Comeback bodes well for Leicester's season
History suggests Leicester's 2-2 draw with Everton was no real surprise. Eight of the past 10 meetings between the sides have ended with the spoils shared.
However, Leicester can take huge heart from drawing with a side expected to contend for Europe. To twice come from behind proves Nigel Pearson's Foxes possess plenty of pluck. City's never-say-die attitude may well fade later in the season, especially if the pressure mounts and results don't go their way. But for now, the tone has been set.
Sides who get relegated don't tend to make a habit of battling back. Believe it or not, since the Premier League started in 1992, the teams who go down gain points after conceding the first goal just 12 percent of the time.
Gutsy Leicester certainly weren't fazed when Aiden McGeady and Steven Naismith twice gave Everton the lead. Perhaps this has to do with Pearson treating the opening game more like a cup-tie. Heads could still plausibly drop later in the season, but if Leicester can maintain the intensity we saw they stand a tremendous chance of survival.
The other crucial thing we learned from Saturday's entertaining draw is Leicester have depth. At one extreme, record 8 million-pound signing Leonardo Ulloa opened his Premier League account with a prodded effort -- a true poacher's goal.
Yet the second equaliser came from Chris Wood -- a super-sub intent to vie for his place, even though Wolverhampton are gagging to sign him. With Dave Nugent and Jamie Vardy above him in the pecking order, the 22-year-old is, in truth, surplus to requirements, especially if Watford's Troy Deeney is added to the ranks.
Poker-faced Pearson will vociferously argue he still has a role to play, but let's not forget City's boss agreed to sell him just a few days ago. It was entirely Wood's decision not to leave, which says a lot about his ambition.
Had Vardy been fit, Wood probably wouldn't have even featured against Everton and, even after his goal, most Leicester fans won't be overly distraught if the ex-Bristol City man drops back down to the Championship. But it's encouraging to think if he does stay he might (albeit optimistically) just have 5-10 goals in him off the bench.
In the buildup to the fixture, it was actually Everton -- with a tired Romelu Lukaku and the injured Seamus Coleman -- who were struggling to field their strongest 11. Yet a knock to the shin in training for Matty James, and an early hamstring problem for Danny Drinkwater, ended up depriving Leicester of their top two midfielders.
Thankfully, Andy King, once linked with Everton, proved an apt replacement for the former. The club's longest-serving outfield player linked up play excellently, completing 96 percent of his 45 passes. When you consider that ex-Villa winger Marc Albrighton was also missing with a groin injury, Leicester were a long way from their strongest lineup, so the fact they still drew with a side that finished fifth last season is extremely encouraging. That said, the Foxes will need their best side for the tough run of fixtures to follow: Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United are all to come between now and mid-September. That's why it was so important to put an early point on the board.
As with virtually all newly promoted sides, home form will, in all likelihood, define whether Leicester stay up. If they show the same spirit as they did against Everton, they stand a superb chance of taking maximum points off the 10-12 sides also in danger of getting sucked into a relegation tussle. Granted, it is just one game, and not even one Leicester won, but the Foxes clearly proved they can adapt to the Premier League and, as importantly, are up for the fight.
They also scored two goals -- both from strikers. I have said it before, and I will reiterate it once again: the "40 points to survive" theory is a redundant cliché. Only Wolverhampton (2010-11) have required that total since the millennium.
Statistically, survival is all about goals. Since the advent of the Premier League in 1992, only two teams have been relegated after scoring more than 50 in a season: Middlesbrough (54, 51) in 1992-93 and 1996-97 and Blackpool (55) in 2010-11.
If Leicester net 50 Premier League goals they will almost certainly avoid the Championship trapdoor. So, as far as I'm concerned, it's less one point down, 39 to go, and more two goals down, 48 to go!