You can’t blame Leicester fans for dreaming. After all, it’s been a fairy tale season so far. Jamie Vardy smashing records, defending well, and they sit top of the tree heading into match number 17. Everyone’s quick to praise the Foxes for their incredible form, but when you look at their fixtures, coupled with the history of sides that topped the league at this stage, Claudio Ranieri could have a job on his hands.
But the bubble has to burst sometime. Doesn’t it? A well-deserved victory over Chelsea and the sending Jose Mourinho ever closer to the emotional breakdown that is clearly coming his way would suggest otherwise, but surely the run will end at some point.
After successfully navigating their dose Monday night football, the Foxes round off 2015 with trips to Everton, Liverpool and then a visit from Manchester City. Nothing overly frightening their given the patchy performances of those three sides, but certainly Leicester’s toughest extended examination of the season to date.
However, even if the bubble does lose a bit of its gas, that doesn’t need to spell disaster for the Foxes. Since the invention of
football the Premier League in 1992 13 of the sides that topped the league after 16 games have gone on to become champions. That’s a club Leicester are highly unlikely to join, but still, the drop may not be as significant as some expect.
Over half of those sides were Manchester United, with Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Blackburn completing the rest. Arsenal have led the league five times at this stage, including by a fourpoint margin in 2013-14, but lifted the trophy just once (2003-04) from those promising positions.
- 22 of the leaders after 16 games have finished in the top 4
- The lowest position anyone has fallen to from here is sixth
- Teams with a lead of two or more points at this stage of the season have only finished outside the top three once (from 16 seasons)
The low mark in terms of falling away are Aston Villa in 1998-99. If it’s shocking that Villa were top of the table that recently and that far into the season, what was more shocking was their subsequent form as they lost 11 of their 20 post-Christmas league games to finish 6th. At least they’re doing alright these days …
With the likable Ranieri in charge and the club’s orgy players long since sacked, surely few fans would relish seeing the Foxes plummet too dramatically. They accounted for Chelsea on Monday, but still have to go to Stamford Bridge. Extending it beyond a sticky short-term run of fixtures, they still face trips to White Hart Lane, Old Trafford and the Emirates. Their next month of games also sees them hosting Man City and a resurgent Bournemouth.
Life may start to get tougher for Leicester in coming weeks, but history tells us their bubble may not burst too spectacularly. Even if the dream run turns into something more realistic, history tells us a Top 4 Finish at odds of is still on the cards. That would really give their vocal fans a reason to go wild.