Leicester City players were ‘unified’ in their hunt for Premier League title glory after seeing Arsenal players’ celebration pictures following Leicester’s 2-1 defeat in February.
In his new book on the story of Leicester’s triumphant 2015/16 season, ’Fearless: The Amazing Underdog Story of Leicester City, the Greatest Miracle in Sports History’, Foxes stars recounted to writer Jonathan Norcroft about the aftermath of their defeat at the Emirates.
As Norcroft writes, Arsenal players including Alexis Sanchez, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil posted photos of themselves celebrating in the dressing room after clinching a last-gasp victory over their surprise title rivals thanks to an injury-time header from Danny Welbeck.
Welbeck was at the centre of the post-win celebrations as teammates danced around him, chanting his name as photos circulated on the players’ social media channels – much to the anger of Robert Huth.
“For me the key point was when we lost to Arsenal,” the German is quoted as saying in the book. “Everyone was celebrating, they were doing selfies. Even though we were still top. A few of the lads stuck a few [of Arsenal’s] pictures up and it got the blood boiling. It gave us an extra yard in the next few games.”
Leicester would go on to record eight wins and three draws after facing Arsenal on February 14th, lifting the Premier League trophy at the King Power Stadium on May 7th.
The team’s long-serving captain, Wes Morgan, said: “We had 10 men for the best part of the second half and for them to only score in the last minute and then celebrate how they did… . it proved how good we are.”
Danny Simpson was sent after 54 minutes with Leicester still 1-0 ahead courtesy of a Jamie Vardy penalty before half time, but Arsenal would equalise 16 minutes after the right-back’s second yellow card.
Andy King said: “A lot of people looked at that game: ‘This is it, the bubble has burst.’ We didn’t look at it like that. It had taken them 95 minutes to score two past 10 men.”
“There were people after that game who thought they had won the World Cup. They were on their knees, pointing to the skies, doing victory laps of honour . . . We were like, ‘Hold on’.”
Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel was equally frustrated at what he felt were Arsenal players overreacting after the result.
“I mean, come on,” said the Danish keeper. “It was our third defeat of the season. Three defeats all season? That was amazing. I felt that we had been resilient. That it didn’t matter about the result. Eleven versus eleven — we were comfortable. They hadn’t had a shot on target at that point. Even with 10 men, we were comfortable.
“Losing the game in the way we did? Seeing Arsenal celebrate as if they had basically won the league against us: that a victory against us could mean so much to them? It really showed how far we’d come. Watching them [celebrate], for me, was actually a boost.
“Social media is dangerous. Very dangerous.”
Arsenal finished the season in second place, 10 points behind Leicester in the table, recording the club’s highest final position since the 2004/5 season.