Daka can provide continuity for Vardy-less Leicester

Will Ford
Daka celebrates for Leicester

Patson Daka provided quite the glimpse into Leicester’s future without Jamie whatshisname….

It will happen eventually. At some point the pre-season prophets of doom will get it right – Jamie Vardy’s ‘legs will go’. Seven goals in eight Premier League games has already forced this season’s clairvoyants to wipe egg from their faces, and the quality of those goals, along with his extraordinary fitness level, suggests those legs will stay with him for a while yet. But Brendan Rodgers prepared for the inevitable in the summer, signing Patson Daka for £27million.

He scored his first goal for the club in the Premier League on Saturday, scuffing one in as a substitute in the win over Manchester United. “It still feels like a dream, and I don’t want to wake up!” Daka said. “It was really important for me, for my confidence.” He now has his first hat-trick for the club and became their all-time leading European goalscorer by adding a fourth. Perhaps he is still dreaming.

Aleksandr Sobolev opened the scoring for Spartak with a deflected effort, before Victor Moses provided a brilliant cross for Jordan Larsson – son of Henrik – to side-foot past Kasper Schmeichel. Leicester were by no means under the cosh, but when they were asked to defend, they lacked authority, as they have done for most of this season. Their inability to manage games properly remains a concern.

But between Spartak’s three goals – the third another for Sobolev after a second excellent assist from Moses – came 30 minutes of incisive counter-attacking football from Leicester and deadly finishing from their rapid striker. It was all very familiar.

Spartak’s defence didn’t know how to cope with two strikers and if Kelechi Iheanacho wasn’t breaking in behind, Daka was. The Zambian had a couple of sighters, slicing the first, and failing to even make contact with the second, before starting, finishing, adding and further adding to the Leicester comeback.

Daka’s the sort of striker – very much like Vardy – who’s easy to assist for. He bends his runs, drifts into space and uses his body to manoeuvre defenders. He creates situations in which it’s obvious where the ball should be played if his teammates are able to deliver. They did and Daka finished, with progressive ease and confidence.

The movement he exhibited should be a given for a Premier league striker. And movement, in and of itself, is of course a given. But just as one striker may be deemed a better finisher than another, they could also be ranked by their off-the-ball antics, both in and out of possession. Vardy would be very near the top of said scale, and on this evidence, so too would Daka. It’s not finishing the chances that provides the happiest of insights into a future without Vardy, but the chances themselves.

With James Maddison ‘ticking’ in the No.10 role behind him, Youri Tielemans spraying passes from deep, Iheanacho providing real or dummy runs alongside him, and the Spartak defence persisting with a high line, it was indeed a dreamlike scenario for Daka.

“For me he’s irreplaceable,” Rodgers said earlier this year. What Vardy has done so consistently for Leicester makes him a club and Premier League legend. But that word, ‘irreplaceble’, often speaks more to the emotion involved, rather than the facts of the matter. “You cannot find anyone there,” Rodgers added.

Well, do you know what Brendan, pass the Skittles and vodka, because you have found someone.