By history’s standards, if Leicester City can survive it will be Premier League’s greatest escape
The Premier League has been blessed with plenty of dramatic relegation escapes, from West Ham United’s recovery in 2007 – aided by the controversial recruitment of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano – to Harry Redknapp arriving in mid-season to save Portsmouth in 2006.
Even last season had Sunderland’s late run of four wins in April and May to move them clear of the drop.
But this season could see – by one measure at least – the greatest escape of them all.
In the 19 previous seasons in which 20 clubs have competed in the Premier League, reaching 25 points after 29 matches tends to be a reliable indicator of survival.
Of the 32 teams that have failed to reach that target, just five have survived – including those aforementioned West Ham and Portsmouth sides.
At that crucial stage this season, just over a month ago, Leicester City were floundering on a meagre 19 points: only five teams have ever entered their 30th Premier League match with fewer.
No club has ever stayed up with fewer than 20 points from 29 matches which means that, if they stay outside the bottom three, Leicester will have pulled off the most impressive end-of-season turnaround in Premier League history.
Despite their recent excellent form, that remains a hard “if”.
It is Redknapp’s West Ham side whose record they would be surpassing. With 20 points and a goal difference of minus-29, the club recorded a stunning seven wins from their remaining nine fixtures to finish 15th with 41 points.
In a division where eight clubs are yet to reach the oft-quoted 40-point survival mark, it is unlikely that Nigel Pearson’s players will need to match that achievement to retain their top-flight status, but the fact remains that they are not out of danger yet.
Of the five clubs that did survive with fewer than 25 points after 29 games, only West Bromwich Albion in 2004/05 ended the season on less than 36 points: a total that Leicester remain short of.
The good news is that three of their final four matches are against fellow strugglers – Newcastle United, Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers – so their fate is well and truly in their hands.
By comparison Sunderland and QPR – both now beneath Leicester in the bottom three – each have two fixtures against top-five sides still to come. The possibility of a record-breaking escape is at least in the hands of Nigel Pearson’s resurgent team.
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