An assessment of Leicester City so far this season – part two

23 games into the 2013/14 Championship campaign is as good a time as any to reflect on Leicester City’s season so far.  The Foxes have now faced every opponent in the division, and while tough fixtures certainly await Nigel Pearson’s men in 2014, it is fair to say that Leicester are where they are in the league – first – on merit.

Since the October international break, Leicester City have played twelve league fixtures.  They have won eight, drawn one, and lost three, picking up 25 points along the way.  As such, the Foxes are the only side in the Championship to average more than two points per game (2.1) throughout the first half of the season.  Impressively, Nigel Pearson’s side have only once fallen below a return of two points per game, which occurred after Leicester’s draw with at-the-time table-toppers Burnley.  Leicester also broke their December curse by winning three consecutive games to close out the calendar year – the Foxes had only won three games out of nineteen in December from 2009-2012 before that.

While the Foxes suffered back-to-back defeats in the league for the first time this season during this run of twelve fixtures, they also recorded three consecutive wins on two separate occasions.  This demonstrates an ability to bounce back from disappointing results, something that plagued Leicester during the final third of the 2012/13 season.  Every team will be looking to take points from the league leaders in the second half of this season, and it will be down to Nigel Pearson’s men to make sure that doesn’t happen.

One statistic which will have gone relatively unnoticed is that Leicester City have only drawn three times during the first half of this season.  They are on course to draw just six games this year, compared with last year’s eleven.  The Foxes have recorded a league-best fifteen wins so far this season (they had won eleven times at this point last year), which is indicative of a more positive mentality that this side is more than capable of taking all three points, be it home or away: Leicester also have the second-best away record in the Championship so far this season, having already won six times (the Foxes only won six league games on the road throughout the entire 2012/13 season).

A huge testament to Nigel Pearson’s focus on a top-two finish in the Championship this season is his team selection for Leicester’s fifth-round League Cup match against Manchester City, which was scheduled between two huge league games against Burnley and Queens Park Rangers.  Leicester lost 3-1 to the Premier League giants, but picked up four points from those two league games, which Pearson correctly deemed to be more important, and was able to utilise Jamie Vardy in the trip to Loftus Road who would go on and score the winning goal.  Facing a side such as Manchester City at home in a cup competition will always be a big deal for a Championship side, but the team selection for those three fixtures indicated that Nigel Pearson has his sights set on playing Premier League sides every week in 2014/15.

As it was in October, it is still too early to be thinking about putting the champagne on ice.  However, Leicester must now be considered serious contenders, given their impressive league position and ability to grind out important results against other promotion hopefuls, be it a narrow 1-0 win or a bizarre 5-3 thriller.   The next stage of the season could prove to be much more of a challenge if visiting sides consider more defensive tactics against the Foxes, in order to contrive an important away point (only three out of twelve teams that have made to the journey to the King Power Stadium this year have left with one point or more).

History is on Leicester’s side, in that each team that has topped the Championship on Boxing Day since the 2007/8 has gone on to achieve automatic promotion.  But this league is unpredictable, and a very tough one to escape from.  The Foxes need to continue to work hard in order to stay at the top of the table, and there is a lot of football to be played between now and the start of May – but things couldn’t look much better than they do right now.