Get ready for a real power shift in the EPL
EPL's balance of power has shifted from Manchester to London
THE TABLES HAVE TURNED: Wayne Rooney’s (above) Manchester United were left trailing in the wake of Tottenham Hotspur’s young stars (top) this season as the map of English football was flipped on its head. TNP INFOGRAPHICS: TEOH yI CHIE
In a geographical sense, Leicester City's title triumph now seems fitting.
The Foxes are sitting pretty in the middle of England, a convenient marker between those clubs rising and falling.
If the English Premier League season revealed anything beyond the Foxes' journey to Disneyland, it was the unprecedented north and south divide.
The divide has always existed, but it's been turned upside down.
Leicester and the North London clubs now occupy the terrain once ruled by the serial silverware winners of Manchester.
City scraped into the top four after a campaign that started brightly, but fizzled quickly. The billionaires were built in their manager's image, occasionally elegant but mostly dull and unthreatening.
United are currently sixth and could still finish fifth if they beat Bournemouth tomorrow morning (Singapore time), but have been led astray by a deluded manager who wilfully ignores the club's psyche.
Finishing fourth does not constitute real progress at Old Trafford and yet Louis van Gaal banged that tiresome drum all season long, sounding more like Arsene Wenger than a United manager.
In any case, United didn't finish fourth, leaving them unsuccessful in even reaching an uninspiring target.
And Liverpool never once featured in the title equation, finishing eighth - largely out of sight and out of mind until a final flourish earned a place in the Europa League Final.
For the generations raised on the bandwagons bound for Old Trafford and Anfield and, in recent times, the Etihad Stadium, these are confusing times.
United, City and Liverpool were collectively not involved in the latter stages of the title race for the first time in EPL history.
Leicester, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and even West Ham all climbed the ladder as the northern hordes struggled to maintain their footing on the rungs beneath.
Despite the Gunners' characteristic collapse after Christmas, they somehow finished second, their highest position since 2005.
That's hardly an endorsement of Wenger's unwillingness to adapt his template and include stronger, heavier midfielders to support Arsenal's lightweight mavericks. It's a savage assessment of the abject failure of both Manchester clubs.
And there's little evidence to suggest that this season will be remembered as an anomaly, either.
The North London clubs promise stability next season, a chance to use their solid managerial platform as a springboard.
Mauricio Pochettino looked a haunted man after the 5-1 debacle at Newcastle on Sunday, but his scarcely concealed contempt for his side's dreadful performance should please Spurs supporters.
Tottenham's manager had gone one better than the pre-season target of qualifying for the Champions League and finished third, but still had the contorted expression of a bulldog chewing a wasp.
Spurs are blessed with a hungry, tactically astute manager who expects title challenges to be the norm, rather than exceptions.
Arsenal, on the other hand, somehow clumsily conspired to pull off a second-place heist, despite mostly playing with half a striker and a powder-puff midfield.
Things can only get better, which theoretically means Arsenal can only finish first. To achieve that aim, an entire spine from centre back to striker needs to be airlifted from somewhere and dropped into the Emirates Stadium.
Wenger's exasperating mix of frilly, floppy artists with a few more frilly, floppy artists often made them infuriating, like watching Picasso scribble away at the beginnings of a masterpiece only to be blown over by a strong wind.
And yet, unbelievably, the Gunners still finished above both City and United.
The two rusting relics from post-industrial Manchester really were that bad.
For long spells, they were rudderless. Soon they will be managerless.
That's not literally true of course. Pep Guardiola will succeed Manuel Pellegrini, the only living manager to suffer from rigor mortis.
But, at United, a sixth- or fifth-placed finish reads like an obituary for van Gaal.
So the two halves of Manchester must start again with new managers to build something whole.
At the transfer market buffet, Guardiola will gorge on defenders and United's next manager really should take a stab at the revolutionary concept of playing footballers in their best positions.
Still, for the first time in a generation, both sides of Manchester are on the outside looking in, facing the unique prospect of assembling a new manager, squad and playing philosophy at the same time, in one pre-season.
In comparison, Tottenham and Arsenal are a picture of contentment, requiring evolution rather than revolution.
Pochettino will hunt for a couple of cooler heads capable of handling the heat of a title run-in and Wenger needs to put his hand in the club's pocket and pull out a backbone.
But at the very least, stability is on their side. The Manchester clubs are faced with a summer of uncertainty after an extraordinary season of unpredictability.
Even Chelsea and Liverpool are difficult to gauge, with a mass exodus followed by a manic spending spree expected at both clubs.
But the overriding theme of this season was the power shift. North London replaced the North of England as a dominant force.
All roads led south towards Leicester and London.
This was the unique year when the men of Manchester did nothing other than make up the numbers.
City won't forget the half-hearted applause that greeted the perfunctory lap of honour around their stadium, and the same should be expected for United tomorrow morning. The deafening sound of indifference lives long in the memory.
But there is now a different sound, a faint alarm bell ringing in the distance.
It's London calling.
BY THE NUMBERS
1ST TIME: This is the first time in the Premier League era that northern giants Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool were all not involved in the title race during the season's closing stages.