A Half-Term Report

When tasked with writing a season preview for the Guardian each Championship blogger was asked what the fans wanted – and what they’d actually get.

Promotion was the aim, I wrote, but that we’d see “Matches to die for, followed by maddening inconsistency.”

In many ways the first half of the season has been positive. Leicester are six points better off at this stage of the season than last, helped in part by a winning run of five games not bettered by a City squad since 1993.

Wes Morgan has established himself quickly as a leader of the Championship’s best defence. And David Nugent is over halfway towards becoming the first Leicester player to score 20 league goals in a season at this level since Gary Lineker.

Better still, for a brief period, Leicester occupied the Championship’s top spot. It was their highest league position since 2003 and City’s best start for 10 years.

But since the Foxes hit those highs the trajectory of Leicester’s season has become worrying.

City have taken just 12 points from a possible 33 – relegation form. In the first half of the campaign the Foxes have lost eight times, each defeat by a single goal. Perhaps more worryingly, Leicester’s last three defeats have all been 1-0.

Yes there have been matches to die for, that 6-0 win over Ipswich (the club’s biggest win for 30 years) and the 4-1 victory over Derby. But what followed has been…well…maddening inconsistency.

Through 2012 Leicester have claimed enough points to justify talk of promotion. But already the Foxes are asking a lot of themselves to make the top two and avoid the lottery of the playoffs.

With 37 points on the board, the Foxes are likely to need a return of two points per game from here until the end of the season to gain a realistic shot at automatic promotion.

It’s not impossible, but to win the points required Leicester will have to travel to seven of the Championship’s top half, whilst hosting just four of those sides at the King Power Stadium.

Leicester’s return of three wins from 11 away matches so far makes that an intimidating prospect.

Finding goals on the road has been Leicester’s biggest problem. At home theirs is the second best attack in the Championship, away it’s the twentieth best (or perhaps more accurately, fifth worst).

Where Leicester haven’t struggled is at the back. City’s defence has conceded fewer goals than any other Championship side.

Those stats have made recent talk of the need for a defensive midfielder all the more perplexing. The best defence in the Championship doesn’t need more protection – it needs a little help from the men supposed to do the business at the other end.

Leicester might have scored 18 goals in their last 11 outings, but 10 of those strikes came in just two games. The Foxes have failed to score in four of their last nine fixtures and three of their last five.

And that’s not due to a lack of creativity, Leicester have been outshot by their opponents just twice this season. Once at Watford, and once at Millwall.

City’s last outing against Cardiff underlined the problem perfectly. The Foxes restricted the league leaders to just four attempts on goal, whilst at the other end failed to put away any of the 18 efforts they created themselves.

It seems Nigel Pearson needs to get his team to rediscover its goalscoring touch, or invest in players who will show the current bunch how it’s done. Without a quick turnaround in form the automatic promotion places will be little more than mathematically possible.

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