was in Las Vegas in pre-spring training 1987. He hit a run of luck and wandered into the sports betting section of Caesar's with a wad of cash. "What are the odds of the Twins winning the World Series?" "150-1." "Ah what the hell, here's a thousand that says you're wrong." Apparently he took a lot of shit from his wife for this bet. And in August he took a phone call from Caesar's. They were getting a little concerned and wanted to make sure they got his information right, just in case... I was told by a friend of his that when Caesar's paid out in late October, he built a new garage and socked the rest away. This would be typical Twins fan behavior.

5000-1? I can't imagine the amount of shitting and sweating that the bookmakers have done this season and in the last couple weeks in particular. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of fellows I'm sure.
posted by Ber at 9:40 AM on May 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


which really points up how lucky they were about injuries.

Part of that is not luck, but the benefit of a low-tempo, counter-attack game. Since their midfield is very compact and is more focused on waiting for a bad pass than doing continuous pressure on the ball carrier, players run less (even if they might cover the same distances) and expose themselves less to injury and fatigue. Adding in they might have played less 10 games than Spurs and Arsenal as said right above, it all adds up to be more than "luck".
posted by lmfsilva at 9:40 AM on May 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


Thing is, it shouldn't work. Tiki-taka is all about possession and ball movement. Totaalvoetball taught that it's about the formation, not the position. Together, there's no way defensive, counterattacking football has more than a handful of chances a game to work. And yet, Leicester won the title that way.

Yeah, but lots of the "smaller" teams in England play a version of Leicester's game. Keep it tight, don't give up good shots, and try to score off a mistake or set play. And even some of the serious heavyweights play another version through pressing. Dortmund under Klopp and Tuchel (though maybe less so) play a counter-attacking style, it's just that they don't sit back and wait for mistakes, they maniacally work to create them. Tottenham do something similar. To me, the remarkable thing about Leicester isn't their chosen strategy, it's how mind-bogglingly well they executed it. And yeah, there's tons of luck in their run, but you still have to be ready and able to take advantage of the luck. It's an amazing thing they did.

P.S. Jamie Vardy is a racist.
posted by that's candlepin at 9:45 AM on May 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Apparently the largest bet still riding was 20 pounds, so it's not as bad for the bookmakers as it could be. If there were larger bets, they took the earlier buyout offers for about half-price. But even a 2£ bet from a loyal fan will yield them enough for a nice car, which is astonishing.

I saw an article earlier where Ladbrokes said it is likely to change how they work -- all the fun crazy mad odds things they'll be looking at a lot more carefully.
posted by tavella at 9:53 AM on May 3, 2016


For confused U.S. readers, here is a rough equivalent for what just happened.

I have the BBC News app on my iPad, and it makes a distinctive tone when there's major news; my co-workers have come to recognize it as "uh-oh, something big just went down" (my immediate co-worker said "the only other times I've ever heard that where when the attacks happened in Paris and when Prince died"). So I had to explain this to them when the news broke yesterday.

The metaphor I used was "it's like if a sandlot Little League team just won the actual World Series".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:54 AM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also, apparently their best player was a part-time semi-pro player just a few years back? So sort of like a walk-on in football tryouts becoming the first string quarterback and leading his team to the Superbowl?
posted by tavella at 10:01 AM on May 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


A closer equivalent would be an hockey player that made a career scoring goals in regional leagues and the ECHL before finding himself on an NHL team, and winning the Art Ross/Rocket Richard on his way to a Stanley Cup with the Oilers.
posted by lmfsilva at 10:21 AM on May 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'd argue that Vardy is their second best player, but I think 5 years ago he was a semi-pro player in the 5th division. A while before that he was in park league and couldn't play the 2nd half because he had an anklet and 6pm curfew. If his team played an away match, he had to run home during halftime to not get in trouble.

There actually is a decent article on The Guardian about the lack of parallels in American sports. We all understand underdogs and upsets, but this has elements that none of our sports have.

The 5000:1 thing is really the only way to drive home how impossible this should have been. AFAIK the longest odds to ever have been paid out in a sportsbook were either 1000:1 or 500:1, depending on which record you chose to accept.

Think about what that means for a second...in a 20 team league, there were professional oddsmaker and sportsbooks the world over HAPPY to give you $100,000 later for a $20 spot now, in the unlikely event that 1 of the 20 teams won the league.

People keep saying "Cleveland Browns" or this and that, but imagine yourself in the role of a bookie and pick any American sport. Most leagues have what, 20-32 teams in them. Is there any instance throughout any point in history where you'd be not only comfortable, but happy to take $200 at the risk of $1,000,000 if the worst member of said league took it down? Fuck no there isn't. I'd be reluctant to give out odds at 100:1 for the Browns, 76ers, or any other garbage team of the moment. But the top books in the world happily touted 5000:1 odds for any sucker willing to donate their money.


