Leicester City are looking to refresh their squad during the summer in an attempt to ready themselves for what looks set to be a second-ever Champions League campaign.
The Foxes are third in the Premier League and, unless something dramatic happens, European football will be played at the King Power Stadium next season.
According to reports, Brendan Rodgers is eager to add new faces to ensure standards don’t drop. Competition for places leads to improved performances. If all goes to plan, a top-four challenge turns into a title push.
It’s clear this is what the former Celtic boss is planning for.
“Each year you want to improve,” said Rodgers last week. “There’s no doubt that’s what our aim would be.
“By the end of the season, we’ll have been working with virtually the same squad for near-on 18 months, so you need to refresh it, you need to keep looking to raise the bar. That sort of plan is underway.
“I think the key now is to finish the job and give everything to get to where we want to be at the end of the season, and then we can look at that.”
If there’s one area Leicester need to improve it is attack. They may possess the league’s top scorer in Jamie Vardy but his goals are papering over a cracks in the final third.
For example, no other player has managed to get into double figures yet and without Vardy’s 19 strikes, Ayoze Pérez (7) would be the Foxes’ tops scorer. What makes this even more remarkable is the fact the Vardy went eight games without a goal before his double against Aston Villa on Monday.
Rodgers’ side are the third-highest scorers in the Premier League (58). But it is worth remembering they scored 14 of those goals in two matches, against Southampton (9-0) and Newcastle United (5-0). That skews things a little. They’ve actually scored one or fewer in 12 of their 29 games.
Leicester will eventually have to find a long-term successor for Vardy, 33, and perhaps now is the ideal time to do just that. He’s still performing so Leicester’s need isn’t desperate. It would relieve the pressure on any new signing to deliver immediately.
However, finding someone who does what Vardy does isn’t going to be easy. He’s the definition of clinical. He doesn’t rely on volume to be at his devastating best. For context, this season, he’s averaging just 2.39 shots (per 90) yet he’s scoring 0.77 goals. Mohamed Salah is taking 3.93 shots for his 0.64 goals.
Vardy only averages around five touches in the penalty area (per 90), too. He’s there to add the finishing touch to a move, not get heavily involved in the build-up play. Most European teams demand a lot more from their centre-forward and this makes the former England international unique in many ways.
The Foxes need a player who outperforms their expected goals averages yet doesn’t rely on countless chances to be effective. They need a striker who adds quality to their shots with their placement. As you can see in the graphic above, Vardy likes to hit the corners with his finishes. That ability turns a good chance into a great one.
Using the Football Whispers Toolbox, we’ve been able to create a playing profile for Vardy and match him up to others and two players show as being remarkably similar to the former Fleetwood Town forward.
Moussa Dembélé is the first name. City boss Rodgers knows him well from their time together at Celtic and the Frenchman is regularly linked with a move to the Premier League.
Dembélé ticks all the boxes. Firstly, he’s adding value to his shots, 0.03 per 90 to be precise, and he’s outperforming these numbers as all elite forwards do. He’s not heavily reliant on volume, averaging just 2.3 shots (per 90) and he’s on par with Vardy for touches in the penalty area.
Another possibility is Kasper Dolberg. He burst onto the scene with Ajax as an 18-year-old, scoring 23 in 47 as the Amsterdam side made it all the way to the 2017 Europa League final. However, his form, and his importance to the Dutch giants, tailed off and he was replaced in their starting XI by Dušan Tadić.
He was stagnating but last summer’s move to Nice reignited his career. He made the switch for a fee believed to be in the region of €20million but it didn’t really register on the radar. However, he’s enjoying life in France and is back amongst the goals.
Like Vardy, Dolberg is often the exclamation point for his team. Rarely involved in general play, he comes alive in and around the penalty box. The 22-year-old drifts into good areas before firing home. Furthermore, he’s adding value to his efforts with his shot placement.
Dembélé has a better reputation and a larger sample size to judge but Dolberg could well be the best fit. He’d be a shrewd signing for the Foxes and they’d not have to break the bank to land him.