Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Should Leicester drop Vardy and Mahrez?

A postman called Lee Chapman (not the old Leeds striker) got a lot of publicity last year for doing his round dressed as Jamie Vardy and then joining in Leicester’s title-winning celebrations. This season it’s been tempting to wonder if Lee Chapman has actually replaced Vardy in the Leicester line-up, as the once-prolific striker has only scored five goals all season. Vardy almost joined Arsenal in the summer and though he did the romantic thing by sticking with Leicester, he might now be wondering if he should have gone. He’s been suffering from a lack of service and the loss of Kante’s brilliant tackling and counter attacking instincts, but Vardy today looks like a player woefully short of confidence.

Vardy’s taking a touch too many where once he was firing in first-time volleys such as that unstoppable goal against Liverpool. The winger turned striker is now 30 and perhaps had the season of his life last time round, destined never to be repeated. Perhaps he might benefit from a rest and coming off the bench against tiring teams where he could regain his pace and confidence. But for the moment maybe Ranieri should give games to more prosaic strikers such as Slimani, Okazaki and even the wantaway Ulloa.

The decline of Mahrez has been equally alarming. Admittedly he made a great chance for Slimani at Swansea, but he still looks unwilling to take on his man. Perhaps Ranieri should apply the old Harry Redknapp school of coaching, and insist he gets in at least ten crosses a game and goes on a set amount of dribbles into the box. He looks like a player who needs to hear some home truths.

Another worry for Leicester is that Morgan and Huth are creaking at the back. Huth was let go by Mark Hughes at Stoke because he was felt to be past his best. He responded with one final season of abrasive defensive brilliance, but now at 32 he’s not the force he was and has been further restricted by the clampdown on tugging and pulling at corners. His partner Wes Morgan is 33 and is also fighting against time. Was it the form of Kante as a defensive shield that made them seem so solid last season?

No-one in football would want to see Ranieri sacked after last season, but with the club facing up to a relegation fight now is surely the time to bring in some hungrier younger players.

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