Why Leicester City cannot fall again: Neil Humphreys
Elite clubs taking control will leave sour taste this season
The Foxes feel like palate cleansers after a season of grubby excess. They must finish in the top four.
We should want them to. Whatever our tribal colours, if this tarnished game is still held sacred, then Leicester City should cling to the coattails of the elite.
If they fail, then there's a good chance that the self-designated super clubs may run off with the silverware for the foreseeable future at the worst possible time.
As Covid-19 underlined the inequalities in all societies, the English Premier League found itself becoming the poster boy of that socio-economic imbalance.
Those with the most still wanted more, increasing tension, dissent and rising militancy among disillusioned fans.
The Foxes were not involved in that discussion. Despite winning the EPL title more times than Tottenham Hotspur and more recently than both Arsenal and Manchester United, Leicester were patronisingly dismissed as a non-super club.
And they have been largely forgotten since, for positive and negative reasons.
Financially, the Foxes are almost seen as outliers, a provincial David among big-city Goliaths, a faintly ludicrous suggestion, considering owner Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha is also a billionaire. But there are obvious differences.
While Aiyawatt garners awards from the City of Leicester for his services to the community, the owners of Manchester United ignore stadium protests, struggling to contain their indifference.
Aiyawatt has committed time, money and his presence to the club he inherited after his father's tragic death.
As billionaire owners go, Aiyawatt is an anomaly, a benevolent influence on a club that make a concerted effort to be run the right way.
Should the Foxes lose at Manchester United tomorrow morning (Singapore time) and eventually slip out of the top four, there will be no King Power protests. Their fans are on side, no matter what.
But the loss might be felt beyond the stadium's environs.
Yesterday, Chelsea were crowned the Women's Super League champions. On Sunday, they'll face Barcelona in the European Champions League Final.
Soon, their male counterparts will do likewise against Manchester City, who will collect the EPL title in the coming days. Manchester City also won the League Cup. Chelsea are also in the FA Cup Final.
Spot the pattern? Elite English football is not so much a pyramid as it is a funnel, with power swirling inexorably towards competing oligarchs. Now, more than ever, the set-up feels unpalatable.
As a result, the Foxes find themselves in the role of respectable gatekeepers for the common man, without really doing anything. And that's the unavoidable negative. They are slipping from the collective consciousness because they are not really doing anything.
Leicester are drifting. A guaranteed place in the top four has become precarious, thanks to a third defeat in six games against Newcastle United last week.
But the statistics were less important than the body language. The Foxes were tired, timid and defensively hopeless in the 4-2 loss to the Magpies.
Jonny Evans' injury in the warm-up didn't help, but the improvised defensive reshuffle hardly justified the four-goal collapse that followed.
Missing out on the Champions League last season may weigh heavily on jittery minds, but the more prosaic explanation is an exhausted, limited squad struggling to deal with EPL and FA Cup commitments in a condensed campaign.
Jamie Vardy looks his age. The 34-year-old isn't getting the same service from James Maddison and Ricardo Pereira, as both shake off recent injuries.
Manager Brendan Rodgers perseveres with his attacking 3-4-1-2, making the most of Kelechi Iheanacho, one of the few Foxes to maintain any consistency of late, but the outliers are perilously close to becoming also-rans again.
After the tough trip to Old Trafford, games against Chelsea and Tottenham are sandwiched between an FA Cup final appearance.
Unless the Foxes halt their slide, the usual suspects are going to monopolise all the trophies and the top four.
And if this demoralising season has taught us anything, it's that there is little appetite for the status quo.