Premier League grades: Leicester put in performance of the weekend, while league leaders need penalty help

Leicester City have finally put together a performance on both ends of the pitch that they can be proud of, giving them momentum moving forward as they look for stability. The Foxes crushed Newcastle 4-0 over the weekend in Premier League action, giving them their only win-to-nil victory of the league season. The defense had conceded in every single game during the league campaign but finally managed to deliver, ending a streak of 17 games where they failed to keep a clean sheet 

So what was different? Or was this success simply because they were playing lowly Newcastle? It may be a combination of both. 

On the attacking side, they recorded their highest xG, 2.15, since their 4-2 win over a flailing Manchester United nearly two months ago, and they did it with less possession than normal. Though the fact that no team has conceded more goals than Newcastle is enough to temper excitement over the feat.

But on the defensive side, where they made their biggest strides, they had one of the top performances of the season when it comes to tackles (fifth-best, 20), clearances (fourth-best, 25), shots blocked (third-best, 6). What’s notable is not only the stats but that they didn’t come as a result of being under constant pressure from a better opposition. Some of Leicester’s best statistical performances came against Manchester City in the 1-0 loss in September. But that was a match where City had 25 shots to Leicester’s six, giving the Foxes a lot of chances to pad their stats. 

But this was a match where while Newcastle won the battle of possession, they only outshot Leicester 12-8 (and despite only taking eight shots Leicester rand up a robust xG total), so the numbers seem to indicate that Leicester were simply more efficient than normal on the defensive side, when facing a more realistic amount of chances than say against teams like City and Liverpool. And that efficient display came after Jonny Evans came off with an injury minutes in, with Boubakary Soumare steeping in well. Newcastle may have not had a lot of good looks, but Leicester’s ability to react and close down attacks is a big reason why.

Leicester have had a hard time replacing Wesley Fofana, who was lost for the year early in the season but this past weekend’s performance will give them reason to believe they can continue to improve defensively and push those European places just days after their Europa League exit. 

Leicester 4, Newcastle 0 (xG: 2.10-0.67)

Grade: A+

Grade: D

Here’s our grades from the rest of the weekend’s matches:

Crystal Palace 3, Everton 1  (xG: 1.97-1.55)

Crystal Palace: They deserved that, but Everton played a big role in providing the chances. To their credit, Palace took advantage of poor passes and pounced on errors to make the visitors pay and Conor Gallagher’s second goal was the best strike of the weekend. 
Grade: A

Everton: Rafa Benitez’s side had more than enough chances to get something from this game and looked set to equalize late. Taking Richarlison off late while chasing the game was a surprising decision, one the player wasn’t happy with, but it does appear as if he was dealing with a little discomfort in his leg. Something to keep an eye on.
Grade: D

West Ham 0, Burnley 0 (xG: 0.80-0.72)

West Ham: Not nearly efficient enough going forward despite having some good looks. Tomas Soucek got into a fantastic position late then he skied his shot. Still, not a bad point in the end.
Grade: B-

Burnley: Fortunate to get a point with West Ham’s second-half chances, but they held their own and will take that result. That’s three games without a goal now. 
Grade: C-

Manchester City 1, Wolves 0 (xG: 2.79-0.16)

City: There is a theme here of the big boys needing penalty kicks to get something from their matches. It is no different with City. They had 24 shots and an xG of 2.79, yet benefited from a poor penalty call with the ball hitting Joao Moutinho’s armpit. You need a bit a luck every now and then.
Grade: C

Wolves: Two shots and an xG of 0.16, they had no chance after Raul Jimenez picked up a boneheaded red card at the end of the first half. So inconsistent despite having the quality. But I’ll tell you this — goalkeeper Jose Sa is something else.
Grade: F 

Arsenal 3, Southampton 0 (xG: 1.76-0.52)

Arsenal: Arteta’s side eventually dispatched Southampton easily even without Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. It was a dominant display that will give them confidence. They must continue on this path, because European places are there for the taking.
Grade: B+

Southampton: That’s five winless now, and they are conceding at an alarming rate. And they’re also struggling in front of goal. It’s a recipe for disaster. Just five points from the drop zone.
Grade: F

Chelsea 3, Leeds 2 (xG: 2.78-1.87)

Chelsea: One of the many giants bailed out by penalties, but they received two! Once again, the defense was also ripped apart and just can’t seem to recover from the absences of Andreas Chistensen and their depleted midfield depth. Did not deserve a point but got all three. They must improve.
Grade: C

Leeds: The attack was there, but the mistakes in defense cost them, giving up two penalties that are hard to swallow. They are too close to the drop zone for comfort and must invest in this defense in January.
Grade: C 

Liverpool 1, Aston Villa 0 (xG: 2.48-0.18)

Liverpool: Another team bailed out by a penalty that was almost saved. The Reds had so many chances, registering an xG of 2.48 on 20 shots. Mohamed Salah’s penalty was all the difference, and these are the games where you have to grind out wins. But they can be much sharper.
Grade: B-

Villa: Horrible going forward. Just four shots, and that’s going to happen when you see just 38.4 percent of possession. But this can’t be seen as a game that shows us the true, new Villa. They are revived under Steven Gerrard and headed in the right direction. This was just a game where they were outmatched.
Grade: D

Manchester United 1, Norwich 0 (xG: 2.05-1.11)

Man United: Bailed out by a penalty kick and lucky to not concede, with was another underwhelming performance for the Red Devils. They continue to create chances but sometimes lack that sharpness, and they were lucky it didn’t come back to bite them here.
Grade: C

Norwich: You have to feel for them, because they didn’t play all that badly. They really should have scored but were denied time and time again by an in-form David de Gea. The Canaries really deserved a point, but moral victories won’t keep them from being relegated.
Grade: C+

Brentford 2, Watford 1 (xG: 1.89-0.65)

Brentford: Needed a crazy, late comeback but deserved all three points in truth with their display over 90 minutes. Dominated the chances, dominated the ball and showed that they have that little bit of magic needed.
Grade: A

Watford: Not a good showing, though they were riding a good wave of momentum after the early goal. In the end, the quality and focus in defense was not enough, conceding in the 84th minute and the sixth of added time.
Grade: D

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