Craig Shakespeare has overseen an impressive rejuvenation with Leicester in recent weeks following the sacking of Claudio Ranieri. This has been in conjunction with Jamie Vardy’s revival, too. The forward has rediscovered his scoring touch and seems to be enjoying his football once again, but what has changed?
Leicester are firing themselves away from their relegation worries this term, as they now sit on 33 points, six clear of Hull City in 18th with a game in hand. It seems that Leicester are following a very similar path to the one Chelsea embarked upon last year.
Many of the Leicester players have been accused of being snakes following the sacking of Premier League-winning manager Claudio Ranieri, with some senior players supposedly being at the heart of his dismissal.
One man that has taken a lot of flack is Jamie Vardy, with the forward supposedly one of the main culprits. The striker was unable to recreate his performances of the season before, with goals at a premium. However, since Shakespeare’s promotion, Vardy has re-found that scoring touch. Coincidence, probably not.
Irrespective of what did or did not go on in the changing room, Vardy’s revival has been a timely one for the Foxes.
In his last seven games in all club competitions, he has scored six goals. To put this into context, in the nine games prior to his goal against Sevilla in the Champions League, he had not scored in nine straight games.
Jamie Vardy has now been directly involved in 9 goals in his last 9 games for club & country.
7 goals ⚽️
2 assists ?️
Bang in form. pic.twitter.com/nIHJ0OuEV7
— 8 Fact Football (@8Fact_Footballl) 5 April 2017
Under Shakespeare, Vardy has reverted back to his role as an out and out striker. Against Sevilla, the forward was allowed to use his searing pace to get in behind the defence, while he was also able to use his aggression and tenacity to dog the opposition for the ball.
On more than one occasion this season, Leicester have struggled to break down the opposition, with the smaller teams happy to sit deep against them, curbing their ability to counter-attack., which was the hallmark of their title-winning season.
Perhaps Vardy’s change is not so much to do with himself, but with his teammates. Danny Drinkwater was instrumental in scoring Leicester’s away goal in their 2-1 loss in Spain against Sevilla, in Ranieri’s final game. The midfielder picked up the ball, beat two men and drilled a perfectly placed pass across the box for Vardy.
Riyad Mahrez and Marc Albrighton have been far more effective too, with Mahrez rediscovering some part of his form from last season, while Albrighton has been given the ability to get forward again and use his accurate crossing, whereas in recent months he has been far too defensively inclined.
The departure of N’Golo Kante has clearly had an effect on Leicester too, with the Frenchman getting through the work rate of two players, meaning Drinkwater could focus more on his attacking abilities, knowing the Kante would take care of a lot of the defensive work.
The fact that Shakespeare is allowing his midfielders to attack more freely then has clearly aided Vardy. The striker has always been renowned for his pace, finishing and aggression, and not for his build up play and passing. With Leicester sitting deeper, it meant Vardy was forced to pick up the ball further away form the opposition goal, forcing him to have to beat a number of players if he were to get into open space.
While all of this seems to make a lot of sense, perhaps Vardy’s resurgence is not down to matters in football, instead, it is to do with the fact that the life of a club rep in Ibiza is the glitzy lifestyle the player wants, and not the mundane, poorly paid life of the modern footballer, we really feel for you Jamie.
— Results24.co.uk (@Results24) 4 April 2017
Of course, to say Leicester will win the Premier League next season would be more than optimistic, but the situation is similar. A controversial change of manager has seen the same players Ranieri had suddenly find heir feet.
It is a worrying indictment of modern football, in that the players have too much power. If they lose form, it is the manager that pays for it. In this case, the much loved Ranieri lost his dream job, and suddenly, Leicester are back to beating teams again.