Leicester City Looks Good for the Champions League: How Many Points Will It Take For 4th Place?

After the mid-week fixtures, I tweeted the following:

These optimistic forecasts rely on a set of probabilities that, despite doing fairly well, have still managed to underrate Leicester City’s quality so far this season. With their top 4 result seeming fairly secure, I had originally planned on writing a piece talking about this, but Mike Goodman beat me to it this morning. It’s a typically strong effort from him that you all should read, going through the points per game Leicester City would need to secure a Champions League spot given historical norms for 4th place. However, as we’ve seen, this season doesn’t fit any sort of historical patterns. So how does Leicester City need to do for the rest of the season if they want to finish in 4th place (or higher)?

To answer this, I took MOTSON’s 10,000 simulated seasons and removed Leicester City from each of the final tables. Then I sorted the table by number of points, and this gave me what the final table would look like without Leicester City. From this, I’m able to see what the “4th place” team (if Leicester City never existed) looks like, and determined that to earn a spot in the Champions League, Leicester City would need to earn this amount of points +1.  I show these point totals in the figure below.

Jan 15 Blog 1

The minimum number of points needed this season is likely going to be considerably lower than normal: probably somewhere around 59-62 points. It’s a weird year, with the expected points for the title being around 80, so it’s somewhat unsurprising that the number for 4th place is quite a bit lower than normal.

To replicate Mike’s analysis, and to determine the number of points per game “The Fighting Lesters”TM would need, I subtracted Leicester City’s current point total (43) from the number in the previous table. This tells me how many points Leicester City needs to come in 4th, and if I divide it by the number of remaining games (17), I get the points per game (PPG). Below is the CDF (cumulative distribution function) of how likely Leicester City is to qualify for the Champions League given a certain number of PPG.

Jan 15 Blog 2

Even if they only manage 1 PPG (approximately the number usually associated with barely avoiding relegation), they’re still about 50% to qualify for the Champions League. If they maintain anywhere near the ~2.1 PPG they’ve averaged so far (even slipping as low as 1.5), they’re basically guaranteed to finish in 4th place or better.

For my final analysis, I look at the previous analyses but do it for 3rd place (the first spot that directly qualifies into the UCL without a qualifier). I follow the same procedure as I did in the 4th place analysis, but instead I look at what it would take to finish 3rd instead of 4th. Here are the expected points needed for 3rd.

Jan 15 Blog 3

They’ll have to do better here, expected to need around 65 points to finish 3rd, which means 22 points out of their last 17 games.  This is still below their current pace, but allows for some regression in form. Finally, I present the CDF for 3rd place.

Jan 15 Blog 4

All Leicester needs to have a 50% chance of finishing third is 1.3 PPG, which is reasonable, and if they can keep up a 1.6 PPG pace they’ll be a virtual lock for 3rd and guaranteed qualification for the Champions League.

Even if Leicester City slips in the second half of the season, a simple fact remains: in such a low points season, they quite frankly don’t even have to be that good over the last 17 games to qualify for the Champions League.  I don’t want to jinx it, but if I’m a Leicester City fan I start getting ready to book my travel on Wednesday nights in the fall.

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