When news broke about Arsenal meeting Leicester City’s £20 million release clause that had been put in place for Jamie Vardy, the footballing world was aghast. Whilst many pundits had predicted and even expected Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kanté; the other two front-line stars for The Fixes last season, to entice bids from other clubs and may genuinely consider leaving the King Power Stadium, Jamie Vardy was thought to be a different case.
With the ball very much in Vardy’s court, a decision is reportedly yet to be made over his future, with several sources claiming that his mind is yet to be made up, supported by a statement from his wife. The level of complexity of this particular transfer does not even end there, as Liverpool are also reported to be interested in the England striker, attempting to nip in under the wire and steal the in-form striker from under Arsene Wenger’s nose.
So, should Jamie Vardy decide to leave Leicester City on a wave of celebration and test himself at one of England’s most history-ridden club sides, which would be the better option – Liverpool or Arsenal.
Looking from afar, it is clear to see why the addition of Jamie Vardy to their ranks would be an attractive proposition to those holding the power at The Emirates. The general consensus; although this is frequently rebuffed by Wenger himself, is that Arsenal have an unhealthy lack of forwards that can be classed as having the quality required for The Gunners to achieve their aspirations. Going on the form of the last 18 months or so, this is hardly an accusation that can be levelled at Jamie Vardy.
His 11-match scoring streak in the first half of the 2015/16 Premier League campaign was a wonderful thing to watch, as the entire country got behind the former Fleetwood Town man in his quest to break Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record. On the other hand, Olivier Giroud’s position as Arsenal’s leading forward leaves much to be desired, emphasised no more than by the extended goal-scoring drought that the Frenchman suffered in 2016, only coming to an end in the final moments of the season when there was no longer a great deal to play for.
Danny Welbeck; despite impressing when regaining his place in the first team after a return from a long-term injury problem, has never really displayed the consistency that is required to repeatedly notch up 20 goals a season, and indeed is on the side-lines yet again, with a return date not likely to be until 2017. Arsenal’s other English forward; Theo Walcott, endured another frustrating campaign in North London, so much so that he was not even in Roy Hodgson’s provisional 26-man squad for Euro 2016. Having been linked with West Ham United in the last few days, his time at The Emirates may well be drawing to a close.
So, there is a clear opening for Jamie Vardy at Arsenal purely in terms of the squad, but would he be able to translate his Leicester City form to an entirely different set-up under Arsene Wenger. A key factor behind Vardy’s success for The Foxes has been his ability to run in behind opposition defences, capitalising on space left between the back-line and the goalkeeper after Leicester have soaked up pressure before springing a counter-attack. This is simply not Arsenal’s approach to the game.
Under Arsene Wenger, their long-standing philosophy is to dominate the ball in the middle of the park, construct attacking moves from deep positions, and play intricate passes through tight spaces in order to set up chances. Although Vardy would almost certainly be able to perform to at least an adequate standard in this kind of system, his effectiveness is hardly likely to be as devastating as before. The space in behind the defence that he thrives on would not be there, making the lives of opposition defenders a fraction easier when his hard-working runs into the channel are more of a challenge to replicate
Even if Wenger took the decision to adapt or even completely refresh his strategy as a consequence of securing the Leicester City hit-man; and this is highly unlikely to say the least, then it still may not have the desired effect. When teams line up against Arsenal; particularly at The Emirates, there is an engrained and almost subconscious approach which is taken on, built up over years of experience watching their intricate passing tear sides apart at times. It would take a while for this to wear off – much like the rest of the Premier League could not immediately adapt to Leicester City’s tactics last season – potentially leaving Jamie Vardy in a position where he could not justify the £20 million price tag.
On the other hand, Arsenal certainly possess the passing talent within their ranks to be able to replicate the service which Danny Drinkwater provided so expertly for Vardy last term. In Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla – all of whom have operated in a comparable position to the former Manchester United youth player – long balls over the top would not be a problem to produce. Therefore, if Vardy was able to work the space and have representative chances in the coming campaign, the pass could still be delivered on a six-pence.
Liverpool are very much the underdogs in this transfer battle, arriving late on the scene and without the attractive proposition of Champions League football which both Leicester City and Arsenal are able to boast. Nonetheless, the argument for Vardy to move to Merseyside does still make sense on some levels.
In contrast to the difficulty in implementing the Leicester City hotshot into Arsenal’s team, Vardy would surely feel right at home in Liverpool’s most recent incarnation – the Klopp revolution. Endeavour is second nature to the Englishman, and he would relish the so called gegenpressing approach under the former Dortmund manager. A lover of high-intensity sprints, Vardy would be a major asset in the Reds’ desire to win the ball back high up the pitch, allowing their abundance of creative midfielders to hit the opposition with incisive darts and passes.
Well capable of providing the Merseysiders with an out-ball too, it is easy to see how a pairing of Jamie Vardy with any of the English duo Daniel Sturridge, Danny Ings, or Belgian prodigy Divock Origi, would be a lethal partnership at the forefront of their attack.
However, this is where the first counter-argument arises, for with Jurgen Klopp seeming to favour a sole striker up front and instead packing the midfield with technically adept runners, there may only be space for one of that superb quartet in the team. This is even before we consider the presence of Christian Benteke and auxiliary centre-forward Roberto Firmino. Should a striker really be at the pinnacle of Liverpool’s summer spending priorities?
An interesting point that is shared amongst the boards of both Liverpool and Arsenal is that the acquisition of Jamie Vardy would buck the trend of their previous transfer ideology – purchasing players who are younger and not yet fully developed, nurturing their inherent talent, and arriving at a star name who will eventually be worth a far greater sum of money. This could not feasibly be applied to Vardy, for at the age of 29, you cannot see him ever again commanding a transfer fee of £20 million. For either Arsenal or Liverpool, this would be a signing for the here and now, aiming to achieve in a much more short-term mind-set than is normally expected.
Is there an obvious winner in this debate, then? Not in my opinion. To put it exceptionally simply, Arsenal need Jamie Vardy more than Liverpool do, but the pacey forward is potentially a better fit for The Reds than The Gunners. Without a clear-cut solution to the problem at hand then, the best option would arguably be for Vardy to remain with Claudio Ranieri at Leicester City after all.
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