How Jamie Vardy continues to improve with age

John Percy
The Telegraph
Jamie Vardy has scored in his last five games for Leicester City - Action Images via Reuters
Jamie Vardy has scored in his last five games for Leicester City - Action Images via Reuters

It was four years ago last week when Jamie Vardy raced onto a no-look pass from Christian Fuchs, directed a shot across David De Gea and secured his name in Premier League history.

That goal against Manchester United was the 11th consecutive game in a row Vardy had found the net, and it tells you everything about his current form that Leicester fans are now wondering if he can threaten his own record.

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Vardy will face struggling Everton on Sunday having scored in the last five games and proving once again that, backed by statistics, he is arguably one of the most under-rated forwards operating in world football.

He will be 33 in January, on course to beat Didier Drogba by becoming the oldest Golden Boot winner since the introduction of the Premier League, and has been revitalised under Brendan Rodgers. 

“Jamie's playing consistently at a very high level,” says Rodgers, who identified Vardy immediately as the focal point of his Leicester revolution.

“For me, it's like having two players up there because of his work and his threat. People sometimes ask me: 'Why don't you play with two strikers'?

“Well, when you have the likes of him and Luis Suarez, who I had at Liverpool, it's like having two. They are so good and offer such a threat.”

<span>Vardy has benefited from stepping away from the international stage</span> <span>Credit: reuters </span>
Vardy has benefited from stepping away from the international stage Credit: reuters

What is the secret? Most of it is down to Vardy himself, his commitment away from Leicester’s training ground, and the sports science team. He is now far removed from the forward who initially made his name on the wind-blasted, gnarled terrains of non-league football.

He is still sticking to his pre-match routine of omelettes, Red Bulls and a double espresso, while he has even installed a cryotherapy chamber in his Lincolnshire home.

Vardy’s pre-season stats were remarkable: his body fat was 7.5 per cent and he was recording times of 9.3 metres per second from sprints in training. His decision to effectively retire from England duty has enabled him to focus purely on Leicester, and recovery.

That lightning pace is undiminished, as he proved against Brighton last weekend when he turned on the afterburners for the opening goal, setting up Ayoze Perez.

“I think most players do get better because of experience but the most remarkable thing about Jamie is that he's quicker,” says Rodgers.

“If you talk to him, he feels great, he feels good in his game. He’s playing in a really aggressive game that suits him and obviously tactical ideas that allow him to conserve his energy.

“He's got a freshness. During the international breaks he's got that extra bit of recovery time and he’s not travelling. Not just physically, but mentally as well. There's no doubt that at his age it will help him, considerably.”

Vardy’s resurgence is propelling Leicester towards a brighter future and also exposing just how bewildering the final months were under Rodgers’s predecessor, Claude Puel.

While Leicester are only focusing on the present, Puel got it all wrong with Vardy and it can be easy to forget just how different things were 12 months ago.

Puel frequently dropped the striker and neutralised him by playing a ponderous, possession-based style of football which was lacking the intensity Leicester are renowned for. Vardy was marginalised, wasted and frustrated.

It will be argued by the Puel sympathists that the Frenchman was planning for the future, reshaping an ageing squad, but not working out how to get the best out of Vardy ultimately finished him.

Since Puel’s departure last February, Vardy has scored in 15 of the 24 league games under Rodgers in a high-tempo, pressing approach. Those goals are only fueling the belief that Leicester will return to the Champions League next season, after that memorable campaign in which they reached the quarter-finals.

“The numbers and goals Jamie’s got to at this stage are remarkable. Maybe coming into the game late and not having so many miles on the clock will help him, I hope it does,” says the Leicester manager.

“You cannot see the drop-off. We’ve seen players who have been super-fast and then there’s sadness when they lost that speed, it comes to everybody - but you look at Jamie, he’s absolutely still flying and long may it continue.”

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