As Jamie Vardy headed in England’s second goal against Spain last Tuesday and conducted his very own public ‘Mannequin Challenge’, thoughts immediately turned to his fortunes for Leicester City this season. Finding the net at Wembley ended a run of 14 matches without a goal for club and country – a statistic that may well have left some who have not seen much of the Foxes this term questioning whether his statuesque celebration has been mirrored in his general play for the defending champions.
Twelve months ago, Vardy was the talk of the footballing world as he equalled Ruud van Nistelrooy’s Premier League record of scoring in 10 consecutive matches before going onto finish the campaign having scored 24 league goals as Claudio Ranieri’s side won the unlikeliest of league titles.
A place in England’s Euro 2016 squad, the offer of a move to Arsenal and a bumper new contract were his reward, and despite closing in on his 30th birthday, the common consensus was that Vardy would again lead the line for the Foxes as they looked to establish themselves as a regular challenger for a place in the top six as well as looking to prove themselves among Europe’s elite in the Champions League.
In reality, the Three Lions forward has found himself on the bench more times than not in the past month having scored just twice in the opening weeks of the season while he is yet to make his mark in the Champions League, despite the King Power Stadium outfit being in touching distance of a place in the last-16. Factor in that one of those league goals was laid on a plate for him by Liverpool’s Lucas Leiva during a chastening defeat at Anfield, and it has been far from a vintage campaign thus far.
So where does Vardy go from here? He is dangerously close to being labelled as the dreaded “one-season wonder”, and a continued lack of form in front of goal could yet lead to him being a permanent fixture in the dugout rather than on the pitch. Enter Club Brugge on Tuesday evening.
The Belgian champions were torn to shreds by Vardy on matchday one, with the former Fleetwood Town striker’s pace and willingness to run in behind leaving the Brugge defence in the dust. Twice he was brought down when clean through on goal, leading to Riyad Mahrez scoring with first a curling free-kick and a second-half penalty.
Tuesday promises to be a night of celebration in the east Midlands, with the Foxes knowing they need just a point to ensure themselves of a spot in the knockout stages while a victory could yet secure them top spot in Group G. They could even qualify with defeat, but for Vardy’s sake there is hope that he can be the man to ignite the home side after back-to-back league defeats.
If Brugge play anything like the high line they looked to utilise last time the two sides came head-to-head, then the game is made for Vardy to play on the last man and finally combine with Mahrez in a way in which they have failed to do thus far this season. His eye for goal remains a constant despite his recent drought, and if he is able to get himself into goalscoring positions then it would not be a shock to see him finally get himself on the scoresheet in continental competition.
The stage is set for a party at the King Power Stadium – it would be fitting for Jamie Vardy to christen it with a return to his blistering best.