Kelechi Iheanacho Could Hold Key to Ending Leicester's Attacking Woes

02 July 2020 10:40

There is no better indication of the dearth of consistency in this season's Premier League than the fact that Leicester City remain in third place.

Aside from Jurgen Klopp's all conquering Liverpool side, the only other team in the division that has shown itself to be deserving of a Champions League spot is Manchester City - who may be banned from competing in next season's competition.

For a time, Leicester could count themselves among this elite group, but no more. They must now throw themselves in with Manchester United, Wolves, Sheffield United, Chelsea and the rest of the wildly inconsistent chasing pack vying for a place in Europe next season.

The Foxes' dynamite start to the season, in which Brendan Rodgers' troops exhibited silky football on par with the club's 2015/16 exploits, now seems a distant memory. Defeat to Everton extended their post-lockdown run without a win to four games, during which time they have scored just twice.

Extend your gaze to the Foxes' pre-shutdown form and the picture is even more troubling.

Many plot the decline back to a pair of humiliating defeats against Liverpool and then Manchester City, while others pinpoint the demoralising League Cup semi final loss to Aston Villa as the beginning of the end.

In truth, this is irrelevant. What is important is that Leicester are letting a club-changing Champions League place slip through their fingers and Rodgers needs to find a solution to his side's offensive woes.

These issues were painfully exhibited against the Toffees in midweek. During the first half of the season, the Foxes possessed one of the most cohesive attacking units in the division. At Goodison Park they were anything but, with Premier League top scorer Jamie Vardy once again starved of service, just as he was against Watford, Brighton and Chelsea.

However, there was one bright spark during the defeat to Carlo Ancelotti's side. Kelechi Iheanacho's introduction at half time led to the Foxes playing some of their most dangerous football since lockdown ended.

Often thought of as an out-and-out poacher during his fledgling years at Manchester City, Iheanacho is a far more well-rounded striker than many give him credit for. Against Everton, the Nigerian played the role of a deeper lying link man, combining nicely with James Maddison and Youri Tielemans on the half turn around the 18-yard box and making Vardy more comfortable up front.

As Rob Tanner pointed out in a recent article for the Athletic, the space between the league's top marksman and the Foxes midfield has been slowly increasing since Christmas, leaving the lone striker more and more isolated.

Without the attacking thrust provided by the fantastic Ricardo Pereira and with Leicester's other wide players looking badly out of form, the team has not been able to get the ball up the pitch to Vardy over the past few weeks.

Iheanacho's penchant for dropping deeper addressed this problem against Everton somewhat as he allowed Leicester's number nine to remain deviously positioned on the last man, ready to strike. Doing away with the stagnant 4-1-4-1 formation and pursuing a strike partnership is necessary going forward.

As well as playing a key creative role with some selfless link-up play, Iheanacho also did something that Vardy hasn't for four games now - score a goal.

It may not have been pretty - in fact, it was down right ugly - but that doesn't matter. Leicester will take as many 'in off the face' goals as possible if it means they secure a European spot. The strike - if you can even call it that - means that Iheanacho is now averaging a goal or assist every 170 minutes. Not mind-boggling numbers, but a very welcome source of firepower as Leicester's season reaches an decisive juncture.

Binning off Vardy as a lone striker will take bravery from Rodgers but doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of madness. This is exactly what the Northern Irishman is doing by persisting with the 4-1-4-1 system.

It's time to freshen things up and the once vilified Iheanacho could be the perfect foil to get Vardy scoring again, and that is absolutely key to the Foxes' dwindling Champions League qualification hopes.


Source: 90min