Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Predicting the Championship run-in

Everybody knows that football is unpredictable and, as Leicester City's form this season has shown, inconsistency is equally difficult to understand.

Memorable wins over the likes of Southampton, Derby County and Coventry City have contrasted sharply with poor losses against the likes of Bristol City (twice), Watford and Reading. What is clear from the teams listed here is that there is no rhyme or reason to who the Foxes can beat - or indeed lose to. Bristol are arguably one of the poorest teams in the league and they certainly haven't scored many goals except against Leicester, who they have now beaten twice. Meanwhile, the Foxes have done the double over a high-flying Southampton side and thrashed lowly Coventry at home and away. Clearly battling against teams fighting relegation is not an issue, but nor is meeting the class of good teams, as the FA Cup victory over Norwich City or those games against Southampton show.

What is clear after last night's defeat at Bristol is that the Foxes can now be virtually written-off as play-off contenders for this season. It is thought that, of the twelve games remaining, City must win nine to stand even a vain hope of reaching the top six. Even then, Nigel Pearson's side would have to rely on some poor form from those above them.

Predictions based upon Pearson's team's form since he returned to manage the club in October (below) suggest that Leicester will win just five of their remaining games. The Foxes' manager has failed to reach the same dizzying 52% win ratio since he moved back to the King Power Stadium from Hull City, although his 45% win rate is not one to be sniffed at.

The statistics show that inconsistency is Leicester's problem, with the remaining 55% of games split evenly between draws and losses. Extrapolating this form into the remaining games - and not taking into account any of that footballing unpredictability mentioned earlier - leaves the Foxes gathering just eighteen points from the twelve matches that are left in this campaign. This would give City a grand total of 66 points for the season, one point less than last term and leaving them in the same, dire 10th place.

So, the combination of Sven Goran Eriksson and Nigel Pearson is no better statistically than that of Eriksson and Paulo Sousa. What should concern Leicester City supporters is not that this year should be written-off, but that the short-sightedness of the club's owners - should Pearson not make an emphatic start next season - could result in a continued yearly cycle of 'what-ifs', 'buts' and 'maybes'.

Barring a miracle - football is entirely unpredictable and this statistical analysis is so often proven wrong - in which Pearson manages to guide his team to the top six this year, this summer is likely to be another one of dashed hopes, optimism and, at the end of it all, abject disappointment.

Here's to being a Leicester City fan.
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