A Jamie Vardy “masterclass” helped Leicester move within a point of the Premier League leadership on Monday – so are they ready to challenge for the title?
Vardy was involved in three goals, scoring one, as Brendan Rodgers’ side produced a “devastating” performance to win 4-1 at Leeds.
At 33, Leicester’s prolific goalscorer shows no sign of slowing down.
Chris Sutton – a title winner himself with Blackburn Rovers in 1995 – told BBC Radio 5 Live that Leicester’s victory was “another statement” to suggest they can repeat their triumph of 2016.
“Can they? They can, they did. People are saying, ‘Can they win the Premier League title again?'” said Sutton. “Brendan Rodgers’ team have been devastating. It’s another statement and a ‘watch out for us’.”
Rodgers would not be drawn on it, saying “it’s so early that it’s not really worth talking about”.
But after their joint-best start to a Premier League season – and with Vardy once again in blistering form – should Leicester be considered contenders?
‘No-one can replace Vardy’
Vardy has been directly involved in 13 goals in his past 12 league games. His performance at Leeds led to plaudits from ex-Manchester City player Micah Richards, who said on 5 Live “no-one can replace Vardy” and “he makes it a nightmare for defenders”.
“I remember playing against him for Aston Villa and in the first half, I absolutely bossed him,” Richards said. “I was stronger than him and I gave myself a pat on the back.
“But he kept coming and coming and his intensity levels didn’t drop. As I was getting tired, he was getting stronger.
“In the second half, he has as much energy. Defenders don’t know how to play against him. No-one can do that.”
Sutton said he was “just far too good” for Leeds’ backline and it was a “masterclass” from the former England international.
“It is all about Vardy’s movement, his anticipation,” said the former Premier League striker. “It is virtually impossible to mark. It’s brilliant centre-forward play. Vardy’s awareness is so, so good.”
Joint-best start to a top-flight season
Leicester have made their joint-best start to a top-flight campaign, matching their tally from 2000-01 with 15 points from seven games.
In Leicester’s title-winning campaign in 2015-16, their record after the opening seven fixtures was W3 D3 L1. Leicester are on W5 D0 L2 this season.
They have also won each of their opening four away games for the first time in the club’s history.
“Look at Leicester’s away form… the damage they have done to teams,” Sutton said. “They looked so much more potent, so much more of a threat against Leeds.”
It’s not just Vardy who is in form either.
Youri Tielemans capped a fine performance with two goals against Leeds. He has scored three goals in his past three Premier League away games – more than he managed in his first 25 games on the road for the Foxes.
‘How good is Fofana going to be?’
This latest win for Leicester was even more impressive given the players they are without through injury.
Summer signing Timothy Castagne is nursing a hamstring problem, centre-back Caglar Soyuncu is ruled out for three months and full-back Ricardo Pereira is recovering from a serious knee injury.
Midfielder Wilfred Ndidi, defender Jonny Evans and Daniel Amartey were also missing at Elland Road.
Those injuries and the loss of full-back Ben Chilwell – who signed for Chelsea in August – has tested Leicester’s squad depth but 19-year-old defender Wesley Fofana impressed on Monday.
“What an impact Fofana has made,” said Sutton. “He looks as though he has been around for a decade. With Suyuncu and Evans still to come back in, Leicester have got real strength in depth.
“How good is Fofana going to be, if he is this good now?”
‘We are a Rolls-Royce amongst Mini Coopers’ – how you reacted to Leicester’s win
Ellis: We are a Rolls-Royce amongst Mini Coopers in this league. too easy, give us a game and expect a Brendan Rodgers masterclass. Bielsa exposed. May as well win the Europa League for a laugh along the way to our second Premier League title.
Jake Johnson: A fully fit Leicester could actually challenge for the title this year.
TrondMid: Leicester showing #lufc the same respect as Man City. Both annoyed and flattered. Masterclass in counterattacking. #Vardy wow….
Keeping it #LCFC: Absolutely superb result. Make no mistake Leeds will beat a lot of teams this season. They had all the ball second half but again, defence absolutely brilliant and Cengiz Under absolutely superb again. Get in there.
Chris Parkinson: Youri Tielemans is a very under-rated player.
David Reed: Brilliant job by Brendan Rodgers. Harvey Barnes and Dennis Praet in transition. Rocket Vardy. Is there anything James Justin can’t do?