FAVORABLE RUN-IN CAN HELP LEICESTER CLAIM STOKE CITY TITLE.

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With six points separating the top four in
the Barclays Premier League,
premierleague.com picks out three reasons
for each side to be hopeful of becoming
champions and three to make them fearful
of losing out. After Manchester City,
Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, Leicester
City’s title credentials are examined.
Reasons why Leicester can win the title
The run-in
Leicester City appear to have a better run of
fixtures than their rivals in the final 12
matchweeks of the season, with seven of them
at home.
The leaders have played Spurs, Arsenal and
Man City twice apiece. Of their remaining
opponents, only Southampton and Manchester
United have prevented Claudio Ranieri’s team
from taking maximum points in the reverse
Their most challenging sequence appears to be
their final three matches, when they travel to
Old Trafford, host Everton and go to a revived
Chelsea. But by this time Leicester could have
established an unassailable lead.
That and the fact that Leicester are the only
top-four side with no other competitions to
concern them would make their run-in the
most favourable.
In charge at the right time
Despite their heartbreaking defeat at Arsenal,
Leicester remained top by two points and
history suggests that this is a good omen for
the Foxes.
Only seven of the 23 teams to have led at this
stage of previous seasons have failed to go on
to win the league.
Undisruptable
Leicester’s title charge has been built on their
attacking prowess.
No side have scored more than their 47 goals,
with Jamie Vardy (19 goals) and Riyad Mahrez
(14 goals) offering their key threat.
Their shortcomings were in defence but this
has improved since the turn of the year, as
shown by the way their 10 men held out for so
long at Arsenal and by the four goals conceded
in their last seven matches.
Thanks to a lack of injuries Ranieri has bred a
tight unit, making just 21 line-up changes this
season, 13 fewer than any other side and 48
less than Man City. If this can be continued
and Vardy and Mahrez stay fit, the Foxes’
togetherness, forged in their unlikely escape
from relegation last season, can spur them to
a first Barclays Premier League crown.
Three reasons Leicester may not win the
league
Despite the defeat by Arsenal Leicester remain
two points clear at the top
Do fairytales really come true?
While 16 of 23 clubs to have led after 26
matches won the title, some of the exceptions
bear a resemblance to Leicester’s story.
Chief among them are Norwich City in
1992/93 and Newcastle United in 1995,96 .
Like Leicester, Mike Walker and Kevin Keegan’s
teams defied the odds to top the standings at
this stage of their respective campaigns, but
eventually missed out, with Man Utd winning
on each occasion.
There is little chance of United denying the
latest outsiders this time, but Spurs and
Arsenal are just two points adrift with Man
City, a further four back, also waiting for a
slip-up from the Foxes.
Overreliance on players?
As mentioned above, Ranieri has called upon
fewer players than any rivals. The Leicester
manager has been fortunate not to have been
without Vardy and Mahrez, as well as other
stars such as Marc Albrighton and N’Golo
Kante, for long periods through injury this
term.
With Leicester facing fewer matches than their
rivals for the run-in, the chances of their key
players getting injured are reduced.
But should Leicester’s luck change and one of
these stars were to pull up and be forced out a
few weeks it would require a big change for
Ranieri.
Reverting to mean?
Not only are Leicester defying expectations this
season, but it would seem their results are
defying statistics, too.
Expected goals (or xG, see here) measure how
many goals an average team should have
scored based on the number and quality of
shots they created. They have been a reliable
form of measuring how a team are performing
and will fare over a season.
In this metric, Leicester are overperforming.
Analysis of the quality of shots they have taken
and faced by Paul Riley show Leicester are
scoring more and conceding fewer than they
should have this season, according to the data.

*from Paul Riley’s model
Not only are Leicester converting more shots
than they should be, but their opponents in
matches are worse at converting their chances.
Compared with their rivals’ expected goal
difference, Leicester are bucking the trend the
most.
The law of averages would suggest that a
reversion to the ‘xG’ mean in Leicester’s
remaining 12 matches would be accompanied
by a drop in their points return.
But Ranieri’s men have been all about defying
the odds this season and who would bet
against that carrying on for 12 more matches.

Source : premierleague.com

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