Leicester: Do they have the depth to cope with Vardy’s loss?
With England striker Jamie Vardy suspended for three games following his straight red card against Wolves, will Leicester struggle without him?
On Saturday, Jamie Vardy picked up a straight red card in Leicester City’s 2-0 win against Wolverhampton Wanderers, getting himself a three-match suspension at the same time.
Leicester will be thankful that the striker’s suspension includes their home tie in the Carabao Cup against his former club Fleetwood Town.
However, their talisman will miss the trip to Southampton and their home meeting with Liverpool the following week which is cause for concern for manager Claude Puel.
With no additions in the forwards department during the summer, Puel will hope that Vardy steers clear of any injury or suspension for the rest of the season.
How big a loss?
How big a loss is Jamie Vardy to Leicester?
Over the last three seasons, Vardy has contributed 33% of the Foxes goals in the Premier League. He has been scoring at a rate better than one goal every other game in that period and has provided 12 assists for his teammates.
During this time Vardy has missed just six matches which has limited the opportunities for other strikers in the squad. In that time, Islam Slimani, Ahmed Musa and Leonardo Ulloa have all departed in the search for more regular game time.
Collectively, the strikers who have played with Vardy in the last three seasons have scored 34 goals in 110 starts with a further 125 appearances from the bench. By comparison, Vardy has scored 57 goals from 106 starts with just two substitute appearances.
To compare him with every other striker to have played since 15/16 season, Vardy has scored a goal every 161 minutes. All the other forwards collectively are managing a goal every 296 minutes.
Not only are his goals crucial to Leicester, but he offers so much to the team off the ball too with his pace on the counter-attack and relentless closing down of opposition defenders.
During the title-winning season of 2015/16, Leicester were reliant on his pace and ability to run in behind the opposing defenders, something they will miss with him being unavailable.
Whoever is trusted to replace Vardy in the side will have big shoes to fill.
The obvious choice to replace Vardy is 21-year-old Kelechi Iheanacho, who signed from Manchester City for £25 million last summer but who has failed to impress so far with just three goals.
The Nigerian enjoyed two successful seasons in Manchester as he burst onto the Premier League scene with eight goals in just seven starts in his debut season with most of his appearances coming from the bench.
Iheanacho is blessed with enough talent to be a handful for any defender and has shown glimpses of goal-scoring ability with goals against Valencia and Udinese in pre-season Foxes fans will hope he finds form soon.
Claude Puel could also turn to experienced Japan international Shinji Okazaki, the 32-year-old won the Premier League in his first season in England and could be trusted with filling in while Vardy is suspended.
Okazaki enjoyed his most successful season in 2017/18 scoring six goals in 17 starts which coincidentally is the least number of starts he has made whilst at Leicester.
Whether the ageing striker will be mobile enough to play as the lone striker remains to be seen. However, he has been a reliable if not a spectacular performer since his arrival from Mainz.
Leicester’s last option is Fousseni Diabate who made 14 appearances last season but is yet to register a Premier League goal having scored twice in the FA Cup on debut. The under-23 Mali international is an outside choice to start but could feature from the bench as he did for much of last season.
Puel could also look to the under-23 squad and promote Admiral Muskwe into the matchday squad after he bagged 11 goals in the development league last season, although his inclusion looks unlikely.
One silver lining is that Leicester have still picked up points when Vardy has been absent in the past.
For instance, they eased past Huddersfield last season 3-0 and picked up four points from the three games he missed in 2016/17. In their title-winning season, Vardy missed a 1-1 draw with Manchester United and a 4-0 hammering of Swansea.
This leaves a record of just one loss in the six games he has missed since 2015 which will give the Foxes hope of keeping up that impressive record without their main man.
It must be said, though, that Riyad Mahrez was playing in each game that Vardy missed, making this new territory for Leicester: this is the first time in three years that the club have fielded a team which does not include Mahrez or Vardy.
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