Football

Kelechi Iheanacho, an impressive performer at the King Power stands

All might not be well for Leicester City but one person who is a regular guest on the stands is one Kelechi Iheanacho. The Nigerian superstar is having a difficult period this season so unfortunate, to say the least.

Kelechi arrived in the English top-flight in 2014- a year after his heroics at the U17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.

From 2014, Iheanacho has played for only two English Premier League club that is Manchester City and now plying his tools with Leicester City.

He left City for what fans say he was looking for regular playing time finding that at Leicester City but this is not materializing as was thought, the similar situation that was happening at Manchester City is recurring with Brendan Rodgers. He is unlucky.

Kelechi Iheanacho: 'People forget my name, they call me Senior Man' | Leicester City | The Guardian

Kelechi Iheanacho, an impressive performer at the King Power stands; photo credit- The Guardian

During his time at Manchester City, the Nigerian was in the same pot with talents such as Sergio Aguero, a spot that was hard to take over from Argentine, here at Leicester City Jamie Vardy is undroppable as things flow. The English man is a prolific goal-scorer and Brendan Rodger would not risk benching him.

It’s important to note, though, that Iheanacho has also been partly responsible for his lack of starts, especially when he first joined the Foxes.

Although Kelechi Iheanacho has proved himself as a reliable talent and a threat in the opponents box, it is surprising that he is being used as an Impact substitute this season.

The Nigerian international finished as the Foxes top scorer in all competitions last season with 19 goals, including 12 in the Premier League.

This year, no Foxes player has scored more than the Super Eagles star, who has 21 goals. But despite his impressive numbers, Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers still won’t hand him a place in the starting lineup.

Iheanacho is yet to start a game in the six Premier League games played so far this season, although he was in the starting lineup for the Europa League game against Napoli and the Carabao Cup clash against Millwall.

Why is it difficult?

The only answer to this question has to do with Rodgers tactical set-up. Iheanacho had a fantastic run in the second half of last season, scoring 12 league goals.

In that period, he partnered Jamie Vardy in the Foxes attack in a 3-5-2 formation in most of the games. But Rodgers had to adapt to a 3-5-2 set-up due to injuries to some of his key players, James Maddison and Harvey Barnes.

However, with the two players back from injuries, the Northern Irishman has reverted to his preferred 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-1-1 formation, leaving Iheanacho out.

But while Iheanacho can also function in this set-up, it appears Rodgers does not trust him enough to do the work of Maddison.

Kelechi Iheanacho: Leicester City striker says he always kept the faith during year-long goal drought | Football News | Sky Sports

Kelechi Iheanacho; Photo Credit- Sky Sports

The 24-year-old can function as a supporting striker effectively, but due to his lack of speed and his inability to play the playmaking role effectively, he gets overlooked for the number ten role, which Maddison occupies.

However, here lies the problem. While Maddison may be the better player in the number ten role, he hasn’t impressed this season. In fact, Iheanacho has been the better player despite playing fewer minutes than the England international.

Iheanacho has had more impact as a substitute than Maddison, who has started almost all the league games.

The Super Eagles star came on in the 2-2 draw against Burnley to set up Vardy’s equalizer, while Maddison was largely ineffective when he came on for Ademola Lookman.

According to Fbref, Iheanacho has created three goal-scoring chances this season compared to Maddison’s one, who has played more minutes.

Also, If there was any game that showed why Iheanacho should start more, it was the game against Napoli in the Europa League.

The Nigerian international started as more or less as a false nine, and he excelled. He was involved in Leicester City’s play, sometimes dropping to the deep to collect the ball and acting as the creative outlet for the Foxes wingers.

Iheanacho capped off the performance with a fine assist for Barnes, although Leicester later blew a two-goal lead to allow Napoli to earn a point.

His performance that night should’ve convinced Rodgers to hand him more starts. It’s even more baffling that he hasn’t been given more opportunities despite Leicester’s winning just two and losing three of their six league games so far.

It’s important to note that Iheanacho played a vital role as a substitute in one of the two wins, while his assist also helped the team avoid defeat last Saturday.

However, despite his impressive performance, it appears Rodgers won’t tweak his style to accommodate the Nigerian.

Should he be worried?

Iheanacho’s time at the King Power Stadium has been a rollercoaster ride. The 24-year-old struggled to impress in his first two years but has now turned it around.

But despite that, he was linked with a move away from the club, with Roma reportedly interested.

Patson Daka’s arrival from Salzburg also created speculations around his future, but apparently, the Zambian is not even a direct competitor, and he has struggled to get enough game time himself.

Kelechi Iheanacho's unlikely role to cement Vincent Kompany's Man City legacy and change history - Ross Jackson - Manchester Evening News

Kelechi Iheanacho; Photo Credit – Manchester Evening News

He signed a new contract last season, which keeps him at the club until 2024. While he doesn’t need to rush to make any decision yet, it’s important that he starts playing regularly as he is now approaching his peak.

He is yet to start a game in the Premier League this season, which does not really help his consistency. However, with 32 games left this season, he would definitely get his chance, especially if he keeps coming on to impress.

The good thing for him is that he is playing with confidence, which is evident anytime he comes on, and it’s only a matter of time before Rodgers heeds to fans call.

He deserves to start more games, but he doesn’t need to panic yet. Things will fall in his favor sooner than later.

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