Antony Ikenta explains why Vardy would work well at Arsenal:
It was a bit of a surprise when news broke out that Arsenal have triggered the release clause in Jamie Vardy’s contract and are ready to prize the England international from Leicester City in a deal worth around £20m. Put simply, no one saw this coming. And that is a weird thing to say when, after all, this is a player who scored 24 Premier League goals in 36 appearances for Leicester as they shook the football world by becoming the Premier League champions for the first time in their history. This is a player who terrorized Premier League defenders, breaking the goal scoring record held by former Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy by scoring in 11 consecutive matches. This is a player whose 15/16 Premier League goal scoring record was only bettered by Harry Kane. This is a player who forced the opposition to alter their defensive setup by sitting deep because they were so wary of his sheer pace and ability on through balls. So what’s the surprise factor here? Well, a look at Vardy’s profile – he’s 29 years old – and his style of play and you could see why.
Jamie Vardy is extremely quick, very direct forward who specializes on racing onto through balls controlled with an impressive first touch and finishing confidently. There isn’t a great deal to his game and most of his goals from this season was scored in that manner. Leicester City and Jamie Vardy are a match made in heaven however. He plays for a team who recognizes his style of play, and plays to his strengths for maximum efficiency.
Leicester are very direct, very vertical team who doesn’t care much about possession – they had the third least possession in the league (44.8%). They set up deep in a compact 4-4-2 formation with the two forwards dropping deep to occupy the opposition central midfielders. When in possession, they look to transfer the ball quickly to their forwards. Teams were naïve playing against Leicester City and Jamie Vardy earlier in the season. Majority tipped them for the drop, and so they were seen as a team to be attacked and this played into Leicester City’s counter attacking style of play. However, towards the end of the campaign, teams recognized that they had to readjust to Leicester, and Jamie Vardy by sitting deeper which explains his decline in goal scoring return.
On the other hand, Arsenal are the complete opposite of Leicester City. They have a patient buildup style of play and are very possession oriented side – they had the highest possession in the Premier League at 56.9%. Teams seat very deep against them as a result. This simply means that Jamie Vardy won’t be afforded the space in behind as he did at Leicester, and history shows that he’s less effective when opponents setup that way.
For example, in the recent England match against Portugal, Vardy only had just eight touches in the game – seven on the left flank and a kick-off. Of course there were other factors that might have contributed to his ineffectiveness, but this was also because Portugal sat deep denying Vardy space. This should be similar to what he will come up against week in week out should he move to Arsenal.
Moreover, the Jamie Vardy transfer will make sense from an Arsenal perspective. The most common criticism of Arsenal over the last decade is that they’re too nice, too pretty on the ball and not possessing the physicality or mentality required of Premier League champions. Although, looking at their four most recent signings indicates that Arsene Wenger recognizes this issue and is looking to address it. Gabriel signed from Villareal is an uncompromising center back in the mold of his defensive partner Laurent Koscielny. Petr Cech offers great presence and experience in goal. Elneny is a physical central midfielder whose game is based on stamina rather than finesse. Granit Xhaka is a multifunctional midfielder whose disciplinary record summarizes his game pretty much. Vardy is by no means as physical as the aforementioned players, but then again he is not the typical technical player that you associate with Arsenal. He is relentless the way he constantly chases and harasses defenders with great engine, something only Alexis Sanchez offers Arsenal.
Also, Arsenal’s interest in Vardy hints that Wenger is seeking a change in their offensive approach – a variety, a plan B. Olivier Giroud is Arsenal’s main striker and though he boast a decent goal scoring record for the club, he is inconsistent in front of goal. His 15 games goal drought this season proved detrimental to Arsenal’s campaign. Giroud provides physical presence upfront and his excellent linkup play works well for Arsenal’s style of play, but he lacks pace and doesn’t offer runs in behind. This is something Theo Walcott brings to the table, but he is also inconsistent and didn’t have a good campaign. His future at Arsenal is also uncertain. Alexis Sanchez is another forward who makes those penetrative runs but he doesn’t do it often enough. His game is more tailored towards drifting laterally across the final third from the left wing. Danny Welbeck has that bit of unpredictability to his game but his time at Arsenal has been interrupted by injuries and he is not a reliable goal source.
Jamie Vardy whilst not in the same league as Arsenal’s sublime, talismanic strikers of the past (Thiery Henry, Robin van Persie) and perhaps might not be the final jigsaw to the puzzle but he will bring goals and directness to the team. He offers something different, which is what Arsenal needs.