Are Jamie Vardy's numbers any worse than his purple patch last season?

Jamie Vardy is the Premier League’s joint-top goalscorer but the fanfare around the Leicester star is non-existent amid their slump in form… so ahead of Man United’s visit, are his numbers any worse than his purple patch at the start of last season?

  • Jamie Vardy and Mo Salah currently top the Premier League scoring charts 
  • Vardy has netted six goals for Leicester amid their slump in form this term 
  • The ex-England striker has an excellent scoring record against the ‘Big Six’
  • So ahead of Man United’s visit, has Vardy’s return been any worse than last year? 

Even as recently as 12 months ago, Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers believed Jamie Vardy was an underrated commodity in the football community.

‘He’s a special player. He’s a genuinely world-class striker.’ Rodgers said in November 2020.

‘If he hadn’t had the path that he’s had, he’d maybe be talked about much more. People see him as the guy who came through from non-league, and played in the Premier League at 27.

Jamie Vardy is the Premier League’s joint-top goalscorer after seven games this season

The Leicester forward has netted six goals and is level with Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah

‘This is a top-level striker who when he plays home or away, he’s such a threat to the opposition. Thankfully he’s still as quick and still got the hunger and hopefully that will continue.’

A year on, Rodgers’ hopes appear to have come true, with the 34-year-old currently joint-leader of the Premier League scoring charts with six, level with Liverpool star Mohamed Salah.

But while debate now rages on about whether the Egyptian has become the best player in the world right now, Vardy’s value to the Premier League, if anything, appears to have slightly depreciated.

The former England striker cannot hope to enter into the discussion regarding Salah, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Yet Rodgers’ comments about the forward last year appear as poignant as ever.

No doubt, Leicester’s worrying top-flight form has contributed to other talking points surrounding the East Midlands outfit taking precedence since the start of the season.

The Foxes sat second in the table at this stage in 2020-21 and Vardy was on fire with eight goals, including a stunning hat-trick at Manchester City as well as the winner at Arsenal having come on as a late substitute.

It is a stark contrast to the 13th place they now occupy after taking just eight points from their opening seven top-flight games. 

Leicester sat in second this time last year but are now sat in 13th place with just eight points

Defensive issues and lapses in concentration have no doubt played their part this term in the club’s current on-field malaise.

Incidents such as conceding two goals in a draw against Burnley – including a Vardy own goal before scoring twice at the right end of the field – is something that simply would not have been allowed to happen last season.  

But a creativity issue appears to be equally worrying for the Foxes, with Vardy managing just 17 shots this season. 

So to what extent are their current issues down to him, and can he maintain his scoring pace against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men? Sportsmail dives into the numbers to find out….

Vardy’s return this season in a number of categories appears to demonstrate some of the problems Rodgers’ men are currently facing. 

Not only has he netted two fewer goals than at this point in 2020-21, but his shooting accuracy has dropped from more than 85 per cent to below 60 per cent.

His conversion rate is also 20 per cent lower than last term, and his minutes per goal ratio, big chances scored return and expected goals tally are all inferior to last season, at a time when he is managing 2.9 shots per game as opposed to 2.3. 

Yet it is not all bad news for the 34-year-old, who has created three more chances than last season despite playing in a side that appears to lack that creativity compared to one that managed to score five at the Etihad Stadium last year.  

And a closer look at his statistics this season may provide some explanations as to why some of what he has produced has not hit the expected target.

Vardy has scored three league goals in his last games but a number of his shooting stats are down from last term

Vardy was on fire this time last year, netting a hat-trick at Man City and the winner at Arsenal

Very few arguments can be made in favour of Vardy in relation to his shooting accuracy and shot conversion.

Yet despite his big chances scored return also being inferior, he is still managing exactly the same big chance conversion rate as last season at 66.7 per cent.

Vardy has also missed just two big chances this term – unlike the four he had failed to score 12 months ago – suggesting he has had fewer of these sorts of chances created for him to try and stick away.

It is therefore understandable why a poacher like Vardy’s minutes per goal ratio has increased from 70 to 104, and why his expected goals has inversely dropped from 7.3 to 3.79.    

Only five sides – namely Norwich, Tottenham, Brentford, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace – have created fewer chances than Leicester this season but Vardy’s return in that category has gone up, suggesting he is willing to become involved in assisting as well as scoring.

He then received the support of Kelechi Iheanacho (R) up front for the rest of the season

Rodgers however reverted to a lone striker this term and only went back to a 4-4-2 against Palace

But what Vardy has lacked for the majority of this season is a partner like Kelechi Iheanacho. 

