Leicester lynch­pin Vardy loses magic touch

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

TWELVE MONTHS on from his record-break­ing Premier League scor­ing streak, Leicester City tal­is­man Jamie Vardy ap­pears to have lost a lit­tle of his star­dust.

Last Novem­ber, Vardy set a new record by scor­ing in 11 con­sec­u­tive Premier League matches, but ahead of Club Brugge’s visit in the Cham­pi­ons League to­mor­row morn­ing, he has gone 13 club games with­out a goal.

His strug­gles in front of goal have mir­rored Leicester’s slump to 14th in the league ta­ble and prompted for­mer Eng­land striker Alan Shearer to suggest he may have lost some of his fa­mous hunger.

“Jamie is go­ing through a goal drought and is not go­ing to get out of it by sulk­ing, be­cause that is what he looks like he is do­ing at the minute,” Shearer wrote in The Sun re­cently.

“He is not do­ing what he did last sea­son and caus­ing de­fend­ers enough prob­lems. He is mak­ing it easy for them.

“There is a lack of ef­fort there. You have to work hard to get to the top, but you have to work even harder to stay there.”

Vardy, who turns 30 in Jan­uary, fin­ished last sea­son on top of the world af­ter his 24 league goals fired Leicester to their as­ton­ish­ing 5,000-1 ti­tle tri­umph.

But the close sea­son brought with it a pe­riod of soul-search­ing af­ter Arse­nal trig­gered a re­lease clause in his con­tract with a £22mil­lion (RM120m) bid.

The spec­u­la­tion dom­i­nated Eng­land’s prepa­ra­tions for Euro 2016 and al­though Vardy ended up turn­ing Arse­nal down, in­stead sign­ing a new fouryear deal with Leicester, he found lit­tle so­lace in France.

He failed to dis­lodge Harry Kane from Eng­land’s start­ing XI and scored only once, in a group-stage win over Wales, as Roy Hodg­son’s side were hu­mil­i­at­ingly elim­i­nated by Ice­land in the last 16.

Vardy re­turned to Leicester to find the club gear­ing up for a cam­paign in which they would be viewed as the team to beat, rather than rel­e­ga­tion fod­der as they had been 12 months pre­vi­ously.

No longer able to count on op­po­nents un­der­es­ti­mat­ing his team and com­ing out to at­tack, man­ager Clau­dio Ranieri added va­ri­ety to his at­tack­ing op­tions with moves for Ahmed Musa and Is­lam Sli­mani.

Vardy forged a bril­liant part­ner­ship with the sim­i­larly hard-work­ing Shinji Okazaki last sea­son, but this term he has had to adapt to dif­fer­ent part­ners.

The rangy Sli­mani, bought from Sport­ing Lis­bon to give Leicester an at­tack­ing fo­cal point, is more of a tar­get man, whereas the lithe and speedy Musa boasts a skill-set sim­i­lar to Vardy’s.

Con­ti­nu­ity has there­fore been re­placed by chop and change for Vardy, who has started six games along­side Sli­mani, six games along­side Okazaki and three games along­side Musa.

De­fend­ers, mean­while, have got wise to him, mak­ing sure to deny him the space on which he thrives.

He has scored just three goals since the start of the sea­son and none since Leicester’s 4-1 de­feat at Liver­pool on Septem­ber 10.

“I just think a lot of the chances I was get­ting last year have not been there this year,” Vardy said last week.

Leicester’s Cham­pi­ons League es­capades have given their fans some­thing to cheer about and the Foxes will book a place in the last 16 if they avoid de­feat against Club Brugge.

Vardy is still to join the Euro­pean party, hav­ing contributed none of Leicester’s five goals in the com­pe­ti­tion.

But he reac­quainted him­self with the sen­sa­tion of scor­ing with a div­ing header in Eng­land’s 2-2 friendly draw against Spain last week.

It prompted Ranieri to de­clare he was “a new Vardy” and al­though he did not score in Satur­day’s 2-1 de­feat at Wat­ford, he did win the penalty from which Riyad Mahrez scored Leicester’s goal.

“It’s just all about work­ing hard and even­tu­ally they’ll come,” Vardy said.

“You do go through spells with­out scor­ing, but even­tu­ally it will come back and you’ll be bang­ing them in again.” – AFP

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