By Ogbonna Goodluck
The forward always faced a tough task in displacing the Foxes starters, and considering the tactic frequently relied upon by Leicester, it made things all the more difficult.
Kelechi isn’t blessed with Vardy’s blisering pace, neither does he have the legs of Okazaki to be a nuisance to the opposition. Alarm bells should have been ringing as there seemed to be no method to Leicester’s madness, and no specific plan to include the Nigerian.
Fast forward six months and the forward seems to be worse off than he was in Manchester under Pep Guardiola. Seemingly unable to get games under Shakespeare before he was jettisoned, his situation hasn’t in any way improved under Claude Puel.
To put it in perspective, the forward played 180 minutes of league football under the Frenchman’s predecessor.
Under Puel though, the Nigeria International has seen only 55 minutes of action. If there were doubts he wasn’t fancied in East Midlands, being left on the bench for Leicester’s FA Cup Third Round tie at Fleetwood Town might have been the final nail in the coffin for the attacker.
He was eventually brought on in the final 10 minutes as the Foxes chased a win to no avail as the game finished goalless.
Definitely, Iheanacho wouldn’t have envisaged a bit-part role at Leicester when he switched clubs, and the fact that it’s in a World Cup year is definitely worrying.
The purchase of Fousseni Diabate from Gazelec Ajaccio is certain to raise eyebrows concerning Iheanacho’s future. Having recently admitted he’d need to sell a couple of attackers in the January window, going out to buy another forward, just days after insisting Iheanacho still had to “improve in all areas” may not sit well with the former City graduate.
The Malian youngster has got pace to worry defenders, is an incisive dribbler and also capable of playing across the forward line. He isn’t expected to be thrown straight into first-team action, rather gradually eased in from the under-23s.
Critics could imply that the signs are ominous for Kelechi, considering Diabate suits Leicester in more ways than one, while he looks out of place. Yet when you consider the ages of the club’s other forwards, Vardy (31), Slimani (29), Okazaki (31), Ulloa (31), perhaps this signing isn’t as fatal as some might think. It doesn’t change the fact that Iheanacho’s current position needs to change pretty quickly. It’s a World Cup year, and with Gernot Rohr recently implying players will be picked for the Super Eagles squad based on merit, shivers should have been sent down the forward’s spine.
Electing to leave the club he signed for barely seven months ago may be shortsighted, but with the extravaganza in Russia only months away, a short-term move away from East Midlands should be in sight.
If Iheanacho doesn’t escape the King Power Stadium, then he may pay with his World Cup place.