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Leicester City 2017/18 positional review: Forwards

Jamie Vardy was a one-man army

Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City - Premier League
Leicester’s present and perhaps its future
Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

With the 2017/18 season in the books, we’ll be reviewing the performance of the squad by position. Today’s focus will be on the forwards. Previous reviews: GK, DEF, MID, & WINGS

While the Foxes offseason focus so far has been on strengthening the back line, a review of Leicester City’s forwards last season shows that the front line may need more help than any other area on the pitch. Because right now the Foxes’ attack is a one-man show.

Jamie Vardy

The only players in the Premier League who scored more goals last season than Jamie Vardy (20) were the on-fire Mohamed Salah (32), England’s starting striker Harry Kane (30), and Manchester City machine cog Sergio Aguero (21). When it comes to finishing, Vardy is among the elite. When it comes to Leicester City, Vardy is practically the entire offense, scoring only one fewer goal than the next three highest-scoring Foxes combined. As the graphic below shows, the entire team’s cumulative goals scored was only 13 more goals than Vardy scored by himself.

Who will help Jamie Vardy when Riyad Mahrez leaves?

It gets worse when it comes to offensive diversity:

- Leicester City scored in 30 of 38 matches.

- Vardy was the lone goal scorer in eight of those matches (27%).

- In 2018 Leicester City scored 25 goals.

- 11 of those goals (44%) were scored by Vardy.

- Only four goals in 2018 were scored by other forwards on the club.

- From January 31st until a Riyad Mahrez goal on March 3rd, no Fox but Vardy scored. That’s in five matches across two competitions.

- From April 7th until May 9th versus Arsenal (in which Vardy also scored), Vardy was the only player to score for the club. This included a crucial match versus Burnley in which Europa League football was still a realistic possibility.

Jamie Vardy’s 2017/18 campaign was fantastic. Unfortunately, for Leicester City, his performance was inversely matched by Vardy’s counterparts up front.

Shinji Okazaki

Okazaki started the year on fire for the Foxes, scoring a goal in each of the club’s first two matches. He followed this up with four more goals over the next 15 matches.

Then Okazaki disappeared.

Chelsea v Leicester City - Premier League
Okazaki started off strong for the Foxes before falling flat
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Following a two-goal performance versus Southampton on December 13th, Okazaki appeared in the next nine consecutive league matches for Leicester before being left out of the squad the following three matches. Okazaki managed four more appearances before being injured and missing the final five fixtures of the season. The bottom line is after that two-goal performance in December, Okazaki did not score again.

Perhaps a good performance for Japan in the World Cup will convince Leicester City to give Okazaki one final season at the KP, if not a short contract extension. But given the drop off in his performance last season, his age (32), and the rumors linking him to another club, Okazaki’s time as a Fox may be coming to an end.

Kelechi Iheanacho

Leicester City v Arsenal - Premier League
Iheanacho finished the season in fine form. Hopefully this continues for the Foxes next season.
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

On August 3rd, 2017 the seemingly never-ending Iheanacho transfer saga came to an end as the Nigerian International finally joined Leicester City on a transfer from Manchester City. The striker saw limited action in the first month of the season, which was understandable given that he joined the club a short eight days before its first match. All in all, Iheanacho hit the pitch in nine of Leicester’s first 12 matches. He didn’t produce much, but, again, having just joined the club not much was expected.

But like Okazaki in the second half of the season, Iheanacho suddenly disappeared. After playing 23 minutes versus Manchester City on November 18th, Iheanacho did not see the pitch again in league action until a battle with Everton on January 31st. He did see significant FA Cup action in January playing in all three Foxes cup matches, scoring four goals.

Iheanacho got plenty of minutes in Leicester’s final two cup matches, and managed to find his way back on to the Premier League pitch in 12 of the club’s final 14 games. Over this period he managed to score three goals, including a goal a piece in each of the Foxes final two matches of the campaign.

At the beginning of the season, the signing of Kelechi Iheanacho appeared to be a great move for both the club and the player. A promising young striker who could take some of the pressure off Vardy all while getting playing time he otherwise would not have seen at Manchester City. Things may have started off slower than expected, but with strong Cup play in January and a few goals in league play to end the season, Iheanacho started to show the talent that had everyone so excited about his arrival in August. With at least some of an offseason with his Leicester City teammates (after his time playing for Nigeria at the World Cup) the 2018/19 season could be a break out campaign for Iheanacho.

Islam Slimani

Leicester City v Leeds United - Carabao Cup Fourth Round
Slimani could not find success at either Leicester or Newcastle
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

When a club pays £28 million in transfer fees for a player, that player usually plays. In Slimani’s second season with Leicester City, this was definitely not the case. Although he appeared in nine of the Foxes first 14 league matches, Slimani spent only 117 total minutes on the pitch, scoring zero goals and tallying one assist. The striker could only manage another 33 minutes of pitch time during the crowded December fixture slate in which the club played seven matches over 28 days.

It appeared things might turn around for Slimani when he played a full 90 minutes on New Years Day versus Huddersfield, even scoring a goal. But appearances can be deceiving, and Slimani was loaned out to Newcastle United on the final day of the transfer window. His stint with the Magpies did not impress, as he only played in four matches scoring zero goals.

Slimani did not do much at either of his clubs during the 2017/18 season. He does not appear to be in Leicester’s plans for the future, and will most likely spend next season at another club.

Leonardo Ulloa

Leicester City v Norwich City - Premier League
Ulloa’s time with the Foxes appears to be coming to an end
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Ulloa did not see the pitch in the Premier League for Leicester until December, and still only managed 18 minutes of action during that fixture-filled month. Four matches and no playing time later, the striker was loaned out to Brighton and Hove Albion. Ulloa appeared in 10 matches for the Seagulls, scoring one goal. While he would like to return to Albion, the team does not appear to share his interest.

Little playing time at Leicester City, a January loan, and an upcoming 32nd birthday before the start of next season seem to suggest Ulloa’s time with the Foxes has come to an end.


Last season when it came to Foxes forwards, there was Jamie Vardy and then there was everyone else. Okazaki showed promise in the beginning of the season. Iheanacho showed promise at the end of the season. In between it was all Vardy. But the striker turns 32 next season, and the Foxes need to start planning for the future. Coupled with the inevitable departure of Riyad Mahrez and his 12 goals and 10 assists, Vardy needs help now more than ever. Hopefully that help is here in the form of Kelechi Iheanacho. But the team still needs more options up front, and there are definitely some bargains to be had.

Poll

How would you rate our forwards’ season?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    A
    (1 vote)
  • 17%
    B
    (6 votes)
  • 2%
    C
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    D
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (0 votes)
  • 64%
    A+ for Vardy, incomplete for everyone else
    (22 votes)
  • 11%
    Who is Vardy? (The Gareth Southgate option)
    (4 votes)
34 votes total Vote Now