West Ham vs Leicester: The story behind Jamie Vardy's goal drought and the stats which show Jesse Lingard's imapct

Pitch to Post Preview Podcast: Jamie Vardy has one goal in 17 matches, so how do Leicester get him firing? Plus, the stats which highlight the new dimension Jesse Lingard has given West Ham. Watch West Ham vs Leicester live on Sky Sports Premier League from 2pm on Sunday; kick-off 2.05pm.

Vardy
Image: How do Leicester get Jamie Vardy firing again for their crucial run-in?

Leicester's tricky run-in is a reminder of their slide out of the top four last season. So how do they get Jamie Vardy firing again for a key battle with high-flying West Ham?

That was the question discussed on this week's Pitch to Post Preview Podcast, as we examined an intriguing contest set to play out live on Sky Sports on Sunday.

Leicester's defeat to Manchester City last weekend was just their third Premier League defeat in 17 games but with a triple header of Manchester United, Chelsea, and Tottenham ending their campaign, and with five sides below them in the hunt for a top-four spot, the Foxes cannot afford any drop off now.

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West Ham are one of those teams, having moved into fourth with their Monday Night Football win over Wolves this week, and Leicester could do with Vardy to refind his scoring boots in time for Super Sunday, with their key striker returning just one goal in his previous 17 appearances across all competitions.

Pitch to Post Preview Podcast guest Nick Wright, a features writer at Sky Sports, assesses the key factors behind Vardy's drought, Leicester's run-in - and how Jesse Lingard's arrival has helped West Ham sustain good form in the Premier League this season…

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Man City's win against Leicester City

Creativity problems behind Vardy's drought

"Vardy's run has maybe gone under the radar a little bit but he scored 13 in the first 15 games of the season so for him to now have one in 17, it really is a massive drop off for him.

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"There are various factors which contribute to it. It probably has something to do with the hernia surgery he had in January. Brendan Rodgers has mentioned that as a factor. There's obviously been a formation change, too, with Kelechi Iheanacho coming in to partner him up front and Leicester moving to three at the back.

Leicester City v Slavia Praha - UEFA Europa League - Round of 32 - Second Leg - King Power Stadium
Leicester City's Jamie Vardy reacts after Slavia Praha's Abdallah Sima (not pictured) scores their side's second goal of the game during the UEFA Europa League match at the King Power Stadium, Leicester. Picture date: Thursday February 25, 2021.
Image: Jamie Vardy has one goal in his last 17 games for Leicester

"Vardy's runs and his movement have really helped Iheanacho and we have seen that with his goals and they do have a good understanding. The partnership seems to work well but obviously it has not brought goals for Vardy which is a concern.

"However, I think James Maddison's return to the side from injury should probably help.

"Vardy's conversion rate is down from 31 per cent in the first half of the season to just three per cent in the second half of the season. If you look at that you think his finishing is the problem but if you dig a little deeper into the numbers you see his Expected Goals are way down on what they were, in addition to his actual goals.

"He was getting 0.94 Expected goals per 90 minutes in the first half the season, that's now down at 0.37 per 90 minutes, so while he's still getting shots off and getting chances, the chances are not as good as they were.

"That's hopefully where Maddison will help because his creativity is so important and he has such a good pre-existing relationship with Vardy and we have seen that many, many times before."

Why Leicester should not fear the run-in

"It's going to be part of the narrative but Leicester will look at it and think it's part of the external narrative and not necessarily something they need to be worried about. They had that slump last season but continued doing the things that worked well for them this season.

"They are in an amazing position, like West Ham. To be third at this stage of the season is a fantastic position to be in and they have got to accept that's where they belong. They have earned the right to be there and there's no reason for them to be too worried. They are in that position because they play very well.

"They have got those difficult final three games against United, Chelsea and Tottenham, but before that there is a kind run where, if they can win those games, as they should, or at least take a good amount of points from them they can be in a strong enough position to be really difficult to catch.

"It is a daunting run of games at the end but I think they have got a good chance."

Lingard has taken to West Ham to another level - and given them a new dimension

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from West Ham’s win over Wolves in the Premier League

"The Jesse Lingard signing has been really significant for West Ham. At a time when you would expect a team like West Ham, an over-performing side, to drop off [after January], he's lifted them to another level.

"They have won all but one of the eight games he's started and the only defeat in those eight games was against Man City, and you can allow them that. They are beating good teams as well: Aston Villa at Villa Park, Wolves at Molineux, Tottenham and Leeds at home.

Jesse Lingard celebrates scoring for West Ham against Wolves
Image: Jesse Lingard has six goals and three assists in eight Premier League appearances for West Ham

"What's impressive is they are doing it in different ways now as well. Throughout the season we have known that set pieces have been a real strength and they have been really effective in those situations - they have scored more set-piece goals than any other Premier League side this season - but with Lingard in there, they are now really effective on the counter-attack as well, as we saw against Wolves.

"They have scored the second most goals from fast breaks in the Premier League, behind only Leeds, and four of their five goals from fast breaks have come since Lingard's arrival and that's no coincidence.

"He's made a massive difference in that sense. He's really elevated them and given them a whole different dimension.

"The January window is so tough for clubs, it's so difficult to find a player who can come in mid-season and make a meaningful impact but that's exactly what Lingard has done. Credit to him and credit to David Moyes because he's played a massive part in that."

Hammers favourites against Leicester?

This is a difficult one for Leicester. West Ham are very hard to beat, they have got those different ways in which they can hurt you... I quite fancy West Ham to get a result in this game. But it's those four games after this for Leicester where they can really consolidate their position.

"I think they would be happy for a draw and take it from there, but I would fancy West Ham as favourites in that game. They are in a fantastic position and they should enjoy it because they have earned the right to be there and they have got a great chance of doing something special this season."

Live Renault Super Sunday

Pitch to Post Preview: Tottenham vs Man Utd and a decisive month for Spurs; Inconsistent Liverpool, and West Ham vs Leicester's key top-four clash

In this week's Pitch to Post Preview Podcast Peter Smith is joined by Sky Sports News reporter Paul Gilmour who explains why April could be a decisive month for Tottenham's next steps as a club, while Sky Sports football writer Jack Wilkinson reacts to Man Utd's Europa League win and assesses their chances of getting some revenge for their big defeat to Spurs earlier this season.

Sky Sports features writer Nick Wright is also on the show, looking back at two contrasting performances from Liverpool and the reasons behind their inconsistency, as well as previewing a big top-four race clash between surprise package West Ham and Leicester. He also makes his Pitch for the weekend about an important game at the other end of the table between Burnley and Newcastle.

Listen to the Sky Sports Pitch to Post Podcast on: Spotify | Apple | Castbox

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