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Is Kelechi Iheanacho the man to succeed Jamie Vardy for Leicester?

Is Kelechi Iheanacho the man to succeed Jamie Vardy for Leicester?

It could well prove that a hat-trick against a beleaguered Sheffield United side is exactly what Kelechi Iheanacho needed to kick-start his Leicester City career. The former Manchester City man has struggled to make himself a consistent starter since arriving at the King Power Stadium in 2017, but after notching three of the best in Leicester's 5-0 win over the Premier League's bottom club, there could be brighter times on the horizon for the striker.

It's fair to say that Iheanacho has lacked the clinical finishing to truly challenge Jamie Vardy for a starting spot in Brendan Rodgers' team, but as the Englishman gets older, Leicester will need to come up with a plan for their enigmatic striker to one day be replaced. Iheanacho will believe that he is the man to take on the mantle and help Leicester become consistent favourites on the Premier League odds page from Betfair.

The Nigerian arrived at Leicester with a big reputation. He played second fiddle to Sergio Agüero for Manchester City, but he was a frequent scorer off the bench, and Leicester no doubt hoped that his super-sub ability could be harnessed into consistent goalscoring at the highest level. But it has never quite happened for him, and although this recent hat-trick proved that there is still a spark within him, the challenge is to produce it consistently.

The problem with playing understudy to Vardy is that the Englishman is a very rare breed of striker – almost unique in the Premier League. Iheanacho, while talented in his own right, does not boast the same blistering qualities as Vardy, or the ability to terrorise defenders in the way the 34-year-old does.

When Vardy is eventually phased out at Leicester, the team's entire gameplan will need to change, such is the mercurial nature of his presence in the team. His high-speed pressing and his running in behind often dictate the way Leicester play, and Iheanacho doesn't boast the same hurried presence.

At 24 years of age, there is still plenty of time for Iheanacho to develop as a player, and to find his own identity as a footballer. What he shares with Vardy is an innate knack for finding the best position to pick up in the 18-yard box, and chances often arrived gift-wrapped at his feet, such is his supreme positional awareness.

Indeed, the win over Sheffield United saw Vardy and Iheanacho line out together, and the partnership worked a treat, with Vardy twice providing assists for the Nigerian as Sheffield United failed to cope with the unstoppable form of both. Rodgers was quick to heap praise upon Iheanacho after the game.

"He was outstanding, not just in his goals, but his overall work-rate," the Leicester boss told the club's website. "He had a big responsibility today, in terms of dropping into the space, finding that pocket that was just on the back of the midfield, and I thought he did that very, very well. He's a great guy. He deserved the three goals. He had one or two other opportunities, but we're all delighted for him."

It's clear that Iheanacho has earned the respect of his manager, but the next step is turning that into a situation where he cannot be dropped, such is his importance to the team. If he can do so, Leicester will be among the hot favourites in the English Premier League tips on a regular basis. The only way to achieve that is to score consistently, work hard in training, and keep doing the things that come naturally. Iheanacho's supreme talent will carry him the rest of the way.



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