Rodgers changed formation in the second half of last season to ensure there were more bodies around Vardy.

Iheanacho was his designated partner in that 4-4-2 system and the Nigerian went on to be one of the most in-form strikers in the Premier League, netting 12 goals in the Premier League from February until May and 19 across the whole season in all competitions.

A quarter of Iheanacho’s top-flight goals came courtesy of a Vardy assist, and the former England man also completed 27 passes to the former Man City star last season, clearly thriving off the fact he now had a player to work in tandem with.

The 34-year-old only scored four goals and the laid on the same number of assists in the Premier League in that same time frame, but it appeared evident he was happy for his team-mate to take the limelight. 

However, despite the arrival of Patson Daka from RB Salzburg in the summer, former Liverpool boss Rodgers has largely reverted to playing a single centre forward again, relegating Iheanacho to a bit-part role once more, at least in the league. 

Iheanacho’s loss of regular game time has resulted in gains for the likes of James Maddison, Ademola Lookman and the returning Harvey Barnes either side of Vardy, but he has had no one to work off centrally as he had last term.

England international Maddison in particular has copped plenty of slack in an attacking sense from the fanbase following a sharp drop in form ever since returning from a hip injury in April.

The 24-year-old has not yet registered a goal or assist since making his comeback from that injury, and his position is also increasingly becoming an issue.

While he remains the only natural No 10 in the side, playing that position effectively rules out playing two strikers, especially with Leicester’s defensive woes this season.

The alternative is to shunt him into an unnatural wide position, but his lack of pace and inability to create from those areas (he has created just four chances this term) then rears its ugly head.

Maddison has created just one chance for his fellow countryman this season and completed just eight passes into him in seven matches, and his poor form perhaps resulted in Iheanacho being recalled to the starting XI to face Crystal Palace.

But Palace’s second-half comeback from two goals down to draw would hardly have comforted Rodgers that he has found the right formula, even if it worked wonders for the FA Cup holders last season. 

A lot of criticism has been aimed at James Maddison (L) following his poor form this term

‘I need to decide if we need to change the shape of the team while we have the personnel we have that allows us to defend with that more stability,’ Rodgers said after the 2-2 draw at Selhurst Park.

‘I’ve always in the main been really confident in our defending, how we press the game, and that when we’re in moments of pressure that we see it through. I have a feeling at the moment that it’s not quite where I want it to be.

‘We need to do something about it and at least now we have a chance to affect that, and then bring those ideas to the players when they come back.’

Their defensive issues – which have seen Leicester concede 12 goals already – will be of great interest to Saturday’s opponents United, who themselves are currently experiencing their own defensive difficulties and have won just two of their last six.

Centre back Raphael Varane will definitely miss the match at the King Power Stadium after being ruled out ‘for a few weeks’ with a groin injury suffered on international duty with France.

Man United will be without Raphael Varane (L) while Harry Maguire (R) may also miss out

Defensive partner and captain Harry Maguire is meanwhile facing a race against time to be fit despite returning to training following an ankle injury. 

Saturday’s game also signals the start of a nightmare run for Solskjaer’s men, with top-flight games against Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City, as well as a Champions League double header with Atalanta, all coming up in the next three weeks too.

They will however take heart from the return of Marcus Rashford following shoulder surgery, with the England star having scored more goals (five) against Leicester than any other Premier League side.  

However, the Foxes’ glance at opposite number Vardy’s history against so-called ‘Big Six’  club will also offer them a glimmer of hope they can win in the top flight for the first time since August.  

Vardy has scored 42 goals against the ‘Big Six’ in his Premier League career, with Arsenal seemingly his favoured club with 11 goals alone against the north London side.

Unfortunately, his much talked-up excellent return against ‘Big Six’ sides does not apply as strongly here as against most of the others sides, because he only has a worse scoring record against Chelsea than he does against Man United.

Just four of those 42 goals have come against the Red Devils, while no side in the ‘Big Six’ has limited him to fewer than the 15 shots they have restricted him to over 13 games. 

He therefore averages a goal every 247 minutes and his expected goals tally stands at 3.39, which again are only inferior when it comes to facing the current Champions League holders. 

Vardy however only has a better assists return against Tottenham, and there is no better time to boost the rest of those numbers against a nervous defence without at least one of their first-choice centre-backs and that has kept just one clean sheet in their last 18 games.

It remains to be seen though if Rodgers has found the solution to allow Vardy to fully express himself – as he has throughout the majority of his top-flight career – in front of goal during the international break.  

Vardy has an excellent record against the ‘Big Six’, but has netted just three against United

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