Leicester City are the perfect example of a team taking things one game at a time

In February 2012, just a few months after taking the job, USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann spoke before over 400 US youth coaches at a US Youth Soccer Association convention in Boston. As part of his speech Klinsmann asked the crowd, “so the US goes to South Africa and plays England in the World Cup, what are the chances of winning?”  40% seemed to be the consensus answer from the crowd.

Content with that answer Klinsmann asked a follow up question “OK, same game but this time it’s the quarterfinals? A murmur from the crowd came before the answer, 20%. “Now why is that?” continued Klinsmann. “It’s the same game. The same players. Something happens here (pointing to his head). Because we’ve never been in the semifinals, that means the quarterfinal is the final moment. Why can’t it be one more game? The same way you can do it in the quarterfinals, the same way in the semifinals.”

Klinsmann’s point is simple. Too often we take a whole bunch of external factors into consideration when we’re thinking about whether a team has a chance to win or not. If you can beat a team in the group stage, why can’t you beat them in the final?

This line of thinking isn’t restricted to the World Cup or facing a team in the group stages vs the final. We do it at the club level too when you look at a teams upcoming fixtures. Sometimes teams will see on their schedule Liverpool, Manchester City, and Arsenal in consecutive weeks.

Though fans and even pundits would agree that this particular team is the better team and is more than capable of winning all three games, we’ll often say there’s no way they’ll get nine points in that stretch, or even they’d be thrilled if they come out of that with five points.

Instead of looking at all three games individually, we lump them all together as if the outcome of one game will have any sort of effect on the next one. It’s a gamblers fallacy that we never seem to learn from.

And then there’s Leicester City.

By now you know the story. If Tottenham fail to win this afternoon against Chelsea, Leicester City will become the most improbable Premier League champions ever. The question is, how did Leicester do it?

The answer is simple. They just took things one game at a time.

It started with their manager, Claudio Raneiri, who never set in-achievable goals. For a majority of the season the goal was simply to get 40 points, the number that is commonly accepted as the amount needed to avoid relegation. Once that was achieved and Leicester were still top of the league, the goal became to qualify for one of the two European competitions. As the season’s end drew closer, the goal was to earn a place in the Champions League. Only when that was achieved did the goal become to actually win the league.

Then came the players. The players who showed up to every game only worried about the next 90 minutes. Leicester were the team with the aforementioned Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal stretch in their schedule. For fans and pundits this stretch was another road block we could use to see if Leicester were real. That came after everyone spent the first half of the season saying things like “let’s see how they handle the festive period with the crowded fixture list.”

But Leicester didn’t worry about any of that. They showed up to each game, looked across the field and said “we can beat those guys.” It didn’t matter if they had won last week, drew, or even lost. The only thing that mattered to them was that in the next 90 minutes they could score more goals than whomever was lining up across from them. More often than not, they did.

Even last week when Leicester were on the doorstop of winning the title, the clumping of games together didn’t stop.

Andy’s not wrong. Despite getting free falling Everton at home, it’s certainly not the easiest three game stretch when you need to take trips to both Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge. And while it’s certainly not the most difficult three game stretch they’ve had this year that’s not even the point.

The point is if you break it down into three completely separate games, who is the better team in each one? Leicester. And each time they take the field in those three games the Leicester players will take the field knowing that.

In American sports we see teams in the playoffs fall into 3-0 or 3-1 holes all the time. We look at it as such a daunting task but it’s not. You can’t even the series at 3-3 in Game 4, but you can make it 3-1 and in Game 5 you can make it 3-2. It doesn’t matter that you lost the first three, just win an individual game. It’s not easy, which is why most teams don’t come back from that hole, but every so often it happens.

Leicester City just did that for an entire season. And because of that, they’re going to be the most unlikely champions in English football history.

About Pauly Kwestel

Pauly is a Producer for WFAN in New York and the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has been writing about the beautiful game since 2010 and can be followed on twitter @pkwestelWFAN

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