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Evolution Or Revolution – Leicester


Evolution or Revolution is a new series from Stats Perform looking at which teams need only a few tweaks ahead of the 2020/21 season and which require a fundamental reboot. After an impressive first half of the season, Leicester faded badly after the Premier League returned. Jamie Kemp looks at the reasons why and how Brendan Rodgers can prepare his side to once again challenge for a Champions League spot.

By: Jamie Kemp

Too Reliant On Jamie Vardy

The 33-year-old was in fine form in front of goal last season, netting 23 goals to earn him the Premier League’s Golden Boot award for the first time in his career.

As well as leading the league for total player goals, Vardy also had the highest shot conversion rate of the top five scorers in the competition.

Shot Conversion Rate - Premier League 2019/20

Player  Goals  Shot Conversion Rate
Jamie Vardy2325.8%
Danny Ings2223.7%
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang2223.7%
Raheem Sterling2020.2%
Mohamed Salah1914.4%

However, while Leicester were able to boast the league’s biggest individual source of goals, they struggled to maximise this with a strong supporting cast. Beyond Vardy’s 23 goals in the Premier League, the closest team-mate to him in the charts was Ayoze Pérez with eight goals.

Leicester Goalscorers Premier League 2019/20

Using Stats Perform’s Direct Goal Involvements metric, defined as the number of unique goal-ending sequences in open play where the player’s only involvement was in scoring the goal, we can see the level of responsibility that Vardy carries in terms of finishing attacks.

Vardy led the way with 17 Direct Goal Involvements for Leicester, which was more than three times as many as any other player for the Foxes. Although the striker thrived individually in these circumstances, Brendan Rodgers will be hoping for increased contribution from his players in 2020/21.

Leicester Direct Goal Involvements

Stats Perform Verdict: Evolution Required

Rediscover James Maddison’s Loss of Form

Leicester were second in the Premier League heading into the New Year, with only eventual winners Liverpool winning more games and collecting more points than them. Despite close attention from Manchester City, the Foxes looked well on track to finish within the top three.

One of the factors involved in this was the attacking contribution from their main creator – James Maddison. Behind Jamie Vardy, the midfielder was their biggest source of direct goal involvements between August and December 2019.

James Maddison Goal Contributions 2019

Premier League (Aug – Dec 2019) Goals  Assists  Goals + Assists
Jamie Vardy17320
James Maddison538
Ayoze Pérez437
Harvey Barnes156
Youri Tielemans336

As the season transitioned into 2020, Leicester’s and Maddison’s form gradually subsided. Maddison scored just once in the Premier League in the New Year and failed to record another assist.

Using a combination of Stats Perform’s Expected Goals (xG) and sequences data, we can also highlight how the quality of chances Maddison was involved in producing took a hit in 2020.

Although he was involved in a similar number of shot-ending sequences, the quality of attempts these yielded were significantly lower following the turn of the year.

James Maddison 2020 struggles

Maddison recently signed a new four-year contract with Leicester, however, highlighting the club’s faith in his future offerings. Despite seeing a drop-off in his production in the second half of the campaign, the 23-year-old remains one of the top playmakers in the Premier League and he’ll be looking to affirm that throughout the 2020/21 campaign.

Stats Perform Verdict: Evolution Required

Solve Their Struggles Against The Top Six Sides

In a season where Leicester were among the top four positions for long periods, their eventual fifth-place finish was perhaps highlighted by their record against the teams they found themselves in direct competition for a Champions League spot.

The Foxes ended the day in the top four on 325 occasions during the season yet dropped out in the closing games. Indeed, their final two games of the campaign ended in defeats against teams who recorded finishes in the top six – Spurs and Manchester United.

Premier League - Top 6 Mini League

2Manchester United107211761123
3Manchester City104151515013
5Tottenham Hotspur102261214-28
6Leicester City10127720-135

In a mini league made up of the teams who occupied the top six spots – showing their cumulative records against each other – Leicester had the fewest wins (1), most defeats (7) and fewest goals scored (7).

Leicester’s record against their closest competitors is validated when looking at the Expected Goals (xG) data from these games. Across the 10 clashes with fellow top-six sides, their opponents’ chance creation was twice as high as Brendan Rodgers’ team.

Leicester Ev or Rev/Leicester's Matches vs Top 6.xlsx

Date  Opponent  xG forxG againstxGD
July 19, 2020Tottenham Hotspur2.060.771.29
February 1, 2020Chelsea1.40.570.83
September 21, 2019Tottenham Hotspur1.291.130.16
December 21, 2019Manchester City1.083.45-2.37
February 22, 2020Manchester City0.852.52-1.67
July 26, 2020Manchester United0.801.32-0.52
August 18, 2019Chelsea0.781.06-0.28
September 14, 2019Manchester United0.601.18-0.58
December 26, 2019Liverpool0.123.26-3.14
October 5, 2019Liverpool0.103.55-3.45

With the departure of players like N’Golo Kanté, Riyad Mahrez and Harry Maguire to their fellow top six competitors in recent seasons, Leicester’s pursuit of catching up with these teams has been made even more difficult.

This transfer window has seen history repeat itself for the Foxes, with Ben Chillwell’s departure to Chelsea. Leicester will thus have to find the balance between preserving their best assets while also trying to close the gap on the teams that are interested in those players.

Stats Perform Verdict: REvolution RequireD

Review other pieces in this series:
Manchester United
Manchester City
Tottenham Hotspur
Leeds United
West Brom

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