Leeds defeat suggests Leicester must sign Jamie Vardy successor in the summer

31 January 2021 08:00

Back in November, Leicester City put in one of their best performances of the season, thrashing Leeds United 4-1 at Elland Road.

The return fixture on Sunday was an altogether different affair, with Marcelo Bielsa's side enacting their revenge with a deserved 3-1 victory.

So, what was the difference between the two encounters? Three words: Jamie Richard Vardy.

Vardy is currently out after having hernia surgery | Pool/Getty Images

Planning for life without one of the club's greatest ever players has been the spectre at the feast for some time for Leicester. Their contrasting fortunes against Leeds this season, with and without him in the side, saw the issue rear its ugly head again on Sunday.

In November's contest, Vardy was directly involved in three of his side's four goals. For Harvey Barnes' opener he showed trademark composure to round Illan Meslier, before squaring it for his teammate to roll home. The second also had his fingerprints all over it with Youri Tielemans gobbling up the rebound from his diving header.

A hat-trick of goal contributions was then completed when he finished nicely after an unorthodox but brilliant pass from Cengiz Under.

This talismanic display was typical of Vardy over the past three seasons. During this time he has managed 52 goals and plenty more assists besides, as well as playing a key role in instigating his team's press.

Despite some optimistic takes and an encouraging if slightly blunt attacking display against Everton, the impact of his absence was as significant as might be expected at the King Power Stadium on Sunday.

What made Leicester so effective against Leeds back in the autumn was Vardy's ability to exploit the vast swathes of space left by Marcelo Bielsa's charges, and on several occasions during Sunday's game the Foxes' counterattacks were screaming for some similarly intelligent runs in behind. However, Ayoze Perez, who has been drafted in to replace him in the last two games, is not naturally inclined to do this.

Perez is ill-suited for filling Vardy's shoes | Pool/Getty Images

Instead with false nine Perez leading the line, the Foxes got plenty of Vardy-esque enthusiasm in the press but positionally, the players could not be more different. Instead of stretching things by sitting on the shoulder of the last defender, the Spaniard dropped off. This would have been fine if either Barnes and Marc Albrighton compensated by surging behind the Leeds back line. Unfortunately, none of them did, with both more comfortable running at defences with the ball at their feet.

James Maddison's recent, increased appetite for goal also waned somewhat against the Whites, with his late surges into the box not coming anywhere near frequently enough.

The defeat to Leeds' was the only the tenth Premier League game that Vardy has missed over the past three seasons. During this period, Leicester have won on just three occasions with two of those coming against poor West Ham and Newcastle teams last campaign. Damningly, without Vardy, Leicester have failed to beat newly-promoted Norwich, Fulham and now Leeds in the last two terms.

Of course, his absence was not the sole reason for them floundering against the Whites. The loss should more likely be viewed as yet another reminder of just how tough life after Vardy could be for Leicester.

It also again suggested that Leicester's current stand-ins are not of the necessary quality to replace him. This summer is going to be an important one for Leicester. Finding Vardy's successor - or at least a capable understudy - seems like a task that cannot be put off any longer.


Source: 90min