Have you ever noticed what happens in sport when a bubble bursts?
Every Tom, Dick and Harriet piles in and decides that they too can do whatever it was that the bubble burster did. Take Manchester United as an example.
We saw it happen three years ago when Sir Alex Ferguson retired and his side suddenly faltered and we have seen it again with last season’s champions, Chelsea, who spent the first half of this season hovering around the relegation zone.
The bubble burst.
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In other words; the air of invincibility that once cocooned them vanished and other, supposedly lesser teams, suddenly found they were beatable and so they piled in and the fear those lesser mortals once had, when facing these impregnable giants, gets replaced with the scent of blood in their footballing nostrils.
And one suspects it is this bubble syndrome which will be causing most alarm in the boardrooms of Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and the two Manchester teams, who last week, were involved in talks with American businessman Charlie Stillitano, to explore the concept of an ‘elite teams’ Champions League.
This is how Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri responded: "I understand bigger teams don’t want one year without the Champions League, but this is sport. For one year, you don’t achieve this, you want to make something different?
"It’s not right. You are afraid. You are not strong. They have to blame themselves. They should ask: Why is a little team like Leicester doing better than us?"
It isn’t so much that the big five or six clubs are afraid of a one-off title win by a team such as Leicester.
It is the damage that would be done to their bubble that will be causing them most concern.
Once a small, unfashionable team like Leicester ignore the script and believe in the unbelievable, what’s to stop the others from doing the same?
Until this year, all the teams outside the Premier League elite understood that realistically they would never have a chance of competing with ‘the big boys.’
All of them, without exception, have acknowledged that they lack the resources to compete with the big five or six.
Therefore, every single one of those clubs has tailored their respective ambitions to match:
a) To avoid relegation (newly promoted teams)
b) Establish a mid-table position (recently promoted teams)
c) Compete for a top 10 finish
d) Challenge for a Europa League spot.
But now, Leicester have blown the game plan apart, shredded the script and abandoned the long established rules about smaller teams knowing their place in the footballing pecking order.
And it matters not whether they win the title; not anymore.
The damage has already been done
With just nine games to go, Ranieri has a two-point lead at the top of the Premier League table and an 11 point cushion in the Champions League places which, with another three wins, will become a guaranteed place.
His team have not just gatecrashed the party, they have started a bigger, more entertaining party of their own, on a shoestring and isn’t everyone outside Liverpool, Manchester and north London just loving it!
Not just because people enjoy seeing the top dogs taken down now and again. But because it has given them hope.
Hope in three forms
You see, Leicester have shown that whilst spending big money buys big reputations, quite often big egos and once in a while, big skills; big money is absolutely no guarantee of big hearts, big desire or big hunger.
And it is those last three valuable qualities that Leicester have had more abundantly than any of the ‘big players’ and the traditional top six teams know it.
The cat is out of the bag
Other ‘lesser’ teams such as West Ham (currently two points away from a Champions League place), Stoke City (eight points away) and Southampton (seven points away) will be looking at what Leicester have achieved this season and licking their lips.
And the people running Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham know that once a bubble has been burst, that’s it.
So when Ranieri states that the bigger teams are afraid, he is quite right; but it is not so much what Leicester have done throughout this season that will have made them afraid.
It is the possibility of a Premier League top six invasion, from a small army of other well placed, Leicester-inspired, smaller teams next season that will be terrifying them.
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