Leicester City are currently sitting third in the Premier League with almost a third of the season gone, and our main striker looks like he’s going to Euro 2016 with England next year.
We have two of the hottest properties around in footballing terms with some of the biggest clubs in Europe said to be sniffing round Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.
We have scored 25 goals so far this season, bettered only by a single goal by the club currently sitting on top of the pile – Manchester City. Vardy has scored in nine consecutive games, a record for a British player in the top-flight, and only one off equalling the all-time record of Ruud van Nistelrooy.
In fact, with 12 goals so far this season to his name, the former Fleetwood attacker has scored more on his own than the likes of Aston Villa, West Brom, Watford, and Stoke.
But herein lies my worry. After Vardy, our next best goalscorer is Mahrez with eight, seven of which have come in the league. After this, no other Leicester City player has scored more than one goal for the club in the league. Dyer has managed two, but one of these was in the League Cup, and so were all four of Joe Dodoo’s.
It has to be said when Dodoo made the step up to the league team on the strength of his league cup exploits, he looked out of his depth and not yet ready for this move. So should the worse happen and we lose either of Vardy or Mahrez, where would the goals come from?
I have said in a previous blog, as a club, Leicester City no longer need to sell. Gone are the years when we nurtured young players and got them to a standard where they would be picked off by bigger clubs and we had to sell to keep running. But the truth is every player has his price. Tottenham did not need to sell Gareth Bale but were made an offer they couldn’t refuse. But it is not the selling of the players that immediately concerns me.
What would Leicester do if, and it happens to strikers, Vardy suddenly did a ‘Rooney’ and went through a barren scoring spell? He is on fire at the moment, of that there is no doubt, but fires go out. Mahrez is not an out-and-out striker, and even this season has been dropped by Ranieri when his form has dipped.
Injury is the other main concern. How many of us had our hearts in our mouth when Vardy went down in the match against Watford? Ranieri wanted him off, but the player insisted on carrying on, and went on to score the penalty. But this injury meant he missed the England friendly loss to Spain. Injuries can, and do, happen. So who would step up in this event happening?
Vardy’s current preferred strike partner, Shinji Okazaki, was regarded as one of the best strikers in Germany when he signed in the summer. Many thought he was brought in mainly as a marketing tool to help promote the club in the owners’ homelands of the Far East, and so far he has done little to disprove that.
Like his predecessor, David Nugent, Okazaki gives 110%, often saving lost causes when it comes to getting the ball, but with only one goal from 13 appearances and only three shots on target, this is one striker you wouldn’t currently rely on for goals.
Last season’s top scorer Leo Ulloa is himself going through a barren patch. Not picked, I agree, but when he has started in the League Cup he has failed to step up to the mark. He has made eight appearances this season, five as a sub, but has also only managed three shots on target.
Leicester’s fourth striker, January signing Andrej Kramaric, was billed as one of Europe’s hottest properties, when he allegedly chose to sign for Leicester over Chelsea. This gave a huge lift to a club that at the time was sat at the bottom of the table and looking certs for relegation.
Personally I was excited, because I saw a player who, when on the pitch, was not afraid to have a shot at goal. As a team, the Foxes were struggling and our players looked scared to have a shot, preferring to pass across the goal rather than shoot at it.
Like Ulloa, a bit-part player this season, he has managed four shots on target returning one goal from four appearances. I thought 2015/16 would be his season, but with Okazaki signing and seeming to be Ranieri’s first choice partner for Vardy, his chances have been few and far between and his time at our club seems to be numbered.
The selling of David Nugent may come back and bite us on the bum, as could the failure to sign QPR’s Charlie Austin – a player we did actually bid for.
Take away his penalties and David Nugent was not a prolific goalscorer for the Foxes, but you could always rely on him to get one when it was needed, and his four goals for Middlesbrough this season show he still knows where the net is.
Austin was the Premier League’s top English goalscorer last season, not bad for a player in a team that ultimately got relegated, and his seven for them this season makes him QPR’s top scorer again.
Should we go back in for Austin in January? He has proved he can do it at the top level. An old-fashioned English centre forward, he would thrive on the crosses Albrighton, Mahrez and Schlupp would supply.
If not Austin, then I believe we do need another ‘proven’ goalscorer that can step up to the mark. With Okazaki, Ulloa & Kramaric failing to do so when required, an injury or suspension to Vardy could prove very costly.