The Fit Factor



I could comment on a number of factors about Leicester City’s current success, and in combination they compliment each other and give the club a foundation that hopefully we can build upon to maintain Premiership status for many many years to come, but I’m just going have a go at writing some words on one area, with little structure, overuse of poor humour, and self-deprecation.

I remember the Bolton side ‘the man that ordered some chips’ developed up to 2005, and the remarkable work keeping pros going at ages that seemed impossible, but somehow they extended some careers and put experience, quality, and a higher level of maintained performance. All of which proved successful for a club of Bolton’s stature to punch way above its head instead of fighting an expected relegation.


They managed on a modest budget between 2003 & 2005, and seriously brought to the club experienced quality. After this they went and signed the Big Sulk (enter big pic of Anelka) for a whopping £8.5m like a bunch of mentalcases.

But what they did before that was draw in decent players albeit on serious wages, and used their sports science department to keep them fit, and get the most out the experience they had to formulate tactics that suited what they had and got the most out of these strengths.

This article about sports science and the impact of a successful use of it probably spells things out better than I can. 

An extract:

“At Bolton, Allardyce conceptualised a rigid game plan around data. His backroom staff included David Fallows, a former Prozone analyst, Gavin Fleig, who had studied under Mike Hughes, and Ed Sulley. Allardyce and his performance analysts had a model he called “the Fantastic Four”: four areas that dictated success. Out of 38 games, they knew that a team had to prevent the opposition scoring in at least 16 games to avoid relegation. They knew that if they scored first they would have a 70 percent chance of winning the game. They knew that set pieces, free kicks and corners accounted for nearly a third of the goals scored, and in-swinging crosses were more successful than out-swinging, so they practised not only those types of crosses but also defending against them. They also discovered that they would have an 80 percent chance of not losing if the players outworked their opposition by covering more distance at speeds above 5.5m/s. Allardyce insisted on players using long throw-ins, deep into the opponent’s area — if a player failed to follow that simple command he’d go crazy because he knew the odds of scoring had been reduced. Bolton’s performance analysts studied a huge number of throw-ins and Allardyce would organise players in the places on the pitch where the ball had the highest probability of landing, the so-called positions of maximum opportunity, or “pomos”, to increase the odds of scoring. “Pomos weren’t just relevant to throw-ins. In training, he would shout to the players to attack their pomos when trying to score,” says Sulley. Between 2003 and 2007, Bolton recorded consecutive top-eight finishes in the Premiership, a record of consistency bettered only by the top four. They qualified for the UEFA cup for the first time in 2005 and again in 2006. When Allardyce left in 2007, they had an impressive 39 points after 21 games.”


Show me the numbers


Now I’m not comparing like for like with Leicester City, by no stretch of the imagination, but what we’ve done is similar to a degree. We’ve spent much more, but on the scheme of things is we’ve taken our sports science to the next level in conjunction with better tactical scouting based on statistical analysis of what will compliment and strengthen what we already have, for higher but still marginal sums of money.

Ranieri couldn’t have come into a better set up.

PICTURE ALEX HANNAM - Burton Albion v Leicester City - Claudio Ranieri - STORY

A long link with Loughborough University going back to 2009 (under Milan Mandaric), that clearly had been building a foundation of solid knowledge and expertise. With our new owners they improved our own facilities, and have clearly invested in staff, facilities, and equipment necessary, to have one of the best departments in the country.

Anyone who cares disagree, may need to look at the number of injuries we’ve had, the money we’ve spent, and an ubiquitous snapshot of the Premiership table, and some of the results we’ve managed to produce so far this season.

‘A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed in which both parties will work together in a broad range of research, consultancy, training and other areas of mutual benefit.

The agreement is thought to be the most extensive of its kind between a football club and an academic institution – consistent with the Foxes’ vision of being at the forefront of technology in a cutting edge industry.’

I think this partnership was a major turning point leading to the club’s current success, and it seriously shouldn’t be overlooked in its enormity.

Nigel Pearson talked to the media during his tenure, I can’t seem to find it specifically to link you to it, but he was keen on the small percentages. Basically if you make small improvements across the board, minor positive percentage increases, then this can make the difference. Doing this across the board and involving the players actively in this process has clearly paid off.

This includes the fitness, but not forgetting the psychological work that’s done with players to get motivated, positive, and enthusiastic, and overcome challenges as team and personally.

Pearson mentioned this in the past, and I know that we’ve got successful momentum currently in our favour, but a supportive department in that area for those who are not making the team, but have the hunger to step up. It’s something that Bolton aligned with their fitness and tactical work too.

Here’s an article on OptaPro, By Ryan Bahia, Inside Leicester City. A real good professional insight into the work that’s done behind the scenes.

This percentage improvement ethos seems to be prevalent across the club. Small gradual but significant improvements all adding up to success. Whether we now, having exceeded our own expectations, have to take a leap of faith and inject much more so soon will be up to the owners. The question of the stadium upgrade and a European adventure, may twist the arms holding the chequebook.

Ranieri has asked the players to adhere strictly to the training routine devised for them over the break prior to today’s game with Norwich City FC, even though they could do what they pleased.


The bit that’s important is whether the players can stick to these without question. It is paramount that they have the full buy-in’, and can see themselves the benefits of doing so, which is being ready for the challenge ahead now the break is over, which is mountainous, but not impossible.

I always bark on about the final third of the season and its importance, and this season has been no different (though VERY different). If we can maintain that extra edge physically in our forthcoming matches then we can do continue to do what others teams have failed to do.

Look at all the major clubs failing to meet expectations. The amount of injuries this season for big-name and big game players has been astounding. This hasn’t been the only factor but has been a serious contributor to our own success, as, we seem to have a consistency that other teams have not been able to put together, because their teamsheets have been forcibly muddled, or key areas have opened them up either in defence or in attack.

When you look at Jamie Vardy, he’s another kettle of fish. His determination even when he was injured, and playing with a broken wrist, and a groin injury has been a different phenomenal factor and maybe needs its own article alone.

Not only are we playing with a level of fitness that most haven’t achieved once this season, we are playing tactically with our competitors during the match. Our levels are such that we, now we took our foot off the gas over Christmas, run rings around teams that are nowhere near our level in this aspect, and we’ve turned the screw on them in the early first third of the season, with stunning comebacks and thrilling disregard for our foes with wins where there never was a window.

We have had another rest, and if come back with a hunger, we could threaten to do the impossible, and achieve something very very special indeed.



Don’t forget to read from tuppence wot I wrot last week etc!!!!

Oh Captain…my Captain!



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