Heading into the November winter break, Leicester City is the perhaps surprising name found at the summit of the Premier League table.
There’s no doubt that Brendan Rodgers has revolutionised the Foxes, who have been dynamic, exuberant and an attacking force to be reckoned with so far in 2020/21.
But they have defended well too thanks to the Irishman’s organisational capabilities, and you could see in the win over Manchester City – where they formed a wall in front of their own goal before counter attacking at will – that Rodgers has got his troops perfectly finetuned tactically.
Of course, if Leicester are to repeat their incredible 2015/16 title triumph they will need to maintain, if not even elevate, their levels higher, and of course enjoy a slice of luck both on the pitch and in terms of keeping their star names out of the treatment room.
Also pivotal will be the maintenance of their ‘X factor’, i.e. those elements that mark out the Foxes as a genuine title contender, rather than another top-four pretender to the throne. You could argue that Rodgers has been a key figure thus far, but in terms of pure importance to their points tally no Leicester player or staff member offers more than Jamie Vardy.
The Marmite striker has already bagged eight goals in as many games this term, and he will be looking for both personal – he could successfully defend the Golden Boot he won last term – and team glory this season.
The bookmakers are not overly convinced by Leicester’s title credentials – they are still behind Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham in the outright winner Premier League betting odds, but then they were 5000-1 to lift the trophy in 2016 so we can perhaps take the bookies’ perception with a pinch of salt.
And besides, if Vardy keeps on banging in the goals at this outstanding rate then surely there is no ceiling for the Midlanders.
Age is But a Number
He’ll turn 34 in January, will Vardy, but as yet he shows no signs of physical degradation as he inches towards football’s unique retirement age.
His greatest asset remains his pace over short distances and the timing of his runs, and already this term the former England international has shown that his instincts and his conditioning remain first class.
In the back of his mind, you suspect that Vardy is hoping for two, maybe three, full seasons more in the top flight, and he might just be eyeing those above him in the all-time Premier League goalscorer standings.
He has accumulated 111 goals in the EPL – extraordinary when you consider he didn’t make his first appearance in the Premier League until 2014, and this season alone he has surpassed the likes of Diego Drogba, Ryan Giggs and Emile Heskey in the all-time rankings.
Vardy is two short of Ian Wright and Romelu Lukaku, nine adrift of Steven Gerrard and 12 short of Dwight Yorke. And then the likes of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Robbie Keane and Nicolas Anelka are in the crosshairs.
That would take him 14th on the all-time list with 128, and even the 33-year-old himself would admit that to break into the top-ten – usurping Michael Owen on 150 goals – would require something of a leap of faith.
But if nothing else during his career, Vardy has been a player that has confounded expectation at every turn.