How Important Is August?

Pre-season is well under way and at least Leicester seem to be finding the net easily enough. 20 goals in five games, no-matter the opposition, is a pretty impressive tally. It will no doubt be endowing the players with a sense of confidence so desperately needed at the Walkers Stadium.

As with so many aspects of life, confidence in football is key. Over the last few decades Leicester City’s seasons seem to have been shaped by early season momentum. Good early form leads to a strong campaign whilst bad opening results leave the club at best in mid-table.

The numbers here are pretty overwhelming. In the last four seasons, City have taken the following percentages of available points in August;

Season Points won in August Total Points Won By Champions
2004/05 28% 68%
2005/06 33% 77%
2006/07 47% 64%
2007/08 44% 59%

Compare those percentages to seasons in which the Foxes achieved league success;

Season Points won in August Total Points Won By Champions
1993/94 67% 65%
1995/96 58% 60%
2002/03 72% 71%

In each of the seasons where City took over half the available points in August, they achieved promotion. When they’ve failed to take over 50%, mid-table mediocrity or worse awaited them. We can also see from those figures the percentage of points won by the league champions in each season. When City start in good form, they stay in good form.

Dig deeper into the statistics and it appears this need for early impetus is not shared by other clubs. In fact, quite the opposite is true. In League One it has been the early season no hopers who have gone on to reach the promised land of the Championship. In the last three seasons, not a single club promoted from League One took more than half the points available in August. Here are the numbers season by season;

Season 2005/06 Points won in August August League Position Final League Position
Southend Utd 44% 12th 1st
Colchester Utd 28% 22nd 2nd
Barnsley 39% 15th 5th (Pl)

Season 2006/07 Points won in August August League Position Final League Position
Scunthorpe Utd 20% 24th 1st
Bristol City 40% 14th 2nd
Blackpool 27% 19th 3rd (Pl)

Season 2007/08 Points won in August August League Position Final League Position
Swansea 44% 10th 1st
Nottingham Forest 22% 18th 2nd
Doncaster Rovers 11% 20th 3rd (Pl)

There are many possible reasons for these figures but the undeniable fact is clear: Leicester depend more on their early season form than many other clubs. Marathon though the season may be, City need to start like sprinters.

This even goes down to the opening day. Since the 2-0 victory over Watford in the first league game at the Walkers Stadium in 2002 the club hasn’t managed an opening day success. Again, this was a component of each of Leicester’s last three promotions.

There’s no doubt Nigel Pearson more than many other League One managers will be praying for early victories. It will settle the fans and the squad immensely, particularly as the former group is still unsure of the manager’s credentials. Pearson doesn’t need four wins from four in August but he does need at least seven points.

In short, August is important, very important.

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