The Championship is often described as ‘the toughest league in the country’ and is known as the hardest league to escape from. The race for promotion regularly goes down to the final day of the season, with three or four teams still in the hunt. However, this season, two teams have pulled away from the chasing pack and barring any unforeseen disasters will be joining the elite in the Premier League next season. This article will look at what has made Leicester and Burnley so successful this season.
Leicester’s success very much starts with having a solid defence. Compared to their opponents, Leicester are forced to make far less defensive actions per game – 164 to 204 – and when they do have to defend, they have a 38% success rate compared to 33% for their opponents.
Possibly the most telling defensive statistic is the number of times in a game the defence is put into a high risk situation. Leicester’s defence only enter high-risk situations on average 8.9 times a game, compared to their opponents whose defence must cope with 16.8 high risk situations. Similarly, Burnley’s defence only concedes 8.3 high risk situations per game. Unsurprisingly, when compared to the league average, both teams fair very well. They force their opponents into high-risk situations far more than the average whilst they themselves are forced into these situations far less. This suggests that both teams are very good at snuffing out any chance of danger by defending from the front and not allowing the opposition into the most dangerous areas of the pitch.
This graphic below shows where the teams face shots from:
The high number of long shots – which is any shot more than 20m from goal – illustrates the strength of both teams defence. They do not allow the ball into the danger zone and force teams to try their luck from distance. This lowers the number of high risk situations the defence has to face and consequently the number of goals that they concede. Their goals conceded tally backs this up with Burnley having conceded just 33 – the joint lowest in the league and Leicester only two more with 35.
We’ve seen that Leicester and Burnley are defensively very strong, but how have they scored the goals that have fired them to almost certain promotion? As we would expect, both teams are right near the top of the goal scoring charts. Leicester are top with 72 goals and Burnley not far behind in 3rd with 64 goals. Burnley have been heavily reliant on their front two of Sam Vokes and Danny Ings who have scored 62.5% of their goals this season. Leicester have tended to share the goals around a bit more with the front two of David Nugent and Jamie Vardy scoring 44% of their goals.
When we look at the average positions of the players on both teams, we can see some interesting differences in their style of play. Leicester like to use the space out wide far more than Burnley. Leicester’s wingers are where we would expect to find them – halfway between the touchline and the centre circle (with Lloyd Dyer even wider than that); whilst Burnley’s wide men almost play as extra central midfielders, with both players average positions being in the centre of the pitch. This suggests that Burnley like to dominate teams in the centre of the pitch using the class of Dean Marney and Michael Kightly, whereas Leicester prefer to use the pace of Lloyd Dyer and Anthony Knockaert to damage their opponents.
An interesting aside to note, despite Michael Kightly averaging such a central role, he averages by far the most crosses out of all the wingers on show. He also creates the most chances and averages the most dribbles amongst the wingers. He has undoubtedly been one of the best players in the championship this season.
In theory, both these teams are well equipped to take on the Premier League next season. They have a strong defense, pace in midfield and some of the top-scoring strikers in the league. With some investment and sensible transfers, both teams certainly have a fighting chance of making their stay in Premiership a long one.
Picture courtesty of: