Can Leicester's Jamie Vardy help the Foxes edge out Liverpool?
There is no need to justify the importance of marksman Jamie Vardy in Leicester City’s title-winning exploits last season. The Sheffield-born striker notched 24 Premier League goals to help propel the Foxes to their maiden top-flight title and forced himself into the international fold to feature at Euro 2016 for England, where he netted against British rivals Wales.
Jamie Vardy has already registered two goals this campaign- one from the spot on the opening day against Hull City and another in the Foxes’ 2-1 home win over Swansea prior to the international break. That took Vardy’s overall tally to six goals in his last seven Premier League appearances, and a forward in hot form will be exactly what Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester need as the Foxes head to Merseyside to take on Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool in the first Premier League clash to be hosted at Anfield this season.
Vardy has enjoyed playing against the Reds of late, having netted both of Leicester’s goals in their 2-0 win over Klopp’s team at the King Power Stadium back in February during Leicester’s march to the title. This early season showdown however will be a different prospect, but there is no reason why once more the former non-league striker who has meteorically risen through the football pyramid cannot make a telling difference at the highest level once again.
With another strong start to the campaign, the important task for Vardy was to prove he is not simply a one-season wonder, after brushing off transfer interest from Arsenal during the build-up to the European Championships this summer. His form for England has demonstrated that he is more than capable of making the step-up to the level of an international regular, and off the mark with two already for Leicester in 2016/17, he already looks like carrying his form on in the Premier League and not only remaining in the plans of England boss Sam Allardyce, but also a central figure in the ambitions of Claudio Ranieri’s Foxes.
The ramifications of additional fixtures this season thanks to the Champions League will also affect Leicester’s season, and for that they will continue to depend a great deal on Jamie Vardy’s goals. But for now the priority is gaining as much as possible from Saturday’s match at Anfield, for Ranieri preaches taking each game as it comes, at maintains his assertion that 40 points is Leicester’s priority target first and foremost.
Besides Vardy’s obvious goalscoring form, he may have the freedom to play without the pressure of being Leicester’s primary source of goals if Ranieri opts to start new signing Islam Slimani alongside him. The Algerian is a forward of similar dexterity to Vardy and netted 27 times last season for Sporting Lisbon, and he provides an alternative source of goals and adds a little extra than Shinji Okazaki, who despite his impressive work rate doesn’t always repay it with the goals it deserves.
Much of course would depend on a chemistry being established between Vardy and Slimani if the two are to feature together at any stage, but the relief of goalscoring pressure on Vardy in having another potent striker next to him may ensure the Yorkshireman enjoys a similar goalscoring impact to that with England when placed next to Harry Kane.
Vardy has proven that with a goalscoring partner with him, he can thrive in the knowledge that less pressure is on him to score goals, but he is just as capable of providing them even as the main frontman. His eye for goal, excellent reading of the game and his own impressive work rate have moulded him into a force to be reckoned with and Liverpool will know all about the extent of the threat he can pose when he emerges from the Anfield tunnel in Leicester blue on Saturday afternoon. With the ongoing issue at left-back for the Reds given Alberto Moreno’s poor form and James Milner having to deputise in the unfamiliar role, the situation could be ideal for the Foxes to profit through a freedom of service on that flank for Riyad Mahrez to feed Vardy for some joy in front of goal for the visitors.
Liverpool’s task however will be to shackle Vardy and Mahrez and the remainder of Leicester’s forward line, and with the forward currently very much on song, that may be easier said than done, and he will inevitably play a big part if it is to be a happy weekend on Merseyside for the defending champions.
Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by Ian Johnson.
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