Leicester City: great pretenders or real contenders?

We are 14 games into the 2015/16 Premier League and the table is starting to take shape.

Most of the usual suspects are sitting in the upper reaches, but one team are seemingly determined to crash the party – Leicester City. Having suffered just a solitary defeat they sit joint top with Man City, boasting an attack that is the second most potent in the division.

But are Leicester massively over-achieving? Or are they a genuine competitor for the league title?

In this piece I will take a closer look at the numbers that have got them to where they are today.

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Going forward, Leicester are a functional and highly effective attacking unit, with their average of 2.07 goals per game bettered only by Man City on 2.14. Defensively, however, just seven teams average more goals against than Leicester’s 1.5, including all bottom five clubs.

Let’s compare that number to the teams around Leicester in the table at present. Of the others making up the current top six, Liverpool average the highest goals against, but their figure stands at just 1.07.

So how can Leicester sustain their place in the table when they are giving away at least 0.4 more goals than their nearest competitors?

The short answer is that although they score more than they concede, the difference in average is smaller than those around them. By having a poorer defence, there’s more pressure to convert when they do create. Those who are tighter at the back can afford to be a bit more wasteful in front of goal, as they are giving away less to opponents.

It will undoubtedly be hard for Leicester to sustain their current strike rate, although there’s no denying that they are being incredibly clinical at the moment.

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Breaking it down a little further into Key Entries and we again see Leicester coming up short compared to those around them. On average, they make 44.43 entries a game; whilst all other teams in the top six are far more active upfield.

However, they actually give away fewer entries per game than three of their rivals, though they are the only side who concede more entries than they produce.

So does this tell us Leicester make the most of their opportunities? Or that their opponents aren’t clinical enough?

The answer is there is truth in both statements…

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In terms of chances created per game (Great and Good), Leicester are once again rated highly with 5.5 being made on average, a figure only bettered by Arsenal and Manchester City. Leicester’s chance creation to entry ratio is very strong, with a chance created in every 8.8 entries.

However, once again they fall down in the defensive side of the game, giving away more to their opponents on average over 90 minutes (3.93 chances). This equates to an opponent creating a chance every 12.2 entries.

Of course there are a number of variables that one must consider in each game played, such as form of individuals, game state, injuries and more. However, to give away a relatively high number of chances compared to opponents once again questions the sustainability of their league standing.

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A quick look at last year’s top six shows us that if Leicester were to sustain their levels of productivity, they could indeed finish inside this year’s, although a genuine challenge for the title looks much less likely.

They are showing that they are among the best sides going forward, but one thing all those listed above have in common is a much better defensive record than what Leicester have right now.

Overall, it seems that Leicester aren’t a side sitting at the top of the table through luck, but through effective attacking play that sees them capitalise on enough of their chances when they arrive.

However, the chances of sustaining a title challenge or even just a place in the top four look unlikely if they can’t stem the number of chances being conceded at the other end.

Alec Payne