Premier League

Jamie Vardy: The most dangerous tortoise in the Premier League

 • by Mark Thompson
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Strikers depend on service. And Leicester City frontman Jamie Vardy is no different. In fact, it might apply to him more than most.

Vardy is no Lionel Messi or Eden Hazard, a duo that can dribble through half a team to create a shot. Nor is he a Harry Kane, a forward who can generate a dangerous shot from any angle.

So it was no surprise, really, that his goals dried up after the title win of 2015/16; teams figured out how to play against Leicester and starved him of space behind their defence.

You could make the case that a combination of that space, Vardy’s pace, and Daniel Drinkwater’s technique was the true ‘creator’ in that Leicester side. While Drinkwater and Riyad Mahrez both had talent, neither operated as a creative No.10 who could unlock defences.

But the Leicester City of 2018/19 is very different and with James Maddison helping to feed him, Vardy is having a renaissance that is going under the radar.

The tortoise and the hare

The way strikers usually catch the eye is by going through a hot streak. If they go a few matches scoring half of the shots they take then, not only will they rack up the goals, they’ll limit the amount of times fans see them fail too.

But this never lasts long. The reliable way to score goals is to get as many decent chances as possible. The tortoise to the hot streak’s hare.

Vardy’s 2018/19 has followed the trajectory of the tortoise so far; less eye-catching but no less impressive.

The amount of shots he’s taking per 90 minutes has dramatically increased, from 1.96 to 3.69 – the tenth-highest rate in the league. And because of the type of player Vardy is, the quality of his chances tends to be high, which means that this boost in shots is all killer, no filler.

In fact, if you look at his expected goals per 90 minutes, then his chance of finding the net has more than doubled between this season and last.

Vardy’s rate of 0.34 expected goals per 90 minutes in 2017/18 was on the verge of being in the top third of Premier League strikers. But this campaign he’s shot up to 0.72 expected goals per 90.

Things can only get better

If anything, Vardy could easily have more goals to his name. He’s only scored two non-penalty goals despite getting chances worth over 2.7 expected goals in open-play.

If he’d hit a run of clinical form on top of the increase in chances he’s getting, then he could have been challenging Hazard, Kane, Sergio Agüero and Aleksander Mitrovic at the top of the league’s scoring charts.

But the good news for Leicester and the club’s fans is that Vardy is back, and he’s also due a goal by the football gods. Defences had better watch out.

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