Leicester’s unbelievable title-winning escapades of last season have all but faded into memory. Thanks to a 2016/17 campaign that has faltered rather than continue the David versus Goliath act, the Foxes look a shadow of their former selves.
This was perhaps inevitable. As many a pundit has pointed out (including, as you’d expect, Gary Lineker), last season’s feat simply couldn’t be pulled off again. It was a one-off that may never happen again.
Jamie Vardy appears to have suffered most profoundly, having only recently ended a rather desperate goal drought. Since last season, he’s looked off-colour, uncharacteristically nervous in front of the net and, at times, completely vacant on the pitch.
So, what caused the slip? Is Vardy in danger of losing his form again, despite recent improvements?
Let’s delve into what might be going on in his head:
1. That Arsenal move is playing on his mind.
In June, it was widely reported that Vardy turned down a big money move to Arsenal. Instead, he signed a new four-year deal with Leicester, prompting a huge, collective sigh of relief from all Foxes fans.
His dedication to the club that had propelled him to super stardom was admirable, but there’s no doubting the potential goodies that could have lied in wait for him at a club of Arsenal’s size. Vardy’s poor start to this season may therefore be as a result of a continual “what if?” rattling around in his head.
2. Euro 2016 still hurts
During the run up to Euro 2016, Vardy was picked by 73% of fans to lead the forward line. As we all know, what transpired at the summer’s tournament was nothing short of an absolute, unmitigated disaster.
Few will forget the faces of the England players following their humiliating defeat to Iceland in Nice, but Vardy stood out as a man who, just a few weeks before, had been celebrating the season of his life at Leicester.
With that in mind, it’s hard to imagine that the Euro 2016 hangover has vanished entirely.
3. He’s a striker
Strikers live and die by their last game. Unlike many positions, they’re scrutinised intensely and, often, purely based on the number of goals they score.
Vardy enjoyed an incredible goal run at the start of last season, and that’s something that will always be hard to live up to. As a striker he has the weight of the club on his shoulders.
4. Leicester rely too heavily on him
Ranieri proved last season that maintaining a consistent approach to squad selection can work wonders in football, but Leicester have always relied heavily on Vardy’s pace and ability to get behind defenders. He knows that, which is yet more pressure heaped on one guy’s shoulders.
Leicester still need to improve on the strength and depth of their team if players like Vardy are to be cut a bit of slack.
So, will it happen again?
Only time will tell, but if one thing’s for sure, it’s that Vardy has proven, time and again, that he’s a match winner. Clearly, he’s not going to notch up quite as many goals this season, but that may not matter if he can ditch his demons and bag the ones that matter the most.