‘In short, Leicester City have performed far, far better than the teams around them over the last two months’
Leicester City`s top flight status for next season was confirmed on Saturday following a goalless draw against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. After an astonishing run of results, including six wins out of seven, the way in which the Foxes secured safety was almost anticlimactic – but that won`t bother anybody associated with this football club even in the slightest. Other results around the league certainly favoured the Foxes over the weekend, but nothing can be taken away from what Nigel Pearson and Leicester City have achieved themselves over the last eight games of the season.
After a blistering start to their Premier League campaign which saw the Foxes pick up 8 points from their opening five matches – including an incredible 5-3 victory over Manchester United – Leicester struggled for results, losing eleven of their following thirteen league games, during which time Nigel Pearson`s men accumulated just two points from a possible 39 and were rooted to the bottom of the table from the end of November. While being labelled as ‘unlucky` by a number of pundits, and that their results were not always a reflection on the performances, Leicester City had been written off as relegated even before Christmas.
Despite picking up seven points out of a possible nine over the festive period, Leicester`s struggles continued as they went another eight games without a win. Following a 4-3 loss at White Hart Lane, the Foxes were seven points adrift of safety heading into April. But just eight games later, Nigel Pearson`s men can enjoy their final game of this Premier League campaign at the King Power Stadium against Queens Park Rangers, previously determined to be potentially Leicester`s most important fixture of the season, knowing they will be playing in the top tier of English football again next year. It has been the greatest escape in Premier League history.
Even non-Leicester City supporters would struggle to argue against how impressive a turnaround Nigel Pearson has orchestrated since the beginning of April. Their form over the last ten games has been bettered only by Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal – who boast first, second and third place in the Premier League. Pearson may have had his critics for the run of form which led Leicester to prop up the other nineteen teams for 140 days – and there will be time to reflect on that over the summer – but he must receive huge credit for the character and togetherness which exists within this squad, and for not letting his players become distracted by the pressure of the situation.
Each of their last eight games, from which Leicester took 19 out of a possible 24 points, was certainly no given thing. The turnaround began on 4 April at the King Power Stadium with a 2-1 victory over at-the-time ninth-placed West Ham United, followed by a remarkable 3-2 win over fellow strugglers West Bromwich Albion. A 2-0 victory over Swansea lifted the Foxes off the bottom, and a scrappy win at Turf Moor saw Leicester climb out of the relegation zone for the first time since 22 November. Despite losing their game in hand when the champions elect Chelsea came to town, the Foxes responded admirably with back-to-back wins over Newcastle and Southampton, before picking up a point against Sunderland on Saturday to guarantee survival. Of those eight games, four of the teams played were very much in a relegation battle (and two still are), and two teams continue to push for European football next year. For Leicester City to hit red-hot form at the time that they did and to beat teams still with something to play for is something that everybody associated with the football club should be immensely proud for.
Possibly the most remarkable statistic is how defensively solid Leicester have been during this run of form. With 54 goals conceded, their overall record this season ranks as one of the worst in the league, but the Foxes have conceded just six goals in their last eight. Only Chelsea and Arsenal have conceded fewer goals in that time. The loan signing of the experienced Robert Huth is undoubtedly accountable for Leicester`s recently stingy defensive record (the Foxes have not conceded a Premier League goal in 548 minutes while Huth has been on the pitch). At the other end of the pitch, Leicester have been in excellent goal-scoring form during the same period, having found the net fourteen times, and scoring at least two goals in five of their last eight matches. Only Manchester City have a better record in front of goal during this time. In short, Leicester have performed far, far better than the teams around them over the last two months – and achieved as much as some of the teams who will be playing Champions League football next season.
With the opportunity to finish thirteenth in the Premier League and with a final points tally of 41, Leicester City will undoubtedly want to end the season on a high note against Queens Park Rangers this Saturday in front of a sell-out crowd at the King Power Stadium. But after another roller-coaster season, this is one game for Nigel Pearson and his team where the pressure, deservedly, will be off.