The impossible dream is coming ever closer to reality. Leicester City are just eight points away from winning their first Premier League title, just a year after coming so close to being relegated from the division. Their last-gasp draw against West Ham on Sunday bought them one step nearer the ultimate prize, but it came at a cost with Jamie Vardy set to miss at least one match after his red card.
With the Foxes leading 1-0 in the 56th minute, Vardy ran in behind Hammers’ centre back Angelo Ogbonna, only for a dramatic fall seeing him receive his marching orders after picking up his second yellow card. Further to the one match ban he automatically received, the 29-year-old could miss the game away at Manchester United as well as the home match with Swansea on Sunday after accepting his improper conduct charge for his reaction towards referee Jonathan Moss.
Vardy’s suspension couldn’t come at a worse time for Leicester, with a number of tough games coming up before the season is out. They still maintain a five point cushion over Tottenham, but that could easily be wiped out over the course of the next month.
The England striker has been one of the key men for Leicester, becoming the first player to score 20 goals in a season for the club since Gary Lineker in 1985. He was replaced up top by Leonardo Ulloa against West Ham, who despite scoring the last minute penalty to earn them a point, shouldn’t start against the Swans on Sunday.
The Foxes’ success has come courtesy of some fast, counter attacking football for most of the season, something which does not fit the talents of the physical Ulloa. January signing Demarai Gray would be much more suited to the role, with his pace and desire to run in behind very similar to what Vardy has offered this season.
If Ulloa were to play at the King Power Stadium, his physical style would play right into the hands of Swansea centre backs Ashley Williams and Federico Fernandez, who themselves both stand over six foot tall. Leicester’s pace caused the Swans serious trouble in the fixture at the Liberty Stadium in December, with Riyad Mahrez grabbing a hat trick.
Although the 19-year-old Gray is not a natural striker, he has all the attributes to suit the line up that Claudio Ranieri has built at the club. The Italian would be mad to want to change what has been a very successful style at Leicester, and though Gray wouldn’t be as clinical in front of goal as Vardy, he is the best alternative.
The next few matches could be the biggest in Leicester City’s history, and the club will suffer without the proven goal scoring record of Jamie Vardy, but it could be the perfect time for Demarai Gray to write his name in the history books.