What To Expect From Kelechi Iheanacho Next Season

What To Expect From Kelechi Iheanacho Next Season
Aug 5, 2017

Featured Leicester

The Kelechi Iheanacho transfer saga does feel like it has gone on forever, and the extremely protracted nature of this deal had slightly taken away from the genuine excitement that many Leicester fans felt when this deal was first announced.

The rumoured £25 million bid was a bolt from the blue when it was first broken in the press, with many viewing this transfer as something of a coup for Leicester, or at the very least a genuine statement of intent from City. However, with images emerging of the Nigerian International undergoing his medical the transfer seems all set to go through, and Foxes fans can get excited once more.

The 20-year old’s record in the Premier League does speak for itself, but to get a real insight into Iheanacho’s game we spoke to Phil Costa (@_PhilCosta) of the excellent Scouted Football, a site dedicated to the profiling and reporting of the “best under-23 talent”.

First things first, what exactly are Leicester getting in Iheanacho? His goal scoring record is exemplary, but is he an out and out poacher as many believe?

“Even though he didn’t feature much last season, Iheanacho is definitely one of the most exciting young forwards in the Premier League. Goal scoring is probably his greatest strength but I think to reduce him to a poacher is wrong. He’s got a really good technique and while he won’t dribble and commit defenders like say, Riyad Mahrez, there’s definitely more to his game then just pouncing in the penalty box.

For example, his movement in behind and into the channels is great, and I think his subtle craft in the final third will surprise people.”

The deal is worth £25m with a £50m buy-back clause (if reports are to be believed), does this represent good value for money in today’s market?

“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to gauge what value for money is in the current climate, but I think for £25m you can’t really go wrong. Despite his tender age, he’s shown that he can score in the Premier League, and lead the line for Manchester City is no easy feat. Let’s say he struggles and completely tanks at Leicester, his age and reputation will be enough for somebody to take a gamble on him again – the loss will be minimal.”

“If he turns into the second coming of Marco van Basten, you’d be losing out on a heavily inflated fee later on, but as things stand they’re set to double their initial investment. For me, that’s value.”

Leicester’s preferred formation seems to be a 4-4-1-1, with both front men working very hard in defence, is this a system you see Iheanacho being suited to? Or will Leicester need a change in tactic to get the best from him?

“Let’s be honest, Leicester wouldn’t have signed Iheanacho if they had reservations over his compatibility with the side. I think he would probably excel as the main striker, but playing just behind Vardy will allow him to show off a more cultured side to his game. In terms of the top six last season, Alexis Sánchez was the only forward to make more key passes and create more chances per 90 minutes than him which is really impressive.”

“In fact, when Iheanacho originally burst onto the scene, he was playing as an attacking midfielder for Nigeria at the U17 World Cup, so he’s more than capable of playing that reserved role as well as being the focal point.”

To me, the idea of a partnership between Kelechi and Jamie Vardy is extremely encouraging – how do you see them working together?

“We’ve seen Vardy with a few strike partners over the last 18 months, and without a doubt, his best form came alongside Shinji Okazaki. Islam Slimani is too rigid and awkward to play just in behind, while Ahmed Musa does most of his best work out wide. Okazaki, stylistically, is much more like Iheanacho in terms of mobility, presence and technique so of course he and Vardy could work well together.”

“It will take time for them to build up that chemistry, but with Vardy vacating the central areas due to his tireless running out wide, Iheanacho could really do some damage from in and around the 18-yard box.”

Iheanacho is one of a few promising young players in Leicester’s ranks, do any others particularly stand out to you?

“Wilfred Ndidi really impressed me last season. I’d seen him a few times playing for Genk in the Europa League, but I didn’t think he’d be able to come in and make an impact straight away in one of the world’s toughest leagues. His drive and physicality will always be useful in central areas – but his passing is really underrated as well. One to keep an eye on for sure.”

“Beyond that, I think Demarai Gray and Bartosz Kapustka are really exciting talents and it really baffles me that they’re being kept in the cold at Leicester. Gray, especially, must be kept at all costs.”

Finally, prediction time, how do you see Iheanacho and Leicester doing this year?

“In a new team with new surroundings, new methods and new players to become familiar with, ten goals is a more than respectable target for Iheanacho. Anything in double figures and he should be pleased with his debut season. In terms of Leicester, their title glory seems so long ago now, but after struggling under Ranieri, their form picked up under Shakespeare and I think they’ll finish in mid-table. If you want something even more specific, somewhere between ninth and eleventh!”

The Scouted Football Handbook: 2017 Edition is available now as a free download from their website, and contains in-depth profiles of some of Europe’s best prospects.

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