HARVEY BARNES: HOW LEICESTER CITY'S DYNAMIC WINGER HAS BECOME A GOALSCORING THREAT
Since Brendan Rodgers’ arrival at the King Power Stadium, Leicester City have gone from strength to strength, pushing this season for Champions’ League football.
In previous years the majority of goals have come from Jamie Vardy, but this season another threat has become present, young English winger Harvey Barnes.
Sadly, it looks like the pacey winger may not feature for a while, with Rodgers’ confirming he suffered a major injury in their 3-1 defeat to Arsenal that will require an operation.
But with nine goals and four assists in 25 games so far this season, Barnes record is second to only that of Vardy’s in the Foxes’ camp this campaign.
What has Rodgers’ done this year to ignite that goalscoring threat in the 23-year-old, will he be the difference between European football being played on a Wednesday rather than Thursday evening?
Last season, Barnes hit six goals in the entirety of the Premier League as the Foxes narrowly missed out on Champions’ League football to Frank Lampard’s Chelsea.
He was by no-means an ever-present however, only starting 24 of the 38 games that campaign having been his first entire season in England’s top-flight.
Having been at Leicester since his academy days, the left winger had spent time on loan with West Brom, Barnsley and MK Dons, with his time with the Baggies cut short.
His time at the Hawthorns wasn’t too dissimilar to the season he’s currently experiencing, racing to nine goals in 26 games from the left flank, a sign of his goalscoring capabilities.
Another crucial factor has been the occasional absence of Vardy, who has only managed 18 starts of the 25 games Leicester have played in the league, still scoring an impressive 12 goals.
But there’s not an obvious correlation between Vardy being unavailable and Barnes’ goal output increasing, having only scored once in a 3-1 defeat to Leeds United.
So, it appears that Barnes actually works better with Vardy, quite possibly because the opposition defenders are so paranoid about the ex-non-league striker.
Barnes has improved his shot output from last season, averaging 2.3 per game (an increase of 0.6 from last season) with this entire increase coming from more shots inside the six-yard box.
His ability to get into the box is partly down to his own creativity, with his own completed dribbles improving from last season, now at 1.7 completed per match.
He also has a new teammate sat behind him, after the sale of Ben Chilwell to Chelsea in the summer James Justin has tended to play at left-back for the Foxes.
Justin offers a greater defensive aid for Rodgers, averaging 2.7 tackles compared to Chilwell’s 1.6 last season and Justin intercepts more often by an average of 0.3.
This defensive stability allows Barnes to get forward and attack due to the assurance that the defence is there to cover if he’s too far forward.
Personally, I’m hopeful that his injury is not too serious not only for Leicester but also from the view of an England fan, as his recent form is worthy of definite consideration by Gareth Southgate.
To be sat on nine goals, the same amount as Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling and more than Liverpool’s Sadio Mane, Barnes should be in the England managers plans.
Hopefully he can return to the Leicester side in time to confirm their place in next season’s Champions League and Barnes himself can force his way into the England side.