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Leicester Have Been Fun... Now Watch Them Slide Down the Table

17/11/2015 18:01 GMT | Updated 17/11/2016 10:12 GMT

There's a 'surprise package' every season, isn't there? This time last season, Southampton were sitting in second and Newcastle were fifth. This time it's Leicester City and it's been an absolute blast. Goals flying in left, right and centre, Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy suddenly turning into absolute world-beaters... it's been a wild ride.

Sadly, it's about to come to an end. Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there you have it.

The positives first, though. The Foxes have been an absolute joy to watch this season, with Mahrez and Marc Albrighton flying forward in support of the English top flight's most in-form striker and the rest of the team providing able support to put the team in third place after a third of the season, just one point off the lead. One point!

They're just one goal behind the league leaders and top goalscorers Manchester City and they've done it in style. Manager Claudio Ranieri was refusing to think of anything but avoiding relegation for the first half of the current run, but even he's allowing himself to dream a little bigger now.

European qualification should be the number one aim from here on out, but it's going to be really tough. As in, bet against it if you can get decent odds. If that sounds overly pessimistic, look at last season's 'surprise packages'.

Southampton were actually in a better position than Leicester, with the same number of points after one less game, with a better goal difference and finished just about in the Europa League playoffs in 7th place. Newcastle, sat in fifth and level on points with Manchester United in fourth, barely avoided relegation after a run of form which was so bad that they genuinely looked a little bit cursed.

But this isn't just a 'well, other teams have screwed up good starts before' justification, because that would be reductive and frankly, insulting to Leicester, Ranieri and the players. This is just a simple, common sense look at what they've done and what they've got coming up.

For starters, take a look at how many of last season's top four they've played so far this season. Or...just read this, where you're going to find out anyway for far less effort. It's one. They've played one game against a side who was in last season's top four, and it saw them get absolutely belted 5-2 at home to Arsenal.

In fact, their record against teams who were in the top half last season makes less than brilliant reading. From five games, they've won one (against Crystal Palace), drawn three and lost the one against Arsenal. While it might be harsh to call them flat-track bullies, it's hard to deny that their success has been built almost entirely on beating relatively weak teams.

Just two of their 12 games so far this season have been against last season's top six, a shade under 17%. Their remaining games? Almost 40% against that elite group, where they've already struggled this season.

While their attacking prowess is hard to deny, their defensive record has shown just how much work Claudio Ranieri needs to do to keep this run going. Just one clean sheet all season, and more goals conceded than anybody in the league above Norwich, in 15th place.

This isn't meant to attack Leicester - just the opposite. This is meant to provide some context for that sadly inevitable slide down the table over the next couple of months, and stop any talk that Ranieri or the players are in any way to blame when it does happen. A top half finish would still be a massive achievement for this side after they barely scraped away from relegation last season, and it's easy to forget that after their start this term.

When Jamie Vardy slows down a bit, and it's inevitable that he will, whatever the quality of opposition, they'll have to look elsewhere for goals and dig a little deeper. Everything's come together perfectly so far, but all good things must end, and this Leicester team will return to the mid-table by April.

Newcastle are next up this weekend, so there's still time for one last hurrah before the month ends with the arrival of Manchester United and the league's best defence. If you can only watch one game this Saturday, strongly consider that one.

Enjoy them while you can. Thanks for the ride Leicester, it's been a blast.

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