Leicester City: Are Foxes dragged into tightest-ever relegation battle?

Leicester
A dejected Leicester were sucked further into the relegation battle following a 3-0 defeat by Manchester United on Sunday

There is more drama at the bottom than the top, Jermain Defoe and Romelu Lukaku join illustrious company, and Arsenal's travel sickness continues.

BBC Sport takes a look at the quirkiest and more interesting statistics from the weekend.

The tightest relegation battle ever?

If it was not already apparent, Leicester City are now in serious danger of going from champions to Championship.

Their 3-0 defeat by Manchester United on Sunday, after Swansea's late heartbreak against Manchester City, coupled with stunning wins for Hull City and Sunderland, mean just two points now separate the bottom six in the Premier League.

This is only the second time in Premier League history the relegation battle has been this tight after close of play on 5 February. Newcastle United fans may want to look away now...

PL bottom six 5/2/09

Tottenham were also caught up in the relegation mire at this stage of the 2008-09 season, with 24 points after as many games, but were clear of the bottom six thanks to their superior goal difference.

That season saw Newcastle, Middlesbrough and West Brom relegated, with Blackburn's escape suggesting there is hope for current 18th-place occupants Hull.

The least competitive title race?

You could be forgiven for thinking that Chelsea already have two hands on the trophy after tightening their grip on the Premier League title, while their rivals have faltered in recent weeks.

But the Blues' nine-point lead is not the greatest margin any team has held over the rest at this stage of the season. That honour goes to Manchester United, who held a remarkable 15-point lead over Arsenal on 5 February 2001, going on to win the title by 10 points.

The Red Devils hold the second biggest lead on this date too, a 13-point advantage again over Blackburn in the 1993-94 season, in which they also won the title.

Yet the third-highest lead at this stage suggests there is some precedent for Chelsea to be caught. Newcastle fans may want to look away, again...

PL top six 5/2/96

Like Chelsea, Kevin Keegan's side were nine points clear. They led Manchester United on 5 February 1996, only for a run of five defeats in their subsequent nine games to see Sir Alex Ferguson's side overhaul them in March and eventually claim the title by four points.

Yet with Chelsea only due to face Manchester City and Manchester United from the current top six during their final 14 games, can anyone hope to stop Antonio Conte's side?

Golden oldies

The old adage goes that age is just a number, but Jermain Defoe's numbers just seem to get more notable the older he gets.

The 34-year-old scored twice in Sunderland's 4-0 thrashing of relegation rivals Crystal Palace on Saturday, taking his total for the season to 14.

Defoe looks on course not only to beat last season's tally of 15, but also surpass his best-ever top-flight total of 18 for Spurs in 2009-10 as he seeks to fire Sunderland to safety once again.

It was a weekend for vintage strikers as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, at 35 years and 125 days old, became the oldest Premier League player to score 15 goals in a season, but Defoe actually lags behind plenty of prolific veterans in the list of top Premier League scorers after passing their 30th birthday.

Arsenal legend Ian Wright turned 30 in the 1993-94 season and went on to score an impressive 93 goals in 169 appearances, including 10 as the Gunners won the 1997-98 title, while he also had a brief spell at West Ham.

He also has the best goals per game rate of every player to score more than 40 goals aged 30 or over. Indeed, he is the only player to score at better than a goal every other game, with 0.55 goals per game.

In comparison, Defoe has now scored 41 goals in 116 Premier League appearances at a rate of 0.35 goals per game since his 30th birthday on 7 October 2012, putting him 16th on the list.

Of course, no list of golden oldies would be complete without Teddy Sheringham, who struck 77 times in 284 appearances past the 30-year mark and remains the oldest Premier League goalscorer at 40 years and 268 days when he scored for West Ham against Portsmouth in December 2006.

The 300 club

In scoring the third of his four goals against Bournemouth on Saturday, Everton striker Romelu Lukaku claimed the 300th hat-trick in Premier League history.

The inductees into this club range from the illustrious, such as Eric Cantona, who scored the first ever Premier League hat-trick for Leeds United in August 1992, to the more obscure. Think Fredi Bobic for Bolton in April 2002 and Somen Tchoyi for West Brom in May 2011.

Lukaku himself now has three hat-tricks and becomes the 24th player to score four or more goals in a Premier League match.

But the 23-year-old Belgian has some way to go before he catches up with the most prolific hat-trick hitters...

Perhaps unsurprisingly, all-time record Premier League goalscorer Alan Shearer is top with 11, two ahead of Robbie Fowler, with Thierry Henry and Michael Owen tied for third on eight.

Shearer scored two of those hat-tricks for Newcastle United and a remarkable nine at Blackburn Rovers, helping them to sixth in the list of most hat-tricks by club in Premier League history, with 17 in total.

The top five hat-trick scoring clubs are the usual suspects - Arsenal topping the pile on 38, thanks mainly to Henry (8) and Ian Wright (5), while Robin van Persie, Emmanuel Adebayor and Theo Walcott have all scored three trebles for the Gunners.

Arsenal's away woes

TS Eliot wrote April was the cruellest month, but for Arsenal fans it could well be February.

Yet again their season appears to have unravelled at this crucial time of year and it was a case of history repeating itself as they once more failed to beat one of their supposed title rivals away from home in a 3-1 defeat by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Since a newly-wealthy Manchester City joined the so-called "big six" in the 2009-10 season, the Gunners have failed to win more than two games in any one campaign on the road against their five main rivals, also consisting of Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.

Arsenal away to the 'big six'
SeasonChelseaLiverpoolMan CityMan UtdSpursTotal points
2009-10LWLLL3
2010-11LDWLD5
2011-12WWLLL6
2012-13LWDLL4
2013-14LLLLW3
2014-15LDWDL5
2015-16LDDLD3
2016-17L- LD-1 (to date)

In the 38 games they've played at these five teams since 2009-10, Arsene Wenger's side have managed just seven wins and nine draws, meaning a total of 22 defeats and only 30 points from these key encounters.

It's a perennial problem that is sure to add to the "serious thinking" Wenger will have to do at the end of the season.

Last but not least

Gabriel Jesus proved himself to be a friend of headline writers and an enemy of match report writers as he scored an injury-time winner in Manchester City's 2-1 victory over Swansea.

A miracle? Perhaps not, given Jesus' strike was the 12th time a 90th-minute winner, including goals in added time, has been scored this season.

This campaign looks set to beat last season's tally of 13 last-minute winners, but we're in for plenty of late drama if the record number of 24 90th-minute winners in the 2007-08 season is to be overhauled.

Interestingly, there was a run of three seasons from 2007-08 that saw 20 or more 90th-minute winners before a decrease in recent years. Though we could see it peak again, with 19 last-minute winners expected at this year's current rate of 12 after 24 games for each side.

And which side has benefitted most from 90th-minute winners in Premier League history? It's surely those purveyors of Fergie time, Manchester United, right? Wrong.

Manchester United are only joint fifth, with 18 90th-minute winners, while their rivals Liverpool rank highest with a stunning 29.

And who has suffered most in terms of late drama?

That dubious title is shared by Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur, who have conceded 19 times in the 90th-minute or beyond.

So be ready for a thrilling end when Liverpool face Spurs on Saturday.

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