Kelechi Iheanacho: Nigeria striker unfazed by role on Leicester bench

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Kelechi Iheanacho: Nigeria striker unfazed by role on Leicester bench

Post by Bigpokey24 »

What is the justification of benching your top goal scorer?

Nigeria international Kelechi Iheanacho insists he has no complaints about starting this season as a substitute for English Premier League club Leicester City.

His role on the bench comes despite scoring 19 goals last season to end Jamie Vardy's five-year streak as the club's top scorer and help them finish as surprise FA Cup winners.

Last month, he picked up from where he left off as he dispatched a late penalty as the Foxes stunned champions Manchester City to claim the Community Shield in the season's curtain-raiser.

Nonetheless, he is still waiting for his first league start of this season, having played a total of just 67 minutes so far when appearing as a substitute in Leicester's opening four games.

"Of course I had a pretty good season at the end of last season, but honestly I am not bothered [about] what's going on," Iheanacho told BBC Sport Africa.

"Now we have new players come in and we have a big squad. We need everybody to win trophies and games."

There is greater depth in attack this season, with the arrival of Zambia's Patson Daka joining him in pushing club legend Vardy for a place.

"It's going to be an important season and we have so many games and different competitions as well," added Iheanacho, 24.

"There are other players on the bench in the same circumstances. I know that everyone will be needed and be important to the squad.

"But whenever I get my chance to play or start, I will just do my job and help the team to succeed. We have a lot of games and everyone will be involved."

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Re: Kelechi Iheanacho: Nigeria striker unfazed by role on Leicester bench

Post by YUJAM » ... en=2096230

Rob Tanner
As players return from injury, Brendan Rodgers is starting to get a stacked deck again, although he is still missing a couple of aces in Wesley Fofana and James Justin.

But it is now time for the pack to get shuffled as Leicester City, who have now lost five of their last eight Premier League games (W3) – as many times as they were beaten in their previous 24 in the top-flight (W13 D6 L5) – try to get back up to speed in these early weeks of the season.

Defensively, Rodgers has had to field a patched-up back four because of a horrendous injury list, but having kept the same defensive unit for the opening three games, only the out of form Caglar Soyuncu kept his place against Manchester City on Saturday, with young full-back Luke Thomas left out of the squad entirely as the manager showed his ruthless streak.

In contrast, Rodgers has kept faith with his stuttering attack, despite bringing in the extra striking options he craved in the summer.

The front four of Harvey Barnes, James Maddison, Jamie Vardy and Ayoze Perez was only broken up by the latter’s red card at West Ham United and Marc Albrighton has stepped into the breach ever since, scoring the winner at Norwich City two weeks ago.

In their opening four games, Leicester have now scored just four goals. They created a few chances against Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions, and Vardy could have had his third goal of the season but for a fractional, correct, offside decision.

The club’s long-time talisman doesn’t seem to be the problem. Vardy remains a threat four months short of turning 35, as Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte will testify.

It is Leicester’s struggles elsewhere that are the issue.

The game plan on Saturday seemed fairly clear. The way Guardiola sets up his team when in possession it is almost a throwback to pre-Second World War days. The most enlightened coach in modern football adopts the old-fashioned 2-3-5 system, where midfielders Bernardo Silva (No 20) and Ilkay Gundogan (8) play almost as inside forwards alongside Ferran Torres (21), and tucked-in wide players Jack Grealish (10) and Gabriel Jesus (9).

Full-backs Kyle Walker (2) and Joao Cancelo (27) then push up alongside defensive midfielder Rodri (16), without over-committing themselves, leaving Dias (3) and Laporte (14) at the back.

Think of the set-up of a table football game and you pretty much get the picture.

By going with a back four and not the five that worked so well in that 5-2 win at the Etihad Stadium a year ago, Rodgers was taking the risk that his defensive line, which would inevitably get stretched as Manchester City switched the play, would be able to cover with the help of midfielders Wilfred Ndidi and Youri Tielemans.

Leicester knew they would be forced back into their own half (see their average positions below). The key then was to spring the trap on the counter-attack.

