Leicester penalties: Why have the Foxes been awarded a record-breaking number of spot-kicks?

Leicester have won eight penalties in eight games so far, 14 fewer than it took last season's fastest side Manchester United to reach that figure, despite fewer touches in the opposition box and chances created than in recent seasons

Jamie Vardy has scored five of the six penalties he has taken this season, winning three of them himself
Image: Jamie Vardy has scored five of the six penalties he has taken this season, winning three of them himself

Leicester are creating fewer chances and touches in the opposition box - but have won a record-breaking number of Premier League penalties this season. How?

The Foxes became the first team to reach eight penalties this early in a Premier League season when Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot for a second time against Wolves on Sunday, with Jamie Vardy celebrating by smashing the ball straight at Rui Patricio from 12 yards.

Perhaps they've got form. Leicester were also the last team to set the record, en route to the Premier League title in 2015/16, but given their eighth penalty in that season came in their 20th game, few eyebrows were raised back then.

In the kind of unpredictable, volatile season which gives you results like Aston Villa 7-2 Liverpool or Manchester City 2-5 Leicester, the fact the number of penalties across the division is up by more than 120 per cent in 2020/21 feels a bit like another statistic to add to the collection.

However, the Foxes are still a significant anomaly. Almost one fifth of the total penalties awarded this season have been given to Brendan Rodgers' side.

How can it be explained? Rodgers himself suggested after the win over Wolves his side had spent a lot of time in the opposition box, goading defenders to commit fouls and reaping the rewards.

Premier League penalties awarded per game

2020/21 0.53
2019/20 0.24
2018/19 0.27
2017/18 0.21
2016/17 0.28

He said: "We want to arrive in those areas in the box to provoke defenders, and we arrive in there a lot in games. Our idea is to attack, and of course from that, the penalties will arise. We're happy to take them."

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But in fact, the opposite has proven true in the league so far this season. Leicester have averaged 20.5 touches in the opposition box so far, only the ninth highest in the league and almost level with bottom side Fulham. Last season, when they were awarded seven penalties across the whole campaign, they averaged 26 touches.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Leicester's win over Wolves in the Premier League

The number of chances they have created in open play is well down too, at 5.1 per game as opposed to 9.2 in 2019/20, and even 8.2 in a 2018/19 played largely under Claude Puel's much-derided passive style of football.

Take away the harsh decision to penalise Max Kilman for handball in Sunday's game with Wolves and there have been few arguments about the rest of the penalties awarded to Brendan Rodgers' side, who have, despite the numbers, made a habit of proving difficult for defenders to track, and operating between the lines at will.

Fastest teams to reach eight penalties in a season

Team Season Games
Leicester 2020/21 8
Leicester 2015/16 20
Arsenal 2006/07 22
Blackburn 1994/95 22
Man Utd 2019/20 22
Chelsea 2012/13 23
Crystal Palace 2004/05 24
Man Utd 2018/19 24
Man Utd 2011/12 24

Leicester's situation may defy the statistics, but it does not defy logic. Reaching eight penalties by this stage suggests the numbers have gone beyond a run of good fortune, and there is a certain pattern to the manner of the spot-kicks they have been awarded this season.

Jamie Vardy's off-the-ball run across Kyle Bartley in the first game of the season, and the foul which followed, could have been interchanged easily enough with the same run across Eric Garcia to win Leicester's second penalty against Manchester City.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Leicester City's win over Manchester City in the Premier League

James Maddison's two penalty wins both came when clipped on the turn, against City's Benjamin Mendy and Leeds' Matthias Klich.

Under Rodgers, Leicester have, at their best, played some of the trickiest football to defend against in the Premier League. After all, Vardy has scored eight more goals than anyone else in the league since his appointment, while Maddison has created the fifth-most chances across the division.

And given the manic nature of defending as a result of such a tightly-packed season, which already looks set to break Premier League goalscoring records, Leicester's run to reach eight penalties is not too far ahead of schedule.

Last season, Manchester United were the first team to reach that figure in 22 games. With the number of penalties per game rising by 121 per cent to date in comparison to 2019/20, you would expect to see that figure reached by one team around 10 games in - only two more than Leicester have managed.

Will they keep it up over the course of a season? Well, they would end up with 38 penalties if they did - as many as the number of goals Newcastle scored last season - so it looks unlikely.

But with Leicester top of the league, they are clearly doing something right, and among some otherwise unremarkable final-third statistics, their spot-kick profit shows just what a nightmare Vardy and co are to play against.

Timeline of Leicester's eight PL penalties this season

Sunday September 13 - West Brom 0-3 Leicester

Leicester were awarded two penalties in their first game of the season against West Brom. Jamie Vardy was held back in the box by Kyle Bartley for the first before Dara O'Shea clumsily took down James Justin in the box. Vardy converted both penalties.

Sunday September 27 - Man City 2-5 Leicester

Three of Leicester's penalties this season came in an incredible game against Man City. Kyle Walker tripped Vardy and the England striker duly converted the first penalty. He did so again in the 58th minute to complete his hat-trick after he was fouled by Eric Garcia.

The final one was taken by Youri Tielemans late on, slotting home after Benjamin Mendy had fouled James Maddison to round off a famous victory.

Monday November 2 - Leeds 1-4 Leicester

Tielemans added another penalty to his tally late in the day against Leeds last week. This one was awarded by VAR after it spotted Mateusz Klich's foul on Maddison just inside the area. The Belgian converted in the 91st minute to add a gloss to the 4-1 victory.

Sunday November 8 - Leicester 1-0 Wolves

Another penalty double - but with differing results. Max Kilman was penalised for handball, given after Anthony Taylor consulted the pitchside monitor. Vardy converted again for the first, but was unable to add a second. Rayan Ait-Nouri fouled Justin and the Leicester striker stepped up, but Rui Patricio saved his effort.

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