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Much to the dismay of Claudio Ranieri, Leicester City succumbed to the pressure of topping the most discussed football league in the planet as they looked devoid of creativity and toothless against a relegation battling Newcastle United side on Monday.
However, their least-acclaimed first-teamer in Shinji Okazaki scored an incredible overhead kick to help his side show ‘the stuff of champions’: earning three undeserving points with a solitary goal.
Despite the Foxes bagging the most goals (53) in the Premier League this season, 64 percent of those was scored by the celebrated attacking duo in Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy. The back four, N’Golo Kante and Peter Schmeichel also get ample approbation having conceded the fourth least goals (31) in the division, and Daniel Drinkwater and Marc Albrighton also collect their fair share of accolades as evinced by the latter’s MOTM award on Monday night.
Under the radar
Given the Okazaki’s unimpressive goal-per-game ratio of 0.18, his contribution on the other aspects of the beautiful game largely goes under the radar.
As former England manager, Glenn Hoddle puts it, “Okazaki manages the spaces between Vardy and the midfield perfectly” and is a key component in Ranieri’s rather orthodox system.
Besides, his selflessness has been key in Leicester’s endeavours, as he has seen his English striker partner average 3.2 shots as opposed to his measly 1.25.
Embodies what Leicester is all about
Though his attacking, as well as defensive statistics, are not as impressive as that of his colleagues, he embodies what Leicester’s campaign is all about: no-nonsense approach and industry. He gives 110 percent every single game, and the fact that he gets the nod ahead of a slightly more prolific Leonardo Ulloa states he is doing something extraordinary.
In addition, his goals have been crucial, without which the league leaders would sit four points behind Tottenham Hotspur and two points adrift of Arsenal, who have a game in hand.
With only eight games left to be played, his involvement could be massive as pressure is relatively less on his shoulders when compared to Vardy, the regular source for goals. Besides, with every team trying to break down Leicester’s system in the wake of Norwich City’s heroics in late February, the diversified goalscoring options could aid in making the unthinkable happen.
Arsenal are struggling as a result of Mesut Ozil running out of fuel, and Okazaki’s expertise up front shall easily avert any Arsenal-esque slump.
Written by Praveen Paramasivam
Follow Praveen on Twitter @49Praveen
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