Five games, five wins, 11 goals scored and just two conceded, January has been a flawless month for Leicester City so far.
Brendan Rodgers' side even briefly ascended to the top of the Premier League table at one point, courtesy of a memorable 2-0 victory over Chelsea.
Everything looked rosy.until news broke of Jamie Vardy's hernia surgery, which is set to keep the Foxes' timeless talisman out until February.
Vardy turned 34 recently, but his influence has showed no signs of waning. Last season's Golden Boot winner is currently top of both the goals (13) and assists (5) leaderboards for Leicester and there are many, less measurable qualities he also brings to the team.
By constantly sitting on the shoulder of the last defender, he creates pockets of space for James Maddison to operate in. Meanwhile, his decoy runs also make his teammates look so devastating on the counter.
As he continues to play such a pivotal role, news of his injury was treated with considerable dread within the Leicester fanbase. This reaction was exacerbated by the Foxes' upcoming fixture list. This period will seriously test their top four credentials, with games against Everton, Leeds, Fulham, Wolves and Liverpool all to come before the middle of February.
While losing Vardy is a huge blow, Leicester will be doing everything in their power to ensure that their recent momentum does not dissipate. Fortunately, recent signs suggest that they have every chance of doing exactly that.
Last campaign, other than Vardy, only Kelechi Iheanacho got into double figures for scoring. This time out, Harvey Barnes has already netted 10, while James Maddison has managed nine. Further down the scoring list, Youri Tielemans is also enjoying a fine campaign, scoring five times despite largely operating in a withdrawn midfield role.
Maddison's transformation into a goal-getting attacking midfielder has been particularly impressive. In the past he has favoured taking the ball on the half turn from deep. However, this term the 24-year-old have developed an appetite for getting into the box, which has paid off massively. His poacher's finish in his most recent outing against Brentford was his fourth goal in four games, and he requires just two more strikes to guarantee his most prolific Premier League season ever.
Rodgers has long espoused the need for Leicester to diversify their scoring threat and this term, they finally seem to be accomplishing that. Despite Vardy not registering a goal in his side's last seven games, the Foxes have still managed to go unbeaten. Along the way, they have picked up impressive wins over Chelsea and Southampton, as well as drawing 2-2 with table topping Manchester United — all without their magic number nine's divine intervention.
This is something Rodgers was keen to emphasise when quizzed on the effect that Vardy's absence would have on his side.
"When you don’t have one of the best striker’s in the league around, it’s disappointing," he told reporters earlier this month (via BBC Leicester Sport)."We always try to rely on the collective, the group has always been able to find results. I’ve got other great strikers – Ayoze Perez and Kelechi Iheanacho."
But which of the pair should fill in for Vardy in his absence? Well, to be honest, neither player has made much of an impact this season, scoring one Premier League goal between them. Perhaps a better option would be Barnes, who made a brief 45 minute cameo up front during his side's 1-0 win over Arsenal back in October.
Unlike the other two candidates, he is more naturally inclined to attempt runs in behind, which should prevent the space between the opposition's lines becoming congested. It might not be as effective as having the real deal there, but this Vardy-lite solution could be what Leicester need to ensure that their good run continues.