Leicester City enter 2016 in second position in the Premier League, level on points with leaders Arsenal. The Foxes are the 10th “surprise” team of the 20 club era to reach the halfway point of the season in the top four of England’s elite competition, but none of the previous nine managed to sustain their performance and finish the season in at least fourth position.
With Leicester performing so well and currently eight points ahead of the fifth spot which would deny them a place in the 2016/2017 Champions League, they are looking good to sustain their performance and claim a place in the top four. The Euro Club Index is typical in predicting them to do just this, projecting Leicester to take 26 points from their last 19 matches, a drop of one third on their first half of the season haul but still enough for fourth position.
A drop in points also looks inevitable if examining the second half of the season for clubs like Leicester City who previously ended the first 19 matches in the top four. In every single previous case, these surprise clubs in the first half of the season failed to sustain their success in terms of points or their final position. If the Foxes were to complete the 2015/2016 season in the top four, they would be the first genuine surprise team to do since Nottingham Forest finished third in 1994/1995 having been promoted at the end of the previous season.
Look at the list of names above. Did you know that Leicester City have also been here before? I didn’t but 15 years ago, the Foxes were third at the halfway point with only four points fewer than their current total of 39. Subsequently though they managed 13 points from the next 19 and collapsed to 13th spot.
Generally, the drop-off is not as spectacular as that although the three other surprise teams to be second at this stage all managed only 19 points from the second half of the season. In recent years though, Aston Villa (twice) and Southampton last season have only experienced relatively small drop-offs in points in the second half to end the season in the top seven. In each case they managed 17-23% fewer points in the last 19 matches compared to the first. A similarly small reduction for Leicester City would mean that they would end the season on 71-73 points which easily looks enough for a top-4 spot.
Claudio Ranieri and his Leicester men should expect a drop-off in points in the second half of the season judging from the historical performance of similar surprise clubs or current forecasts. Whether City manage to complete a remarkable season by qualifying for the Champions League will depend on just how big that drop-off is.