Vardy Shows Evolution Since Premier League Success

It was a long road to England's top flight for Jamie Vardy, but his evolution is the key to his sustained success
Kristan Heneage
Wed, December 11, 12:06 PM

Jamie Vardy’s journey from non-league to Premier League Champion has captivated football fans across the globe.

As such, it should come as no surprise there has been talk about his life being made into a movie.

Finding things to fill out the run-time should not be a challenge. While at Stocksbridge Park Steels Vardy was forced to wear an electronic tag and adhere to a curfew of 6 pm.

On occasion, that meant he was forced to leave games at 4:15 pm. The club’s chairman tells a story of how one week it got nearer 4:25 pm when he was substituted. Nervous, Vardy jumped straight over the railings and into his parent’s car without even getting changed.

There is also his rather unique pre-match routine, which would have to be seen to be believed. It is said to involve three cans of energy drink and a double espresso. He has also revealed the night before a game he’ll sip on port from a Lucozade bottle.

“It tastes like Ribena to me, and it helps me switch off and get to sleep a bit easier the night before a game.”

Such stories make it easy for Vardy to become a caricature. His infamous, ‘Chat s**t, get banged’ Facebook post still faintly echoes around the internet. The simplicity of his make-up can lead us also to streamline the player.

We believe we know what Vardy’s strengths are; he’s a nuisance, a nippy threat that gallops in behind any defence naive enough to leave space for him. There is certainly truth to that evaluation. His first goal against Aston Villa on Sunday was a direct run in behind, found by James Maddison, and eventually put away by the striker (his 8th goal in 8 consecutive games, a feat he has managed twice).

“He’s not altered a great deal how he plays on the football field,” Stocksbridge chairman Allen Bethall said. “He had tremendous energy, and you couldn’t run like he could for 90 minutes. I believe he started as a winger then moved inside later on.”

The running around cannot last forever. Vardy is 32, and although he doesn’t seem like slowing down anytime soon, he has admitted to curbing his frantic approach to conserve energy. Running parallel to that is an attempt to evolve, and add a different weapon to his arsenal.

The most recent example of that presents itself when space is at a premium. Watch Vardy in the box, where he positions himself, often on the blindside of defenders. Goals against Newcastle, Southampton, Everton and Aston Villa all show Vardy doing just that to catch opponents unaware.

On Sunday, you could see the panic on Matt Targett’s face as Vardy found himself goalside and clean through. His 16th Premier League goal in 16 games (he is currently the bookmakers favourite to win the Golden Boot).

“He is so natural at scoring,” Brendan Rodgers said earlier this year.

Rodgers has spoken of how he wants to adapt Leicester for when they face teams in a deep block.

“Because of the title win and everything around the threat of Jamie, space is no longer there all the time, especially at home,” he added. “So when teams are banked up, you have to find a way and a method that still exploits his qualities. I will certainly give him other ideas and just simplify the game.”

Vardy is part of that evolution. Sometimes his threat involves moving away from the ball instead of toward it (Johan Cruyff once argued that this is sometimes the best way to help a teammate). That affords him space and time to finish, although his ability to convert needed work earlier in his career.

“Don’t get me wrong, he could finish, and he had a great strike with his right and his left foot, which was a premium,” Phillips told the Athletic. “But it was more about just trying to guide the ball into the corner of the net instead of trying to lash it; trying to find that little bit more composure when he did get into good positions.”

Phillips, himself a striker that thrived in non-league, before arriving in the big time of the Premier League cited Vardy’s finishes at Crystal Palace and home to Arsenal as examples of how his game has improved -- he pulls away before calmly sweeping the ball home.

Now 32, Vardy’s career still has some time to run yet. His late arrival in football could undoubtedly leave him with a feeling of making up for lost time. Still, when Vardy does finally retire, we should remember him as a brilliant forward that not only arrived in the league but evolved to stay there.

By Kristan Heneage

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