Football

EFL Championship Fight: Leicester City, Leeds United, Ipswich Town In Three-Horse Race

All of these sides have built their fine campaigns on some brilliant attacking play, scoring 224 goals between them. Using Opta data, we can look at just how these attacks stack up

Leeds United are aiming for automatic promotion
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The Championship returns from the international break with, much like the Premier League, a three-horse tussle at the top. (More Football News)

Leicester City, having led the standings for the majority of the campaign, now find themselves in second place behind Leeds United, albeit with a game in hand on the in-form Whites.

The Foxes are grappling with off-pitch issues, and a return to form when they face Bristol City on Friday would go far to restoring some momentum.

Leeds, on the other hand, have won 12 of their last 13 Championship fixtures, dropping points just once in that run.

As for third-placed Ipswich Town, they are hot on the heels of their automatic-promotion rivals.

All of these sides have built their fine campaigns on some brilliant attacking play, scoring 224 goals between them. Using Opta data, we can look at just how these attacks stack up.

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Ipswich Town

Of these three teams, Ipswich have scored the most goals, with Kieran McKenna's side netting 80 across their 38 matches - an average of 2.1 per game. That makes the Tractor Boys the leading scorers in the league, while they are also the leading team for non-penalty goals (78).

Ipswich have, however, greatly outperformed their expected goals (xG) of 64.2, while also greatly exceeding their non-penalty xG (61.8). When it comes to those metrics, they rank fourth and second in the second tier respectively. Their expected goals on target (xGOT) figure of 69.5 shows their finishing has been above the standard of what would be anticipated from the quality of chances, and they rank third in the league in this aspect.

Unsurprisingly, Ipswich lead the way for shots (590), while they rank second for shots on target (214). They are fourth in the Championship for shot conversion rate (13.5 per cent), big chances (94) and big chances scored (42). Their big-chance conversion rate, of 44.68, stands as the sixth best in the competition.

But how do Ipswich create their chances? Well, they aren't afraid to send crosses into the area, with their 114 successful open-play crosses ranking second. However, it's Ipswich's high press that really stands out.

They have forced 309 high turnovers (winning the ball back within 40 yards of the opponent's goal), at an average of 8.1 per match. They lead the league for shot-ending high turnovers, with 65, albeit they are tied for fifth when it comes to scoring goals from such scenarios (seven). McKenna's team are certainly able to go direct, too, given they rank down at 10th for sequences of 10+ passes. 

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Don't bet against Ipswich if they go behind, meanwhile. They have gained 28 points from a losing position, topping the Championship.

And when they get the lead, Ipswich typically hold onto it, with only two teams dropping fewer points from a winning position.

Leicester City

Ranking behind Ipswich for goals scored are Leicester, with 74 to their name. The Foxes are also second in the Championship for xG (68) and for xGOT (73.5).

It is worth noting that Leicester have been more reliant on penalties, having scored 12 goals from the spot. 

Leicester have mustered the fifth-highest tally of shots (525), while their 189 shots on target ranks fourth in the division.

But in which metrics do Leicester top the Championship? Enzo Maresca's team lead the way for shot conversion (14.1 per cent), big chances (111) and big chances scored (50).

Leicester are hardly a pressing machine off the ball, having averaged just 7.4 high turnovers per game, but what the Foxes lack in quantity they make up for in quality – they have scored a joint league-leading eight goals from those situations.

Maresca's men do not particularly look to cross at a high volume, though when they do put deliveries in, they are often on point. Leicester are 19th out of 24 teams for total open-play crosses, yet they rank third for successful open-play deliveries.

If teams go ahead against Leicester, however, then the Foxes are not the best at coming from behind, having gained only 10 points from such positions this term.

Leeds United

So, what about Leeds, the league leaders heading into the Easter weekend?

Leeds have accumulated more xG than any other Championship team, at 68.4, while 62.9 of that total has come from non-penalty shots. However, they rank down in fourth for both goals (70) and non-penalty goals (65). Interestingly, the Whites' xGOT is 69.2, so they have been finishing slightly above what would be expected from chances they have crafted.

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Daniel Farke's team are the Championship leaders for high turnovers, with 319, while their average of 11 passes allowed per defensive action (PPDA), which measures how often a team presses their opponent, is the second highest in the competition.

Leeds have been exceptionally effective from this high press, too. They have had the third-highest shots (61) and, along with Leicester, lead the Championship for goal-ending high turnovers, with eight.

The Whites may only have got 201 of their 586 shots on target, with an 11.9 per cent shot conversion rate, but they are excellent at creating quality chances, ranking second for big chances (102), which are defined by Opta as an opportunity from which a player would be reasonably expected to score.

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Should Leeds take a lead, then they are excellent at holding onto it. They have dropped the fewest points (four) of any Championship team from winning positions, while they rank second for points gained from losing positions (21).

Unlike Leicester or Ipswich, there is no focus at all on crossing, or quality crossing, from Leeds. Farke's side actually rank 23rd for both open-play crosses and successful open-play deliveries. Perhaps forcing them wide will be the only way their opponents can keep them out in the run-in?

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