Kelechi Iheanacho’s Leicester City career looked to be in jeopardy after he missed a first-half penalty in a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace back on December 28.
On Monday, the Nigerian scored a superb winner against the same opposition and appears to be the Foxes’ key man as they push for Champions League football, but how has his form changed in such a short space of time?
Iheanacho seems to have found a new lease of life in a City shirt, hitting 14 goals since the turn of the year and five in his last four appearances as Leicester edge closer to a top-four finish.
Getting back into form
After Harvey Barnes suffered a potentially season-ending injury and James Maddison was ruled out for a number of weeks with a hip problem, many Leicester fans wondered who was going to fill the void in the forward positions.
However, Iheanacho has stepped up when the Foxes needed him to. The 24-year-old started in a front two with Jamie Vardy for just the second time this season in a 1-1 draw against Burnley in February, where he scored the equaliser.
That was just his third goal since the start of November and it really kickstarted his excellent run of form. Iheanacho netted at Brighton & Hove Albion, before he bagged a hat-trick in a 5-0 win against Sheffield United. The win over the Blades was equally as impressive, as he and Vardy directly combined for three of City’s goals and the partnership was beginning to gel.
As well as scoring three, Iheanacho also created four big chances, two of which were for Vardy which was a gameweek high in the Premier League. Although, the Leicester no.9 was unable to take them, it demonstrated the threat that they were showing.
Flourishing with Vardy
Iheanacho's relationship with Vardy has been another reason in his up-turn in form. The pair have complimented each-other well in a front-two, with Vardy naturally wanting to stretch the back-line and pull towards the left-wing, which leaves the space in the middle for Iheanacho to occupy and finish the chances that have been created for him.
Both of the Nigerian’s goals against Manchester United in the Emirates FA Cup quarter-final perfectly encapsulated that, as he was in the right position once again to net both from inside the six-yard box.
Although Iheanacho failed to score in a 2-0 defeat against former employers Manchester City just after the international break, he bagged a brace at West Ham United, but it didn’t stop Leicester from falling to a loss on the day.
Continuing to score
After his goal against Southampton at Wembley, Iheanacho became just the third Nigerian to score in a FA Cup semi-final after Victor Moses and Nwankwo Kanu. This strike also came following good work from Vardy who drove down the left before cutting the ball back for the forward to steer home at the second attempt.
Although Iheanacho may have missed two clear-cut chances prior to his goal at home to West Bromwich Albion last Thursday, the way he took his strike in the 2-1 win over Palace demonstrated the confidence he has to take on the shot, let alone score from that angle.
It isn’t just his finishing that has been impressive, Iheanacho’s link-up play has lauded the plaudits too. On another day, he would’ve claimed at least two more assists in addition to the one he got on Monday.
After setting-up Timothy Castagne’s 50th-minute leveller with a clever lay-off, Iheanacho also teed-up late chances for Vardy and Ayoze Perez, but both squandered their attempts to put the game beyond Palace’s reach.
Leicester’s next two fixtures are against teams in the bottom-half of the table, and despite the Foxes facing a tough run-in, Iheanacho will fancy his chances to continue his goalscoring run whoever he plays from now until the end of the season.