Leicester's Ability To Kill Games Has Won Them The Title But Tottenham Can Emulate Ferguson's Man United


It already feels like kind of evocative detail that ends up giving a fine story even more of a flourish. Before Sunday’s match at home to Swansea City, Claudio Ranieri gave the Leicester City team an emotional team talk to go with all the romance of their season.

“We have the dream so far,” the Italian told his players. “Now make the dream reality. Now is the right moment to push everything, everything.”

Leicester certainly did that, beating Swansea with their biggest victory of the season so far, a sweeping 4-0 win.

As Mauricio Pochettino found, meanwhile, there aren’t too many “realities” like facing a Tony Pulis side when you need to get a result. West Brom became the very tall and bulky wall that so definitively halted Tottenham Hotspur’s previously thunderous title charge.

After that 1-1 draw, however, a creditably magnanimous Pochettino came out with a line that should be important to any team with designs on a league. It is undoubtedly a message he will be drumming into his players from here on in.

“You need to kill the game in the moment, if you want to win the title.”

This is what his Spurs failed to do against West Brom. This is what Leicester have so impressively and repeatedly succeeded in doing over the past few weeks.

Throughout all that time, it has been difficult not to think that both sides’ lack of experience would tell, and that the race would be much more erratic.

That has not happened. Leicester have incredibly taken 23 points from the last 27 available, and that at the most psychologically oppressive time of the season. They have barely even wobbled, brilliantly bouncing back from the home draw against West Ham United with their highest margin of victory.

That is just another aspect of their campaign that has defied all football logic. You would think that this side, who have barely any medals of any kind between them and are aiming for what would be their club’s first ever league title, were seasoned repeat champions. They have just kept going, and that is truly creditable.

It was Spurs, instead, who blinked first. They have been supreme in recent weeks and their relentless style has reflected the mentality Pochettino is trying to instil, but it’s impossible to deny that their inexperience did tell.

They didn’t properly go for the kill when 1-0 up against West Brom and, once pegged back to 1-1, the situation killed all their momentum.

The assured Mousa Dembele apart, Spurs players kept making the wrong decision at crucial moments or over-hitting the ball - clear signs of anxiety. They let the game and the stakes get to them.

That has led to some commentary that it was “Spursy”, that it was typical of the weakness supposedly inherent in the club. That is wrong. Spurs buckled because they have no knowledge of what it’s like to win a league but that does not mean they are fundamentally a team who will never do it. The very fact they are even in this situation is testament to that. Just like with Leicester’s lack of resources, Spurs’ youth means they shouldn’t really be competing, so they are ahead of schedule in their development.

That is also relevant to why this title race has been such a surprise too. Even the finest champions have needed learning experiences to finish their development, and there was no clearer case than Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in 1992, after they finished second to Leeds United. In accepting his PFA merit award, Ryan Giggs even referenced how so many supporters would come up to him after that season, anxiously wondering whether the club would ever win the league again. Ferguson cited that painful memory as key to completing the side.

This is not to say that Pochettino is the same, or that things will turn out the same, but it was quite clear from his post-game press conference that he will be using this is a lesson for his players.

Of course, one of the miracles of Leicester is that they needed no such lessons. They have been astonishingly quick learners.

They have also had things bounce their way. Leicester have had the fortune of always playing before Spurs in recent weeks and, even before the situation arose where they could make a decisive mistake of their own, Ashley Williams committed the mistake that basically gifted them the win - and likely the league.

A team still have to take those opportunities, though, and Leicester have done that with extreme prejudice. Things bouncing your way is one thing but you still have to react. Leicester have repeatedly reacted ruthlessly.

There’s been no hesitation. There’s been none of the anxiety we saw from Spurs against West Brom.

It means Leicester are on the brink of changing the accepted realities of the Premier League.