Leicester's incredible run:
Started from the bottom, now they're here

Leicester were bottom of the Premier League on April 10 2015, but a year later had climbed to the top, winning 91 points along the way. No team beginning at the foot of the top flight has ever won that many points* over the subsequent year since English league football began

Leicester were bottom of the league in April 2015, but a year later stood on top, winning 91 points along the way. No team beginning at the foot of the top flight has ever won that many points* over the subsequent year since English league football began

*All points numbers are calculated using the modern three-points-for-a-win system
Source data for all graphics: James P. Curley (2015). engsoccerdata: English Soccer Data 1871-2015. R package version 0.1.4
Graphics by John Burn-Murdoch / @jburnmurdoch

The 2015-16 Premier League will likely be remembered as ‘the Leicester season’, after Claudio Ranieri’s side far exceeded expectation in breaking the stranglehold of English football’s financial giants to win the title.

Many statistics from the Foxes’ astonishing campaign will go down in the record books, including the extent to which they out-performed their meagre wage bill, the pace and directness of their attacks, and star striker Jamie Vardy’s goalscoring streak.

But the stat that will perhaps go unmatched the longest is this: Leicester’s run from the foot of the table in April 2015 to its summit one year later was the best such streak in not only the Premier League era, but the entire history of English league football: 117 seasons since 1888.

Leicester won 91 points over 41 league matches between April 10 2015 and April 10 2016, beginning with their escape from relegation under Nigel Pearson, and ending as they closed in on the title under Ranieri.

The previous best was Bobby Robson’s Ipswich side, which in October 1979 began a run from last place that ended a year later in first place after 90 points from 42 matches (applying the modern -3-points-for-a-win system to the 1979-80 season), but where Leicester maintained momentum to win the title, Ipswich subsequently slipped a place to finish second in 1981.

The only other team to win the top division in the season following a 365-day run from the bottom of the table was Sheffield Wednesday — at the time known as The Wednesday — who narrowly escaped from a fierce relegation battle in the final days of the 1927-28 season, stood in first place a year later, and like Leicester held on until the season's end.

So Leicester's acheivements have been remarkable whichever way you look at them, but what does the future hold?

Much has been made of bookmakers offering odds as short as just 25-1 that the Foxes will come crashing down to earth next season and be relegated to the second tier.

Having set records for their run up the league, just how disastrous a run would Leicester need to have in order to break the record for a champion tumbling down the league in their title-defence campaign?

That ignominious honour is currently held by either the Manchester City side of 1937-38 or the Ipswich team of 1962-63, depending how you judge it.

The worst seasons for defending top-flight champions

Manchester City won the First Division title in 1937, but after a promising start to the following season they fell steadily down the rankings. After a fierce tussle with fellow strugglers, City appeared to have escaped relegation with a handful of games remaining, but were sucked back in as the season drew to a close, and were sent down to the second tier in the final round of fixtures.

Ipswich were spared relegation in 1963 largely as a result of other teams having even worse campaigns — bottom club Leyton Orient finished with just six wins from 42 matches — but their points-per-game total of 1.12 is the record-lowest for a defending champion.

The feeble title defence isn't a thing of the past either: Chelsea's poor performance this season is among the worst. The Blues' 1.32 points-per-game is the 13th lowest since 1888, and the only time in the financially-stratified Premier League era that a champion has finished outside of the top seven (Leeds United finished 17th in the first ever Premier League season, but were technically defending champions of the old First Division).

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