Is Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy a Late Bloomer or a Fraud?

Photo Credit: Pioeb, Wikimedia Commons
Photo Credit: Pioeb, Wikimedia Commons /

There can be no arguing that Leicester City’s forward Jamie Vardy is currently enjoying the form of his life. He has lit the Premier League on fire with seven goals in just eight games and even leveraged that form into a spot on the England team. The questions remain though of whether or not this is a wildly lucky run of form or the sign of a late-blooming Premier League star.

Prior to his mercurial start to this season, Vardy was primarily used as a substitute for Leicester City. He was an adequate player for the Foxes last year as they fought to remain int he Premier League. He chipped in with five goals and eight assists in 26 appearances and tallied a respectable 6.8 player rating per There aren’t the numbers of a budding star, especially considering he was already 27 years old last season. His play established him as a quality Premier League player, but nothing spectacular.

This year has been a startlingly different story. The industrious Vardy has looked the part of a break out star and has the statistics to match. On top of the seven goals and one assist his Whoscored rating has jumped to a whopping 7.87 on the young season. This makes him the third highest rated Premier League player behind teammate Riyad Mahrez and David Silva. That’s pretty fine company for a 28-year-old first time starter.

Leicester fans are justifiably in love with their striker at the moment. Ask any Fox loyalist and they are quick to tell you that his performance is much more about class than it is temporary form. Most will even argue that his play should make him England’s number one striker in the moment as well. On the other hand, non-Leicester fans will describe Vardy as a nice player who has adjusted to Premier League play after a season as a substitute and is enjoying a nice run of form. The difference between these two schools of thought is vast and one of the most interesting subplots of the young EPL season.

The truth, as it usually is in these arguments is likely somewhere in between the two extremes. Vardy is exceedingly unlikely to continue this hot streak for an entire season, but that doesn’t mean he will regress to being a backup striker either. He is very clearly capable of leading the Foxes line throughout the entire season and should be quite productive. It’s not time to put him on the ballon d’or short list nor should we ship him off to the Championship.

When you watch Vardy play it’s relatively straight forward to see what he is on the pitch. He is an industrious striker with well above average finishing ability. Right now, he is finishing more than his share of chances which helps make up for his lack of elite athleticism. His success largely comes from work rate and technical ability as opposed to size, leaping ability or speed. There’s no reason to think his work rate will dip, so he should be able to continue to knock in goals as the season progresses. It is a smart bet to believe that he will go through a drought when his finishing percentage regresses to the mean. He can’t finish chances at this rate all year-long.

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  • Another reason Vardy has enjoyed this much success is the presence of Riyad Mahrez on the Leicester City front line. As mentioned above, he has been the Premier League’s highest rated player through eight games by a wide margin. While Vardy’s talent level is open to debate, Mahrez’s is not. He is clearly an exceptional footballer with athletic gifts that are unmistakable.

    The attention that he attracts from opposing defenses is immense and that plays to Vardy’s ability to score goals as well. With Mahrez tormenting opposing defenses on the wing it’s much easier for Vardy to find space in the middle. On one hand it’s unfair to “punish” Vardy for having good teammates, but on the other, it is unquestionably related to Vardy’s uptick in form. Once Mahrez comes back down to Earth, you’re likely to see Vardy’s stats regress as well.

    Jamie Vardy is somewhat of a late bloomer and isn’t really a fraud. He should be credited for continuing to hone his craft and elevating the level of his play in the Premier League. Through hard work he has made himself a competent striker in one of the world’s most challenging football leagues. At 28 years old though, this is likely his ceiling. He should enjoy his stellar run of form, but he isn’t talented enough to lead England’s line. While he isn’t a fraud, his statistics to date are unsustainable. He doesn’t have the exceptional level of talent required to keep them up.

    So Leicester City fans should enjoy the ride with Jamie Vardy and hope the combination of he and Riyad Mahrez can keep the hot streak going for as long as possible. The streak might just be enough to have the Foxes playing for something other than avoiding relegation deep into the Premier League season.