Jamie Vardy form means another big club could come calling
Eyebrows were certainly raised around the Premier League elite when Jamie Vardy turned down a move to Arsenal in the summer of 2016, electing to stay with Leicester.
That decision looked like a real opportunity missed for the England striker, as he struggled to replicate his in 2015/16 heroics the following season, with Leicester reverting to the norm, well out of any title race.
“I have no regrets whatsoever. I have made some great decisions in my life,” Vardy said last summer, a year after the projected move to Arsenal broke down.
“Since I have been here, we have had play-off heartache to winning the league, battling relegation to stay in the league to avoiding relegation to finish mid-table.”
However, the Vardy form we’ve seen recently, especially against the very best opponents, suggests that Vardy’s time may come again, and this time, with Leicester unlikely to be fighting for anything at either end of the table, another chance at a top four club could prove difficult to resist.
‘Bobby’ Firmino is slowly becoming the No 9 Jurgen Klopp always imagined he would be, Romelu Lukaku is Jose Mourinho’s go-to marksmen, while Alvaro Morata fulfils the same role for Antonio Conte at Chelsea, but what do they all have in common? They all have less Premier League goals to their name than Jamie Vardy.
That isn’t the most astonishing stat about Vardy’s season, not by any stretch. Since August 2014, Vardy has scored 23 goals in 43 matches against the Premier League’s ‘big six’, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham. On Saturday, he became the first player in Premier League history to score against all of those six in the same season.
To put that in perspective, Lukaku has scored a measly five goals against the ‘big six’ opposition from 86 shots, in 41 matches.
In fact, Vardy has matched his Premier League goal return of last season, with nine matches still to play which, in a World Cup year, is certainly very promising.
Harry Kane’s form means he is beyond comparison to other English strikers, but behind him, Vardy is well clear of the chasing pack. Daniel Sturridge has moved clubs in search of salvation, but has encountered the same problems, Jermain Defoe’s potency has all but disappeared, while Marcus Rashford and Danny Welbeck have fallen well down the pecking order at their respective clubs.
Vardy will not lead the line for England in the summer, Kane, as captain, is going to be that figurehead, but as an impact player off the bench, or from out wide, should Vardy grab a few goals at this summer’s World Cup, to go with a fine end to the season, peaking the interest of big-name suitors is a near certainty.
But at 31, is he worth a punt? In today’s world, with instant results of paramount importance, the short answer is yes. Tottenham, not renowned for being overly profligate in the transfer market, didn’t think twice about spending £12m on 32-year-old Fernando Llorente last summer.
Conte’s desperate pursuit of anyone with a remotely decent track record in the Premier League typified this desire for the here and now. Vardy wouldn’t be a fantastic signing for the likes of Tottenham or Chelsea in the long term, but with pockets full to bursting with TV revenue, spending on £25m on Vardy will feel like anything but a splurge.
This will be his final chance to experience something new, and should that bid come in, serious thought must be given.
Leicester have found their level now. The ridiculousness of their title-winning season, and maiden Champions League that followed, are now just a fond, distant memory. Riyad Mahrez will leave in the summer, whether the club allow him to or not. Without the Algeria international, Leicester are significantly weaker, as is Vardy’s supply line.
Perhaps, Mahrez departing should show Vardy the way. He has achieved all he can at Leicester and, having stuck around for two more seasons after snubbing Arsenal’s advances, he will leave a hero. Keep scoring goals at this rate, and there could be a big decision to make.
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