Opinion: Leicester City's winger dilemma is a conundrum that needs solving
Harvey Barnes and Ayoze Perez celebrate during Leicester's 9-0 victory over Southampton/ Photo: NurPhoto

In July 2018 Leicester City accepted a bid for Riyad Mahrez. The winger, who had spent four years at the club, was on his way to the Etihad Stadium for £60million.

Manchester City broke their transfer record to bring in the Algerian, proving how much of an asset Mahrez was for Leicester.

Despite the disappointment, this didn’t come as a shock for the Foxes after multiple transfer windows involving speculation and transfer requests. So with the inevitable exit of Mahrez, the club was expected to have a replacement line up to fill the large hole left by the 2016 PFA Player of the Year.

But almost two years later, it would seem that this replacement hasn’t been found as Leicester continue to struggle for quality wingers.

Tried and tested  

Players such as Rachid Ghezzal, Fousseni Diabate and Bartosz Kapustka have all failed to make the step up into the regular first team squad, with the latter finding himself working his way up the ranks playing for the U23’s. Both Ghezzal and Diabate have been deemed surplus to requirements and are on loan at Fiorentina and Amiens SC respectively.

Demarai Gray has also had a fair chance at staking his claim for a starting spot but has struggled to impress fans as well as his manager with his performances. Over his 125 appearances for Leicester, the 23-year-old has only managed nine goals and seven assists for the club. A record which is already being closed in on by summer signing Ayoze Perez, who has an impressive seven goals and five assists in his 22 games and is quickly becoming a key player for the team.

Currently, Perez is being partnered out wide with Harvey Barnes. Barnes has 12 goal contributions (five goals and seven assists) in the 42 games he has played for the club and he has stepped up his performances in recent games. With the coaching of Brendan Rodgers, Barnes has excelled and became a familiar face in the starting line-up. His lightning pace and ability to take players on excites the crowd and he creates a similar response to when Mahrez would dance his way through the opposition.

However, looking at stats, neither of the wingers have been able replicate the form of the Algerian. Throughout the season so far, he has picked up seven goals and seven assists for Manchester City and has become a somewhat regular starter out wide for Pep Guardiola’s side.

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No changes during the window

So, with more contribution needed from wide players, many fans called for Rodgers to delve into the transfer market in January but the Foxes boss remained confident in his current squad.

He has been supportive of his young players and has heaped praise on Barnes and Gray in particular since being appointed. However, with the team’s struggle for effectiveness out wide becoming more apparent, the need for another creative player has increased and it has left some fans wondering why another wasn’t brought in.

Throughout the window, rumours about possible transfers were limited and as the month passed by it became more and more likely that there would be no movement. West Ham managed to bring in Jarrod Bowen on deadline day, a player who some thought would be a perfect fit for the Foxes after his impressive start to the Championship season with Hull City. However, the Hammers managed to snap him up for a relatively low price tag of £16million without much challenge from other Premier League clubs.

The future

The summer may be Rodgers’ focus for bringing in players. With the possible pull of Champions League football, the likelihood of being able to sign better and more highly rated players will increase. Fans will be hoping this is the plan as it is a common belief that an extra couple of players will allow Leicester to move up to the next level and try to maintain a place in the top four of the Premier League for seasons to come.

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