We may be only 11 matches into the Premier League season, but many people are already of the opinion that the current top four are there to stay.
With runaway leaders Liverpool and champions Manchester City joined by Leicester City and Chelsea, there is little doubt those four clubs have been the most consistent so far in 2019-20.
A six-point gap has opened up between fourth-placed Chelsea and Arsenal in fifth. While Unai Emery’s side possess plenty of talent, their erratic form and questionable mentality suggest they might now struggle to play catch-up.
The four clubs trailing the Gunners are Sheffield United, Bournemouth, Brighton and Hove Albion and Crystal Palace, surely none of whom can realistically be considered contenders for the top four.
At this point, it looks like only significant slip-ups from Leicester and Chelsea themselves could see them miss out on a Champions League spot, though there are reasons for trepidation despite the overriding positivity.
LEICESTER STRIKING IT LUCKY?
Brendan Rodgers’ vibrant brand of football has attracted praise this season, with Leicester hitting three or more goals on three occasions in the league, most notably in 5-0 and 9-0 demolitions of Newcastle United and Southampton respectively.
But the sustainability of their form is something to be considered.
While Leicester have scored 27 times in 2019-20, their expected goals (xG) figure is significantly lower at 14.78.
That massive discrepancy suggests the Foxes are scoring almost twice as often as they would be expected to considering the quality of their chances.
As such, it is not hugely surprising to learn Leicester’s shot conversion rate of 17.88 per cent is the best in the division, with City’s 14.17 per cent the second highest.
By comparison, Chelsea have scored 25 and their xG is 20.2, indicating their form in front of goal might be more sustainable given the number of clear opportunities they are creating.
So much has been made of Frank Lampard’s faith in youth that one would think he was applying the strategy of a visionary, but, in reality, he has had little choice given their transfer embargo.
Of course, it has helped that the young players have generally done well, with Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori playing important roles. Christian Pulisic has, too, on occasion, though some feel he cannot be judged in the same manner given his huge transfer fee.
The need to play inexperienced youngsters could go some way to explaining Chelsea’s struggles in the bigger games this term.
In five matches across all competitions against Manchester United, Liverpool and Leicester, Chelsea have failed to win.
Leicester’s record is little better, having only once triumphed in four matches against United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham. That victory came in controversial circumstances against troubled Spurs.
The area Chelsea need to improve on most is undoubtedly at the back, even if their xG against (13.24) suggests they have been unlucky. They have conceded 17 goals, the most of all the traditional ‘top six’ teams.
They could certainly learn from Leicester, whose record of just eight goals conceded is the joint-best in the league alongside Sheffield United. The Foxes’ xG against (11.13) is lower than all but Liverpool (10.09) and Man United (10.99).
Both Leicester and Chelsea have generally controlled possession in their respective matches this term. Lampard’s side average 58.36 per cent of the ball, while Leicester’s record is slightly better at 58.39 per cent. Only City (65.63 per cent) and Liverpool (62.71 per cent) have had the ball for a greater portion of matches.
In terms of shot frequency, City (240) are way out in front, but Chelsea (181) can claim to be almost as prolific as Liverpool (187) when it comes to trying their luck. And their 13.81 per cent conversion rate is only bettered by the champions and Leicester.
On the whole, statistically, Chelsea appear more capable of sustaining their current form, given their xG and xG against figures, but Leicester are no strangers to defying the odds and will surely back themselves to build on a strong start.