With the 2018/19 season officially in the bag for Leicester City, we’ll be breaking down how the year went, and how things look heading into the summer. We kicked off with the defenders, then the midfield and now finally the forwards.
Once again, the story of the Leicester City forwards was “down to you, Jamie”. As well as Vardy did, finishing top 5 in the goalscoring charts with 18 after a slow start, the effort from those around him to chip in was pretty disappointing.
The other players in including in this section (Iheanacho, Okazaki, Barnes, Gray, Ghezzal and Albrighton) added 9 between them. While Barnes’ goalscoring seemed held back only by luck, the others struggled for any kind of consistency, while also not providing much in the way of assists for xA.
As mentioned above, there was only really one man in this for the Foxes. For the first time in a while, the former England international didn’t lead the team in shots taken, but he did have more than double anyone else from inside the box.
It was also the first time in 4 years that he failed to outscore his xG total. His ability to finish off far more chances than the statistics predicted have papered over a lot of the team’s creative woes since coming back up, but in the early going Vardy just wasn't taking the few chances he got. Under Rodgers, however, he really turned it back on, netting half his season tally in just 10 games.
Whether it’s in the great escape or a Champions League knockout, Jamie Vardy has a knack for scoring goals that turn around the whole atmosphere of the club and he certainly managed to do that, along with another goal and an assist, as the Foxes put Fulham to the sword in a 3-1 win.
The King Power Stadium had taken on quite a dark atmosphere in the latter days of Claude Puel’s reign, and a loss to start Brendan Rodgers’ didn’t help. Vardy simply wouldn’t let his first home game end the same way, tearing apart their hapless visitors and sealing the game with two second half goals, including his 100th for the club.
Not to get too stuck on a single point here but...it’s Jamie Vardy, right? None of the rest played well enough at any point to be considered an improvement.
We can argue forever about whether it was Puel’s fault for not playing to his top striker’s strengths, but the fact is that Vardy was having a subpar season (at least by his own sky high standards) until his much maligned manager left. While his final 10 games yielded 9 goals, his first 10 produced just 3 goals and a red card.
I’m pretty confident it wasn't Rachid Ghezzal. The other forwards we've signed this season: 16 year old Will Russ, Ryan Loft, who scored 0 goals in 19 games for the development squad, and Davide Lorenzo, a 25 year old who never played a game for the development squad. So that’s something.
I guess I’d have to say the loan out and return of Harvey Barnes, which allowed him to prove himself at two separate levels. He’s certainly good enough to keep playing in this team.
Ah. Now this one’s a little easier to pick out some candidates. Another season without obvious progress from Demarai Gray is certainly disappointing, while Rachid Ghezzal had a nightmare first season with the club. Without a doubt though, the worst of them all was Kelechi Iheanacho.
While Ghezzal had the excuse of adjusting to a new league, this was Iheanacho’s 4th go in the Premier League, and comfortably his worst. What makes it more frustrating is that he seemed to be in excellent form through preseason, and looked to have a great opportunity to make his impact with Vardy’s early suspension. He totally failed to make that impact, and has looked lost and bereft of any confidence ever since. The talent is clear, but he has a long way to come back.
Please never get old, Jamie. Not that he’s showing any signs of that so far, and I fully expect Vardy to put in another good season next year. We need someone else to take some of that pressure, but so does almost every team. Signing a striker good enough to start but happy to take a secondary role is almost impossible; will the Foxes be reliant on a bounceback from Iheanacho, or will they splash yet more money on the position?
The easiest solution is for the wingers to really start taking some of the burden, and the most likely candidate for that is Harvey Barnes. He did a fantastic job of getting himself into good situations, but took some time to get his eye in, and was later denied by some good saves. If he can become even a 10 goal contributor, it would have a huge impact on the team.