Leicesters Relegation Battle Is A Harsh Maths Lesson For All Mid-Table Clubs

Let’s start our today’s topic “Leicesters Relegation Battle Is A Harsh Maths Lesson For All Mid-Table Clubs”. All life is a number, according to Valeriy Lobanovskyi. While it may have made sense for the trailblazing Dynamo Kyiv boss with his high school mathematics medal, it is a little perplexing for most sports fans.

We desire to believe in legends and glories, creativity and brilliance, destiny and curses. Even if it’s probably fairly significant, it seems a little dry to think of football as a series of enormous, interconnected spreadsheets.

Additionally, we need prompt explanations in our daily lives. We want to know whether this game was won or lost because a certain forward or goalkeeper was outstanding, because the referee made a mistake, because a certain left-back was hurt, or because a certain winger failed to cover, or because a certain center-back is unable to play in a two, or because the midfield was unable to close down the passing lanes.

Leicesters Relegation Battle 1

We don’t want to think that all of this is essentially random variation under predetermined financial constraints, which is a big reason why the use of analytics in football has been resisted. Nobody purchases a season pass to watch 22 players kick a ball while representing two balance sheets.

This makes it unpleasant to think Leicester’s struggle to avoid relegation is just a regression to the mean. And maybe it’s not that, or it’s not just that. The 2016 Premier League champions’ collapse has several short-term causes. However, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise when there is an odd feast or famine season.

Some criticized Brendan Rodgers for being unable to maintain the challenge when Leicester twice neglected out on Champions League qualification on the last day of the season.

Still, most appeared to accept that fifth place was a very good finish given the team’s resources and that, while fatigue may have ultimately exposed the squad’s limitations, it didn’t matter when in the season points were accumulated.

What if the balancing process is wider than a certain season? What if it persists for a significantly longer amount of time? After all, a fellow at All Souls College in Oxford famously calculated that a season would need to be 35 years long to be completely “fair”—that is, for the ups and downs of form to be balanced out so it didn’t matter when one side played another.

On average, Leicester scored 56 points per season between achieving promotion in 2013–14 and the end of the previous campaign. That was sufficient to move them up to ninth place last year. Which seems reasonable, given that they did, finish seventh the previous season.

Newcastle and Aston Villa have improved due to recent spending and wise managerial decisions, while Brighton has temporarily outperformed their resources thanks to exceptional recruitment. However, Leicester was ranked as the sixth wealthiest Premier League team by revenue in Deloitte’s 2023 report on the financial aspects of the sport.

Leicester has come within 12 or four games of that 56-point threshold in seven of those eight Premier League seasons. The other saw them gain 81 and take the league title. The combination of wise additions, half a dozen players with seasons to remember, and other competitors with abnormally bad seasons were viewed as the perfect storm.

Leicester would have failed that 56-point average by the same 25-point margin they overperformed when winning the title in 2015-16 if they picked up one point from their final three games of the season, which is plausible given that they play West Ham and Newcastle after playing Liverpool on Monday.

It’s not because Leicester had some deficit that football’s cosmological accountants have now called in; that would, of course, merely be a coincidence. However, it demonstrates that clubs have a level and that their point totals will fluctuate within specific bounds around that level.

It is probably not entirely accurate to say that Leicester’s current campaign has been as bad as their title-winning campaign was good. Still, just as that success resulted from many things going right at once, this season has resulted from many things going wrong at once, which has a multiplicative effect as confidence waxes and wanes.

The epidemic, which had a terrible financial impact on the Srivaddhanaprabha family, who owns Leicester because their primary industry is duty-free stores in airports, is likely what started the collapse.

In any case, there had been worries that wages were increasing faster than income, pushing the wage-to-turnover ratio to 85% for 2020–21, even though Uefa’s cost management rules require that it drop to 80% by 2024–25 and then to 70% the following season. This has forced people to make sacrifices.

However, money has been spent; it’s just that it could have been spent better. Nearly £60 million was spent on Patson Daka, Boubakary Soumaré, Jannik Vestergaard, and the unrestricted Ryan Bertrand in the summer of 2021. None have yet found a home.

Bertrand has only started four games since, while Jonny Evans last started a league game in October. Bertrand is a victim of the club’s full-back injury hoodoo, which has also caused Timothy Castagne, James Justin, and Ricardo Pereira to miss significant amounts of the season. Given that disruption, Leicester will go 21 games without a clean sheet after conceding against Liverpool, and it is not shocking.

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