A Tale of Two Walkers

As the Foxes continue to defy the odds and push on at the top of the Premier League, their success is only really comparable in the Premier League era to the achievements of Blackburn in 1995. TSZ have been looking at the profile and stats on the two sides to see how comparable they really are.

Formation

One of the most obvious is the fact they both employed a 4-4-2 formation. Stylistically, there are notable differences in how they play, but both kept faith with a style and formation throughout the season and it paid dividends. Blackburn with their superb wing play through Wilcox and Ripley providing the ammunition for the frontmen, while Leicester have gone with a fluid counter attacking style. At a time when very few teams play with two strikers, Leicester have stuck with it and it has paid off.

Continuity is Key

Over the 42 matches in the 1994-95 season, Blackburn and Dalglish used just 15 players making 5 starts or more. In the 25 league matches played so far, Leicester have used just 15 players also using 5 starts of more as the criteria. Ranieri has frequently named an unchanged side and with no cup distractions left, that could well continue.

Average Age

Taking the very same 15 players that have made at least 5 starts or more in the league, we decided to look at the average age of the squads. Interestingly, Leicester have an average age of 27.9, while Blackburn’s squad was notably younger at 26.2. Not overly apt for our comparison, but it does give some indication that the Leicester squad is arguably peaking in terms of age.

Cup Failures

One of the factors considered to be favourable to Leicester’s title challenge this season is the fact that they have been knocked out of both cup competitions while Man City have the FA Cup, League Cup and Champions League to contend with, Arsenal have the FA Cup and Champions League, while Tottenham have the FA Cup and the Europa League. They were knocked out in the Third Round of the FA Cup, and Fourth Round of the League Cup. When Blackburn won the title in 1995, identically they were knocked out in the same rounds, while Manchester United had cup matches to contend with as they reached the final of the FA Cup.

Recently Promoted

Blackburn came up in 1992 and won it in 95. Leicester reached the Premier League in 2014 and this represents their second full season in the division. There is absolutely no statistical foundation to this, but do the omens suggest they will win it next season and not this?! In Blackburn’s second full season, they came second behind Manchester United before winning it the following season.

Another random fact, not quite as tenuous as our Walkers link, but both teams had play-off failures twice in the previous four seasons before eventually being promoted.

League Position on Feb 11th

How do the two teams compare at this stage of the season? Blackburn were second behind Man Utd by one point with one game in hand. Leicester currently sit 5 points ahead of Tottenham at the top of the table. From this stage however, Blackburn went unbeaten in 10 games, winning 7 of those which was key. They lost three of their last 5 but still won the title. One would expect a blip to test Leicester’s metal at some point between now and the end of the season, but as Blackburn showed, they can still win the title despite that.

Kit Colours

Clearly any team in with blue in their home kit and black in their away kit is destined for title success!

Managerial Experience

You wouldn’t immediately think of many obvious comparisons but there are a couple. Both Kenny Dalglish and Claudio Ranieri both had previous experience in the Premier League with other clubs before the took charge of the two teams. Additionally, both of them were born in 1951. Clearly a statistically valid and important year for the birth of successful managers in the Premier League! Dalglish won Manager of the Year that season….hard to imagine Ranieri will not do the same even at this stage of the season.

Owners

We’ll admit to yet further scraping of barrel when we try to compare the owners Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha/Kingpower and Jack Walker! However, interesting to note that both took full control of the clubs at a similar timeframe prior to title success. Walker bought the club in Jan 1991 while Kingpower took Leicester over in August 2010.

Champions League Debuts

Assuming Leicester manage to finish in the top four, that would represent the first time they have reached the Champions League (or the previous European Champions Club Cup). Despite previously winning the title, that was prior to the ECCC existing so 1996 was the first time Blackburn participated in UEFA’s premier club competition.

Record Signings

Both clubs had recently made their all-time record transfers. Blackburn’s biggest signing came in the form of Chris Sutton from Norwich the previous summer. Leicester also made their biggest ever signing last year in Andrej Kramaric. Fair to say that is where the similarity ends at least in terms of successful deals!

Goalscoring Duos

Leicester’s star duo of Vardy and Mahrez have stolen the headlines with their goalscoring exploits. Vardy has scored 18 and Mahrez is second with 14 in the team; combined the duo have scored 68% of Leicester’s goals this season. Rewind to 1994-95, Blackburn had their own deadly SAS duo in Sutton and Shearer. The pair combined for 49 of Blackburn’s 80 goals, representing 61% of their total goals.

Final Game Decider

On the off-chance that the title goes down to the wire this season, there’s truly random quirk in the schedule. When Blackburn won the title on the final day of the 1994-95 season, they played Liverpool away on the final day of the season – Kenny Dalglish’s former team. Who do Leicester play on the last day of this season? Claudio Ranieri’s former team Chelsea at Stamford Bridge!