Ranking Leicester City’s Title-Winning Season

How great of an achievement is Leicester City winning the Premier League? Put it this way: you don’t see anyone else with the 2015-16 trophy in their cabinet. With so many of the top teams in transition, the point was made throughout the season that this was a weak and uncompetitive Premier League, but was it? Leicester City played well above their norm, but it’s statistically unreasonable to suggest that if everyone else was so far below par, not one other team could step up to challenge them for the grand prize. Tottenham did for the most part, but they were one of the few teams that visibly improved on their placing from last year (by 6 points).

It’s prudent to take a look at how Leicester rank against previous winners of the Premier League. What kind of season did they have compared to the rest? Was it easier or harder? More or less competitive? Here’s how they shape up against the other Premier League champions since the league was reduced to 20 teams in 1996.

Leicester City are the blue dot in all below graphs

 

Gap Between 1st and 2nd

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With 10 games to go, Leicester already had a 5 point lead, and it never went below that. Ultimately winners by 10 points, It was the joint-fifth largest margin between 1st and 2nd place. The biggest margin of victory was Manchester United in 1999-2000 where they finished 18 points ahead of Arsenal. Only once has the Premier League been decided on goal difference – when Manchester City first won it in 2011/12 with Sergio Aguero’s last-minute goal.

 

Goals Scored

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Unsurprisingly, Leicester have the joint-lowest number of goals scored for a title-winning team, Jamie Vardy scored 24 and assisted 6 out of the 65 goals that pushed them over the line. There were accusations that Leicester were a one-man team, but instead of being overly-reliant on one player, this was really much more of a 1990’s Italian style team, featuring a well-organised, disciplined side, and a deadly point man. A good comparison would be the 1992-93 Milan side, with Marco van Basten scoring 25 of Milan’s 65 goals that year, and that team was anything but a one-man operation. Chelsea still have the record for most goals scored in a Premier League season, with Didier Drogba hauling in 29 by himself.

 

Goals Conceded

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A much more surprising revelation, Leicester’s defense was positively leaky compared to other title-winners, ranking 7th out of 20. That shouldn’t in itself diminish the nature of the achievement – it’s extremely hard to go an entire season in the Premier League while conceding under 40 goals, let alone win the thing. The three teams that conceded more than 40 goals here and won the league were all Manchester United : 1999-00, 1996-97, and 2012-13.

 

Wins

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The story begins to come together here. Leicester won the league with the third fewest total wins. No team has won the league with under 21 wins, and the most ever was 29. Leicester had 23.

 

Losses

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But it doesn’t matter how much you concede, as long as you don’t lose. Only Chelsea (2004-05) and Arsenal’s Invincibles (2003-04) won the league with fewer losses. Leicester may have been easier to score on than other champions, but they were one of the most difficult to beat.

 

Difficulty

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So just how did 2015-16 compare as a league to the rest? The model we use subtracts the ‘average’ Premier League season’s stats from each individual year, and aggregates the score based on total goals scored (by all teams), total points won (by all teams), gap between 1st and 2nd, champions points tally, spread of points of the premier league, champions wins, and champions losses. The result shows that 2015-16 was the second-weakest Premier League as a whole of the last 20 years, Manchester United’s 1996-97 season being the weakest, and Manchester City’s battle with Liverpool for the 2013-14 title being the most competitive. Incidentally, the third-weakest year was the Invincibles season.

 

Conclusion

2015-16 was a wide-open year as a whole for the Premier League, and many teams should rue such a glorious missed opportunity. But no one wins the title by default, and getting 80+ points is no accident. Leicester’s year has still been magical, and they 100% deserved that trophy. This research was not meant to belittle their achievement, but rather to show that this year, glory really was there for the taking. Well done to Claudio Ranieri and his men for stepping up to the mark.