by Adam Dreyfuss
At this time last year Leicester City were in last place- five points from safety. After a survival which can only be described as a miracle, many predicted that the Foxes would get relegated this season. Nobody could have imagined that 26 matches through the campaign, Leicester would be top of the table.
After every match day, pundits have written of Leicester claiming that “they don’t have the ability to maintain the run they are on” and “Leicester will eventually drop off.” Well, they haven’t and based off of recent form, Leicester are here to stay. Leicester aren’t the only surprise title contender this year either, as Tottenham look as if they have reversed their fortunes from years past.
The Spurs north London counterparts, Arsenal, are also hot in the title race level on points with Spurs but behind on goal difference. Manchester City is the only other team that can be considered to still be in the title race outside of the top three, but the Citizens seem as if they lack the ambition to win and have struggled in the past few weeks.
Can Leicester go from 15th to Champions?
Right now barely anybody thinks that Leicester are serious title contenders, which begs the question: Why can’t Leicester win the league? They have three of the best players in the league this season in Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, and N’Golo Kante, and Leicester hasn’t shown any real weakness this year, only losing three matches, two of which came against title rivals Arsenal.
However, statistically, Leicester are performing much better than they should be right now. Leicester have scored 48 goals this year but their expected goals (expected goals are a statistical measure using shot quality to see how many goals a team/player should have scored at a certain point in the season) is only 35.4.
This means that Leicester are scoring roughly 26 percent more goals than they should have, which is a rate that they won’t be able to maintain. Defensively Leicester are doing approximately as well as they should be doing, with 29 goals allowed and 30.8 expected goals allowed.
The main reason that Leicester is unlikely to be able to win the title is their final few matches. Leicester have a seemingly easy run of matches until the final five matches of the year. In the final five matches they face another surprising team in West Ham which is followed by what should be an easy match against Swansea City, with the Swans being in a relegation battle.
The match against Swansea shouldn’t be taken too lightly by Leicester, as Swansea will be giving it their all to stay in the Premier League. The final three matches of the year are the trickiest matches for Leicester as they face Manchester United, Everton, and Chelsea.
None of those matches will be easy, and all three should give Leicester a tough fight. With that being said, I believe that Leicester will finish in second place and secure a Champions League spot for the upcoming season.
Will Tottenham finish ahead of Arsenal for the first time since 1995?
This season Tottenham have defied all of the expectations that are normally applied to Tottenham. They currently sit in second place and they boast the third best scoring record with 47 goals and the best defensive record with only 20 goals allowed.
Young starlets Harry Kane and Dele Alli have both been massively impressive with Kane being the 2nd top goal scorer, only trailing Jamie Vardy. Spurs also can claim the best center back partnership in the league this year with Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen.
The Spurs have also been very impressive against opponents near the top of the table only losing to Manchester United. Newcastle United, and Leicester City. However, just like Leicester, Spurs are over performing at the moment. They have 47 goals compared to the 37.9 expected goals, meaning they are scoring 19.4 percent more goals than they should be. They have also conceded less goals than they should have with 20 goals allowed compared to their 22.4 expected goals allowed.
The Spurs also have to juggle the Europa League, being in the Round of 32 against Italian-side Fiorentina right now. As the Spurs are overperforming as well as matches against Arsenal, Manchester United, and Chelsea still to come, Tottenham should start to fade as they usually do towards the end of the season. I predict Tottenham to make the Champions League for the first time since the 2010-11 season and finish in third place.
Is this the year for Arsenal to win the title for the first time since 2003-04?
Before the season many thought that Arsenal finally had what it takes to win the title for the first time since 2003-04. With their dramatic victory over Leicester City last match-day, it seems as if the title is Arsenals, despite being in third, to lose.
Arsenal also have a potential record-breaker on their team, with Mesut Ozil needing only four more assists to break Thierry Henry’s single season assists record. Arsenal are also one of the two teams to beat Leicester City this year, the other being Liverpool, and they haven’t just beaten the Foxes once, but twice.
Statistically, the Gunners are underperforming offensively, but over performing defensively. Arsenal have found the back of the net 41 times in league play this year, but their expected goals total is 51.5. This means that they are scoring 20.4% less goals than they should be scoring.
Don’t be surprised if you see Arsenal start scoring a lot of goals in their final matches. Defensively, keeper Petr Cech has kept the cleanest sheets in the league this year, but Arsenal have conceded one less goal than they should have at this point.
Another reason why Arsenal will have a difficult time winning the league is their fixture congestion. They have to balance three competitions, in the Premier League, Champions League, and FA Cup.
With all of this being said, I think that Arsenal are the clear title favorites at this point in time. With the likes of Danny Welbeck and Francis Coquelin coming back from injury will only help Arsenals title campaign and I think they will win the League.
Can Manchester City win its third title in five years?
Manchester City is without a doubt the most talented team in the Premier League. They also spent over £100 million this summer on new signings.
However, City can’t seem to put any of this together. They may be in 4th place just 6 points off the top, but they haven’t performed against the other title contenders, getting 1 point from 5 matches. I’m not going to go into statistics to say why City aren’t performing the way they are, instead I am going to mention something incredibly stupid that the City front office did.
Instead of waiting until the end of the year to announce that Pep Guardiola will be next year’s manager they announced the news mid-year during the middle of a title race. If current manager Manuel Pellegrini knows that he won’t be the manager after this season, why does he care what happens in the season?
After Sunday’s 5-1 defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup, Pellegrini responded to a question about how they will respond with, “Not my problem, ask Guardiola.” Clearly manager Manuel Pellegrini doesn’t care if City succeed but the players still should, right?
Future manager Pep Guardiola has already announced certain players that he would like to bring into the club in the summer, which should motivate the players. They know that there are replacements out there, so the current players should be trying their best to make sure the new manager doesn’t replace them.
But the players on City don’t act like members of a team, they act like individuals. I believe that Manchester City will finish in fourth place in the Premier league this year, and be out of the title race in the coming weeks.