For that plan to work, he needed his front three of Barnes, Maddison and Vardy to be on top form. On their day they are more than capable of hurting even a side as talented as Manchester City, with their bench packed with incredible talents — as was the case on Saturday — including Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden.

Unfortunately, the two youngsters have been struggling to find their best form this season.

Barnes is still getting back to his best following surgery on the knee injury that ended his campaign when he was flying last February, and after the game Rodgers even suggested he had been hampered further by COVID-19.

“Harvey is still getting up to speed, fitness-wise,” he says. “He obviously had COVID and injury-wise he didn’t join the group at the beginning of the season. I still think he is not to his level yet but while he is fighting for his fitness the beauty of the squad now is competitive.”

Maddison has been struggling for a long time to recapture the form that propelled him into the England squad. He has now gone 15 games without a goal or an assist. For an attacking midfielder who increased those numbers last season until a hip injury stopped his flow, that is a concern.

He struggled to get into Saturday’s game too, although, as expected, the visitors largely dominated possession.

Maddison had just 24 touches of the ball in the 90 minutes — of the starting line-up, only Vardy had less. His role was to find the pockets of space as Leicester tried to break out, turn to try to pick out Vardy or Barnes, but those opportunities were few and far between and he was only credited with one key pass.

It wasn’t just this game, either. Maddison is yet to create a big chance this season and is only averaging 0.33 chances created per game. The exceedingly small, but still audible, smattering of boos as he was withdrawn on 73 minutes were harsh. He had put in a shift defensively, as had Barnes, but he only needs to look at the man who replaced him, Kelechi Iheanacho, for an example of how to react.

Iheanacho’s introductions used to draw a few boos, so bereft of confidence was he at one stage as he searched for form. He then found it and finished last season as the club’s 19-goal top scorer. He became Leicester’s ‘Senior man’, but he has been Leicester’s backup plan so far in the early weeks of 2021-22.

Rodgers could also bring on new loan signing Ademola Lookman, who nearly marked his debut with a goal with his first touch, at the same juncture while £23 million summer buy Patson Daka, who scored an outrageous goal in training this week, is also chomping at the bit.

Rodgers may believe Barnes and Maddison need time to play their way back to form because if they do they are two of the most potent players in his arsenal, but he has other weapons at his disposal now and it may be time to unleash them with the games coming thick and fast over the next few weeks, particularly when the Europa League gets underway on Thursday.

To play two in attack, he may have to change his system — as he did last season, to go with three at the back. The returns of Jonny Evans, Jannik Vestergaard and Ryan Bertrand have given him that option. Either way, he may have to tinker to find that attacking spark in his team again.

“We will make changes, of course,” Rodgers adds. “Players will get game time. The first period of the season, with no midweek games, we had won a game, lost and won again, so I haven’t made too many changes.

“Over the course of the season, players will get their opportunities and we are at that level now that if you don’t take your opportunities, someone else will come in and play.”

(Photo: Stephen White – CameraSport via Getty Images)
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Re: Kelechi Iheanacho: Nigeria striker unfazed by role on Leicester bench

Post by maceo4 »

Before nko? The commentator was saying Rogers will regret not starting Kele after he came in and cause Man City so much problems. I'm like yea right, Rogers will be back to same formation next game and be bringing on Kele to save the day once it doesn't work...
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Re: Kelechi Iheanacho: Nigeria striker unfazed by role on Leicester bench

Post by gochino »

Very annoying! Kele is at his peak, he ended last season as the clubs top scorer and is comfortable sitting on the bench?? I think Nigerian players need to be less humble and a bit more arrogant and strong headed! Kind of like Zlatan, C.Ronaldo, Oliseh etc.
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Re: Kelechi Iheanacho: Nigeria striker unfazed by role on Leicester bench

Post by BigMuze »

Big picture. Does Seniorman have his British passport yet? No need to expect a move until that's sorted. Even if he went elsewhere in UK, pay may be less. The guys are just insuring their futures the way I see it
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Re: Kelechi Iheanacho: Nigeria striker unfazed by role on Leicester bench

Post by gochino »

If he focuses on the slight difference in pay then he is not looking at the bigger picture, if he is the main striker in another club and not just a back up he will score lots of goals, increase his market value and then the big boys will come rushing.
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