If you’ve listened to the commentary of any Leicester game over the past 18 months, you will no doubt know that Harvey Barnes’ dad Paul was a journeyman striker back in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Barnes Snr would have been watching on proudly then, as his offspring lined up as a conventional number nine during the Foxes’ game against Arsenal on Sunday.
On paper, this seemed like a peculiar move from Rodgers. For starters, usual Jamie Vardy understudy Kelechi Iheanacho performed well in the Europa League on Thursday, registering two assists and a goal in his side’s 3-0 win over Zorya Luhansk.
Rodgers’ has previous with not trusting Iheanacho. It was the Nigerian’s removal at half time during the Foxes’ now infamous defeat to Bournemouth last July that gifted the Cherries a foothold in a game that Leicester were leading 1-0 at the time. This is the same result that ushered in the beginning of the end of the club’s Champions League hopes.
In Rodgers’ defence, Iheanacho was poor in Leicester’s most recent Premier League encounter against Aston Villa. His lack of desire to run in behind added further evidence to the theory that the former Manchester City man simply cannot operate as a lone striker in the current system.
Saying that, at least he is actually a striker by trade. This immediately makes him more qualified than the the man who did start up top against the Gunners.
The decision to exclude Iheanacho only looked more baffling when Barnes struggled to adapt to his new surroundings in the first half. In many ways, this was not his fault. The England international’s game is based around picking the ball up from deep and driving into the box.
To expect the 22-year-old to adjust so quickly to the ‘Vardy’ role was always an unreasonable request. Overall, Barnes had just over 10 touches in the entire first 45 minutes and did not managed to muster a single shot at goal.
It was properly tragic viewing at times. In a 3-4-2-1 formation that included four (that’s insane!) centre-midfielders, Leicester often had plenty of time in the middle of park. Even then Barnes stubbornly refused to make any runs behind the Gunners’ back line.
After the break, Rodgers gave James Maddison a crack of the striker’s whip, to equally poor effect.
In the end, Leicester were once again forced to call upon a 33-year-old with half a groin to bail them out.
A mere twenty minutes after coming on Vardy had already scored for the visitors, although he cannot take all of the credit. Youri Tielemans sumptuous ball to find Cengiz Under, as well as Under’s cross both deserve a special mention.
As glorious as the Foxes’ smash-and-grab win over the Gunners was, it did once again lay bare Rodgers’ worrying over-reliance on a goal scoring freak, whose body continues to defy all logic.
A man who has drunk as much Skittles vodka and strawpedoed as many Blue VKs as Vardy simply should not still be this good at football well into his thirties.
It’s a mightily depressing thought, but one day the Foxes will have to face up to life without the living legend. The centre-forward musical chairs that Rodgers seems to play every time he goes down with an injury suggests that his successor does not currently ply his trade at the King Power Stadium either.
It’s not an overstatement to say that this transfer will be one of the biggest in Leicester’s history. Players who possess anything close to Vardy’s combination of intelligence, pace, physicality, finishing and pressing are ludicrously hard to come by.
However, as the Foxes’ first half performance against Arsenal proved, it’s a decision they have to get right if Rodgers wants to continue to implement the Foxes’ current playing style.