Leicester City was so statistically lucky.

By | March 12, 2018

What were their chances again?

Leicester City winning the premier league in 2015/16 was absolutely crazy. They entered the season with 5000-1 odds to win it all (and rightfully so.) [1] They weren’t even in the premier league for the 2013/14 season. After promotion, they were a pretty average premier league team in the 2014/15 season. Nothing special or championship worthy. So how could this team beat out Arsenal? Or Tottenham? Or Manchester City? Or Manchester United? Or Chelsea? Or Liverpool? It doesn’t make sense. Leicester City isn’t that good.

Who would have thought, Leicester City, premier league champions. [2]

The truth of the matter is that they aren’t that good. A triumph like their one will probably never happen again. In a statistical sense, they were incredibly lucky. That doesn’t emphasize the point enough. The cosmos literally aligned for this team to come out on top.

Let’s look at the numbers.

I pulled the final premier league tables for the past 10 seasons. [3] The data included the total number of wins, losses, ties, goals for, goals against, goal differential, and points for each team. With two hundred data points, I didn’t know where to start or what I should even be looking for. I just started to look around at the numbers. I noticed that something wasn’t adding up.

Leicester City wasn’t like the other champions. They were bad. They finished with only 23 wins. In the 2016/17 season, Chelsea won it all with 30 wins. How does something like that happen? (Not to mention the fact that the second place team was closer in points to Chelsea than Leicester City’s second place team meaning Leicester won more easily with fewer wins.) Leicester City scored a measly 68 goals throughout their championship run. Manchester City scored 102 goals in their 2013/14 victory. Sure, offense doesn’t have to be a team’s focus to win it all. Certainly Leicester City would have a phenomenal defense then? Well, in the last 10 years, they had the worst goal differential out of all the championship winning teams. All of these numbers pointed me in one direction: maybe Leicester City was pretty lucky with how everything turned out?

Instead of looking at 200 team results, I narrowed the data down to the winners of the past 10 seasons. My intuition was right. A lot went in Leicester City’s favor to win it all.

Luckiest champion of them all.

The numbers they put up to win the premier league were significantly worse than the other champions in almost all areas. They scored 65 goals, the fewest in the last 10 years. They had the smallest goal differential at 32 goals. They had the fewest wins at 23. And lastly, they had the second fewest points with only 81.

There’s no other way to put it, they were lucky. The big six didn’t show up that year. The second place team that year had the lowest point total of any second place team in the last 10 years. The same goes for the 3rd place team and the 4th place team. Leicester tied twelve times (the most in the last ten years) to help them sneak by with points most weeks. Their goal differential was so tight, they’d either win games by a goal, or lose by a lot. (It’s just hard to expect to win and tie as much as they did with such a tight margin on a week to week basis like that. There should be more losses.)

Literally everything went right for them. They won or tied without scoring much and other teams had a down year. Even if they could repeat this miracle season with all the ties and so few goals, the second places teams would have beaten them 6 of the last 10 years. So please, admire Leicester City for what they did, because I don’t think we’ll see something like it again.


Written by Michael Olson



[1] Carr, Paul. “How Leicester City’s 5,000-1 odds compare to other long shots.” ESPN. May 02, 2016. Accessed March 12, 2018. http://www.espn.com/chalk/story/_/id/15447878/putting-leicester-city-5000-1-odds-perspective-other-long-shots-espn-chalk.

[2] Woodentop, Peter . LCFC lift the Premier League Trophy. May 7, 2016.

[3] “Tables.” Premier League Table, Form Guide & Season Archives. Accessed March 12, 2018. https://www.premierleague.com/tables?co=1&se=16&ha=-1.

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