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Jamie Vardy scored for England in Tuesday night’s friendly with Spain to break a run of 15 games without a goal for club and country.
He has scored 3 goals so far this season for Leicester, failing to build on the electrifying form he displayed last term as his 24 goals fired the Foxes to the league title and he may now, as the 29-year-old struggles to stay relevant in Claudio Ranieri’s transitional side, regret not taking the £22 million chance to move to Arsenal in the summer.
Leicester and Vardy now find themselves in a strange stasis following their historic season at the top, scrambling for a renewed identity as they deal with the loss of N’Golo Kante, the added demands of European competition and a league that has adapted to vibrant counter-attacking that led them to the first league title in the club’s history.
Wins over Burnley and Crystal Palace have been comfortable but otherwise they have been undermined by a leaky defence and a dearth of goals.
Leicester were blunt in the home matches either side of the 3-1 win over Palace, drawing 0-0 with Southampton and losing 1-2 to West Bromwich Albion, but an impressive start to their inaugural Champions League campaign, where they lie to top of their group after 3 wins and an away draw, has managed to largely deflect attention away from a feeble title defence.
Ranieri possibly noticed the need to evolve back in the summer and though he ended up breaking the club record to land the £29 million Islam Slimani, the Algerian has made a subdued start to life in the east midlands, scoring twice in his debut at home to Burnley but managing just 1 in his following 5 league appearances.
That came in the defeat to West Brom where Jonny Evans and Gareth McAuley dealt with his aerial threat well and although Vardy was introduced at half-time, Leicester, in huge contrast to the effervescent force they were last year, remained short of ideas.
Why Leicester pursued Deeney
In hindsight, it is now easy to find sense in the much-derided pursuit of Watford’s Troy Deeney in the summer.
The 28-year-old won the most headers in the Premier League last season and his 56 chances created saw him strike up a deadly partnership with Odion Ighalo as the Hornets finished 13th and reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
Deeney, who hit 13 himself, and Ighalo finished the season with 28 league goals between them and it explains why Ranieri sought the Watford man so rigorously in the summer as he would have offered Leicester the aerial threat and attacking focal point they so craved as they attempted to adjust post-Kante.
Slimani arrived but as a target man, not the willing link-man that Deeney would have been. Imagine Deeney battling with drawn-away defenders while Vardy prepares to be released into the space they leave in-behind.
Instead the England international has found himself peripheral as Leicester have built attacks more ponderously, or watching on as Riyad Mahrez and Ahmed Musa graft fruitlessly on the flanks in the search for an isolated Slimani.
Interested parties need to pay big money
West Ham may have to pay big to break him out of his £50,000-a-week deal at Vicarage Road, but Deeney is now reportedly attracting interest from Slaven Bilic who seeks to arrest his team’s slide down the table.
The scattergun approach that brought Simone Zaza and Jonathon Calleri to the Olympic Stadium has not worked and with the usual aerial weapon Andy Carroll regularly out with injury, the 28-year-old would be a sensible option if Bilic wants to restore power and bite to his attack.
Watford manager Walter Mazzarri has spoken glowingly on various occasions of his captain’s importance to the squad since taking charge in the summer and his arrival would help Bilic unite and galvanise a dressing room that West Ham’s own captain Mark Noble pulled apart in the wake of the 0-3 home defeat to Southampton.
A potent threat
Deeney, who illustrated his class to everybody inside the Olympic Stadium in scoring a fine curling effort as Watford beat West Ham 2-4 earlier in the season, is only bettered in the air in terms of headers won so far this season by Christian Benteke and Sam Vokes, and would be a potent threat on the end of the service from Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini and Sofiane Feghouli.
His robust strength, awareness and ability to play with his back to goal will also be perfect foil for the pacey Andre Ayew once the Ghanaian returns from his long injury absence.
His record of 81 from the last 4 campaigns suggest Deeney will not have a problem in supplying goals to a team badly in need of them, even if his current boss Mazzarri fears the striker is currently inhibited psychologically in the quest to hit his century in the yellow of Watford.
The 28-year-old is certainly enjoying playing for the Italian however, welcoming in a tougher, more disciplined regime than that of his predecessor Quique Sanchez Flores.
Mazzarri has Watford sitting in eighth despite the 6-1 mauling at Liverpool with captain Deeney idolised by those at Vicarage Road for his role in getting the Hornets to the Premier League and keeping them there.
His agent has shut down the links and though he still may be swayed by the bigger financial package on offer in the capital, West Ham will need to work very hard to sign their reported target in January, much harder than Leicester.
It would be worth looking over at the champions and their ailing fortunes to see how that hard work would be worth it.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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