Vardy proves unflappable in face of terrace torment
FOOTBALL NEWS CORRESPONDENT As soon as the Crystal Palace taunts started in the second half, you just knew what was coming. Jamie Vardy has spent an entire career shutting his doubters up, so you can be sure there will be a response when his wife Rebekah is that target.
An audible laugh went around Selhurst Park, as the Holmesdale Stand reminded Vardy about the allegation made by Coleen Rooney over information being passed from a user of Rebekah Vardy’s Instagram account.
But those who thought the songs were funny were not smiling when Vardy killed the game with Leicester City’s second goal and celebrated by mocking the Palace eagle.
The fact Vardy’s armflapping, just yards from those who had jeered him, felt rehearsed only underlined the fact he had arrived at Selhurst Park prepared. He is ready to make his and his wife’s detractors pay.
“He’s so thickskinned,” said the Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers. “One of those boys … that only makes him better. He will not shrivel up.
“He’s very concentrated on his game, very focused on the game. He’s a striker who is very rarely offside because of the timing of his runs. You have to be so clever and bright to do that.
“He’s playing so well, like all of them.” It was in the 88th minute that Vardy swept the ball past Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita for his 10th goal of his season and his 19th since Rodgers took over at Leicester. Palace manager Roy Hodgson worked with Vardy with England and will no doubt have noticed how Rodgers has refined the striker’s game to make him even more dangerous.
“Firstly, from a defensive perspective, he’s not having to press the whole back four,” said Rodgers.
“He’d do that all day for you if you asked him, but it’s now much more synchronised, shorter bursts of pressing.
“He’s so clever in terms of the traps we set. And he’s playing more central. The other guys, it’s their job to create the opportunities. I’ve asked him to stay on the last line.”
England assistant manager Steve Holland was in the stands, presumably to watch James Maddison, ahead of Gareth Southgate naming 2015/16 Premier League Team P
1. Manchester City 11
2. Arsenal 11
3. Leicester City 11
4. Manchester United 11
5. Tottenham Hotspur 11
6. West Ham United 11 his latest England squad on Thursday. There must be a temptation for Southgate to at least ask the question of whether or not Vardy would make himself available for his country again, given his form.
Harry Kane and Tammy Abraham have started the season impressively, but Vardy is the bestperforming English striker in the Premier League and, crucially, he offers something different to the rest of Southgate’s options.
Maddison’s trip to a casino after pulling out of the last England squad has raised question marks over his future involvement in Southgate’s plans, but, on this evidence, he has to be given another chance. The midfielder set up Caglar Soyuncu, via a flick off Patrick van Aanholt’s head, to open the scoring from a corner in the 57th minute. The goal was Soyuncu’s first for Leicester and prompted the travelling fans to remind Harry Maguire, who left in the summer, that his Manchester United team now trail the Foxes by 10 points.
Guaita had performed heroics seconds before Soyuncu’s goal to push a Jonny Evans header over the Pts 31 25 23 20 17 16
Leicester City’s title-winning season of four years ago was so unlikely that even the most devoted supporter could not have envisaged it happening again any time soon, but Brendan Rodgers’ revived Leicester have accrued only two points fewer at the same stage of the campaign and sit only one place lower in fourth. Those fans might dare to dream that lightning could strike twice... bar from another delivery from Maddison, who was involved in the best move of the match in the first half, which almost resulted in Vardy opening the scoring.
Harvey Barnes found the midfielder with a brilliant flick and Maddison produced a sublime pass with the outside of his boot to send Vardy scurrying into the left side of the Palace penalty area.
But, from a tight angle, the striker’s shot was saved.
This was just the kind of gritty away win Arsenal would kill for and Leicester now go into Saturday’s game against the Gunners with a six-point advantage over their topfour rivals.
Another victory would put Leicester nine points ahead of Arsenal and could even cost Unai Emery his job.
But Rodgers is far too clever to be getting ahead of himself just yet.
“The team’s playing well, but we’re not getting carried away,” said Rodgers.
“I’m not going to trap the players with pressure to think of anything other than playing.
“They’ve been absolutely brilliant since I came in. They’re hungry to learn. First class. The spirit’s very good.
“We’re trying to create something here that we can sustain. We’ve had a very good start, some very good performances, different types of wins.
“With 10 games to go, let’s see where we are.
“We always want to be better, but we’re comfortable in the fact we’re challenging.
“People asked about European football at the beginning of the season, but there are some incredible teams in this League with great quality. Let’s work and try to get better.
“We’re in a good place, but there’s a long way to go.”
The eagle has landed: Jamie Vardy’s novel celebration at Crystal Palace