You'd have to be fucking super seguro certain that it's not even in the realm of possibility, because you're paying out A MILLION DOLLARS later for every $200 in the coffers now.

Yet here we are, and it's a thing that happened, and I love it. Easily the greatest moment in sports history in my lifetime,
posted by GreyboxHero at 10:26 AM on May 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


This story (obviously) has way less traction or interest than the remarkable Leicester City, but it's also interesting and involves "gambling" in the form of investing in a lower-division club.

Swansea City owners to make huge profit.

Some of the minority owners bought shares in the foundering club for £100,000 will now realize profits of over £10,000,000.

The article has some interesting insights into the funding atmosphere around the Premiere League, and the changes that have happened through the years.
posted by cell divide at 10:30 AM on May 3, 2016


I am congenitally unable to understand or appreciate football. The visual-spacial processing required to understand what is happening on the pitch in any real way is entirely beyond me. But this has been a great story from beginning to end and it has pleased me immensely.
posted by howfar at 10:41 AM on May 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Strange how I kick myself for not putting £200 on at the beginning of the season, even though I don't particularly like Leicester, know nothing about football, and never bet.
posted by Segundus at 10:46 AM on May 3, 2016 [7 favorites]


Some of the minority owners bought shares in the foundering club for £100,000 will now realize profits of over £10,000,000.

They should have just bet that money on the team. Suckers.
posted by Etrigan at 10:49 AM on May 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty happy that Leicester City won the league. I'm less happy that some of the players of Leicester City won the league, not least Jamie Vardy whose story would indeed be remarkably uplifting if he weren't also a violent thug and a racist. At least they fired the three men involved in that horrible situation in Thailand...but Jamie Vardy scores goals, so all is forgiven, right?
posted by Errant at 11:18 AM on May 3, 2016


I just got into EPL late last year when I started watching it on Saturday mornings because nothing else was on, and it was just me and the dogs up, and they usually went back to bed after I fed them. I was trying to watch every team and by Feb or so found myself seeking out Southampton every week. I considered becoming a LCFC fan but it already felt bandwaggony to me by then.

So go Saints, as LCFC have given all the smaller clubs a probably irrational sense of hope.
posted by COD at 11:19 AM on May 3, 2016


a drawn match between Tottenham City and Chelsea

The team in question is called "Tottenham Hotspur", or most commonly just "Spurs". They're a very famous team so this is an odd mistake to make.
Tottenham is not even a city, it's a neighbourhood in Haringey in north London.
posted by w0mbat at 11:42 AM on May 3, 2016


I get a kick out of revisiting this season preview: 9 of the 11 Guardian football writers have Leicester down as one of three teams to be relegated.
posted by Petersondub at 12:26 PM on May 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


They're a very famous team so this is an odd mistake to make.

I think it's a typo... Leicester City/Tottenham Hotspur. I mean maybe there's a sinister explanation but Occam's razor innit.
posted by howfar at 12:33 PM on May 3, 2016


Petersondub...and the first one of those: "Most excited about: I Believe in Miracles, the Jonny Owen documentary-film about Nottingham Forest, 1975-80, and the kind of implausible success story that could never happen again." (my emphasis)
posted by idb at 12:40 PM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


> "I think it's a typo..."

What my brain says and what my fingers type have long been at mysterious odds with one another.
posted by kyrademon at 12:48 PM on May 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


Some nice charts from 538.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:03 PM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Some interesting insight on the effect on the bookies here (Guardian)
posted by corvine at 1:09 PM on May 3, 2016


Also, apparently their best player was a part-time semi-pro player just a few years back? So sort of like a walk-on in football tryouts becoming the first string quarterback and leading his team to the Superbowl?

This isn't completely unknown, but it's certainly unusual. For example, one of Manchester United's best players this season (Chris Smalling) went from playing in the 7th level league in 2008 to signing for United in 2010, via Fulham.

But more typically the model in soccer is that players are picked up by clubs when they are still children (I'm talking 8 or so) and are developed by the clubs. It's rare for players to jump so many leagues as adults - it's more normal that they might break through at one of the top two or three levels, and then work their way up. Or start off signed to a big club, but begin their career on loan at a smaller one.
posted by Pink Frost at 1:33 PM on May 3, 2016


No problem, Kyrademon, although I myselv neveer maek mistacks.
posted by w0mbat at 1:35 PM on May 3, 2016


Leicester were favourites to go down because the only reason they escaped relegation the previous season was through winning 7 of their last 9 games, and then they fired the coach who kept them up for someone who had managed to lose to the Faroe Islands with Greece.

Most seasons you'll have a small team that starts well but will fade away towards December and then the usual suspects will come in and claim the top spots. Leicester just didn't fade away this year.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:18 PM on May 3, 2016


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