Life & Culture

This is finally going to be our year... but whose?

Fans of the top three Premier League teams discuss who will end up on top


Adam Gold

This was supposed to be our year. It was the season when all the usual excuses disintegrated. The richer clubs who can outspend Arsenal and tend to finish higher in the Premier League as a result - Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United - were all in various stages of malfunction.

The factor that usually leaves a good Gunners side hamstrung (often literally) -long-term injuries - has been less bothersome this time around. We've even got our best goalkeeper since we last won the league. Petr Cech's arrival should have had him follow in Jens Lehmann's footsteps as a title winner, with Arsenal lifting the trophy for the first time since 2004.

Instead, it's been a very different receptacle that most fans have been talking about since the season has started to draw to a close: we completely lost our bottle.

We just seemed to lose our spirit and mental strength, exposing the visible lack of leadership on the pitch - causing our failure to sustain the run of form needed to win the league. Leicester's 5,000-1 unlikely rise to become the likely champions has left Gunners fans baffled. But what's really galling is the threat that the team from White Hart Lane could yet finish top.

We are the Tottenham haters!

Every year, we Arsenal fans joyfully celebrate St Totteringham's Day - the day when Spurs mathematically can't finish above Arsenal in the league. The last time our North London nemesis got the better of us was 1995.

But it's with even more glee that we Gooners can sit in the North Bank at Emirates Stadium singing "61 -never again" at our rivals, delighting in the fact that Tottenham haven't won the league for 55 years.

So if it's not us who win it this season, please, please don't let it be them. Not that lot up the road.

If that nightmare does become real, the "Wenger Out" brigade among Arsenal fans will trumpet their fanfare louder than ever. But there's a good reason Arsenal are in this predicament, and it's more than just about the manager. It's because Arsenal have cracked the formula to win brilliantly as a business - just not as a football team.

Arsene Wenger spends just enough money to get Arsenal into the top four and therefore into the Champions League every season. But no more than that.

So, for Arsenal fans to put up with another year of the team doing the bare minimum so the owners earn their maximum while our arch rivals ride their victory bus at the other end of the Seven Sisters Road… I'd be left KO'd; spiritually broken. The only hope I cling to is that this is Spurs we're talking about, and if any team can throw away a truly promising position, it's Tottenham.

Adam Gold is the author of The Arsenal Miscellany (Vision Sports Publishing)

Duel: Erik Lamela, above left, and Hector Bellerin

Lewis Foster

Being a Leicester fan has never been easy and, in our first season back in the Barclays Premier League after a 10-year exile, it was more of the same. We were perilously close to dropping straight back down with some decent performances, but no results. Then, one afternoon last April, something changed. I can't tell you what it was that happened before that West Ham game but it proved to be our turning point. Come May, we had survived - and not merely by goal difference, or one point, but six whole points.

To say that I'm surprised by what happened next would be the understatement of the century.

I had hoped our good form would continue into this season, and even though I was sceptical at the appointment of Claudio Ranieri (who wasn't?) and disappointed by the loss of Esteban Cambiasso, I still had hope.

We had a great start and I could see a mid-table finish. The home loss to Arsenal didn't hurt - we expected it - but the players kept going. And we kept winning.

We were top at Christmas -something I never thought I'd see - and while everyone kept writing us off even Leicester fans couldn't fathom the idea of winning the league.

Now, however, it's real. Most of my Jewish friends support the two Manchester teams, even those who live in Leicester, but now they're all rooting for us over Spurs and Arsenal. We're in April, and we're seven points clear of 2nd place, so if we didn't believe before, we certainly do now. Even if we don't end up winning the league, this has to go down in history as the best season we have ever had. The team spirit, the performance, the free beer and doughnuts at games, the celebrations so wild they register on the Richter scale -it's unheard of from a team like Leicester. Keep going, boys. You can do it. I truly believe that. You are making every Leicester fan walk around with a smile on his - or her - face.

And when you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you… and Leicester.

Lewis Foster is a civil servant and lifelong Leicester fan

David Aaronovitch

Too long a sacrifice," wrote Yeats, "can make a stone of the heart." He was talking about the long-deferred cause of Irish nationalism; I am talking about being a Spurs fan. Since I attended my first match at White Hart Lane in 1975 (Coventry, 4-1) most of our seasons have been attended at best by failure, at worst by catastrophe. I have seen near relegation, actual relegation and financial disaster.

Our peaks have generally been mere absence of troughs, lit up by the occasional genius who capriciously gave up several years of his career to be adored by us: Hoddle, Waddle, Ardiles, Ginola, Keane, Berbatov, Gascoigne, Modric and Bale. We were, we consoled ourselves, a "cup-winning team" whose "attractive, flowing football" compensated for an absence of consistent success. Oh yeah. "OK lads," Alex Ferguson is said to have told his United teams, "it's Spurs." And they all knew what he meant.

The man who turned it round was Daniel Levy and he did it the hard way, making many mistakes but many more shrewd decisions. With no oligarch or sheikh with Panamanian-assisted riches to fast-track us to silverware, Levy played the percentage game, buying cheap and selling dear. It's taken more than a decade. Bit by bit into reliable mid-table. Bit by bit to top six. Bit by bit in conceivable contention (in a very good year) for top four. Bit by bit to a new stadium.

It's been like one of those yucca plants that flowers once every 20 years, and then only if it feels like it. Under the team management of Mauricio Pocchetino, the Levy way has suddenly come to make sense. Develop the best young players, create an ethos that surrounds the whole of the playing side of the club, know what to do when you're lucky enough to have a Harry Kane emerge gorgeously from the unpromising chrysalis of multiple loans to lower league clubs. We Spurs fans just cannot believe it - our hearts had become too hard for hope. With six matches to go, 32 played, we have lost just FOUR. We have scored more goals than any other team in the Premiership, but that's not the wonderful part.

The incredible thing - the thing I never thought I'd see - is that we have conceded fewer. We have lost no Premier League match by more than one goal. No one in England has tonked us. And we love the team and the manager.

I have spent 40 years listening to some of the most epic moaners in world history whinge, condemn and boo from the stands. Not this season. Not even if Leicester do pip us to the title, and maybe not even if Arsenal manage to scrape their way to second. It has been an annus mirabilis. It has been a joy.

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