Football: It's the league no one wants to win

No luck in front of goal for Man City's Sergio Aguero (green jersey) as the Argentinian wastes a good chance to open accounts against Leicester City.
No luck in front of goal for Man City's Sergio Aguero (green jersey) as the Argentinian wastes a good chance to open accounts against Leicester City.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

No team have stood out in this EPL season yet, according to Foxes boss Ranieri

LONDON • Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri has underscored the unpredictable nature of this English Premier League (EPL) season, stating that it seemed as if "nobody wants to win the league".

His side could have displaced leaders Arsenal with a win over Manchester City on Tuesday. Yet when the two highest-scoring clubs in the top flight met at the King Power Stadium, neither could conjure up their 38th goal of the season.

The goalless draw kept the Foxes, bottom of the table this time last year, behind Arsenal on goal difference.

The surge of smaller teams as well as sides eyeing a maiden league triumph have opened up the league as it reaches its halfway mark.

  • IS THIS ONEOF THE WORST PREMIER LEAGUE SEASONS?

  • 4
    Leaders Arsenal have already lost four times. Reigning champions Chelsea lost just thrice last season.

  • 2.05
    Arsenal and Leicester City have averaged 2.05 points per game this term. Keeping this pace will see them finish with 78 points after 38 games, making them the weakest champions since 1998.

  • 152
    The number of points that Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea have collectively. That is the same haul as Leicester, Crystal Palace, Watford, WestHamand Southampton.

  • 5
    The latter quintet have all been in the second tier at some point in the last four years.

Tottenham Hotspur, in with a chance of winning their first EPL title, are fourth while Crystal Palace are fifth. Promoted side Watford have also put their hat in the top-half mix. They are eighth, after stitching up four wins on the trot.

"This league is very crazy. I think the big teams have to stay at a high level, but sometimes it feels like nobody wants to win the league - it's very strange this league," Ranieri told BT Sport.

"It's not easy for us but we want to fight with everybody. It's a miracle what we are doing."

Despite dropping points at home and failing to score for only the second time this season, the Italian was happy with his team's performance against City, particularly after Saturday's 0-1 defeat by Liverpool.

"I'm very pleased but I'm also very pleased with a clean sheet against these great champions (City)," he said.

"I think we showed a very good performance and after the Liverpool defeat, we've played so well."

Jamie Vardy, the league's joint leading scorer with 15 goals alongside Romelu Lukaku of Everton, wasted Leicester's best chance late in the first half.

City went close through Raheem Sterling and Nicolas Otamendi. They also had a decent claim for a penalty turned down in the second half, when striker Sergio Aguero felt that Gokhan Inler tripped him in the area.

City manager Manuel Pellegrini was buoyed by the clean sheet but, with Aguero needing "two or three more games" to return to top fitness after injury, expressed frustration that his side lacked a cutting edge.

"We came for three points, had more possession (61 per cent), more attempts (21 to 11), did more things to win the game," said the Chilean.

"If you can't win, it's important not to lose and we were solid against a difficult team. I'm not happy but not disappointed also because we played well."

However, City have extended their winless run on the road in the league to six games, something they last endured in April 2011.

Ranieri even suggested that Bournemouth will be tougher opponents when they visit on Saturday.

"Believe me, the next match against Bournemouth will be more difficult," he said. "Why? Because they are in good condition, they press a lot, they move the ball well, and I remember the match there in Bournemouth (when Leicester needed a late penalty to get a point).

"I watched their match against Arsenal, the first half an hour, they played very well, they concede a goal and they slow down."

The defeat ended Bournemouth's six-game unbeaten run, which included high-profile victories over champions Chelsea and Manchester United.

Until the big guns start firing again, Leicester are happy to remain title contenders.

"We'll just see how far we can go, we're taking it one game at a time and trying to pick up as many points as we can," said goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

"We're a very good team, we've proven that at the back end of last season and we're halfway through this season and we're still up there in the mix."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2015, with the headline 'IT'S THE LEAGUE NO ONE WANTS TO WIN'. Print Edition | Subscribe