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Can Kelechi Iheanacho stand alone as Leicester's main man?-Colin Udoh

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Front and centre is where Nigeria striker Kelechi Iheanacho suddenly finds himself after completing his long-anticipated move to Leicester City last week.

It was a short debut for the 20-year-old, ended by a knock within 20 minutes against Borussia Monchengladbach, but it was enough for Iheanacho to prove to both the Leicester fans and manager that they will have reason to preen about their latest acquisition.

Played through by Riyad Mahrez, Iheanacho had every opportunity to have a go at goal, but chose to unselfishly square the ball to an unmarked Jamie Vardy in the box.

The England striker swept home, Leicester took the lead, and held on for the win. That assist was the highlight of Iheanacho's 17-minute cameo. It also showed the good and not-so-good parts of the young striker's game.

Raised as an offensive midfielder in his cadet days with Nigeria, and from where he won MVP honous at the U-17 World Cup with Nigeria, Iheanacho has since transitioned to a very advanced forward role.

Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola stuck him upfront as a direct replacement for Sergio Aguero, and Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr has continued in that vein since taking over, letting Iheanacho take point in his three-man frontline.

His six goals and seven assists at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2013 must have had a role in that decision, not to mention his six goals in 10 international games.

That assist to Vardy speaks volumes about the striker. Everything about the goal, from the pass to open the space, his diagonal drifting running, and the square ball to Vardy, showed his potential.

A more single-mindedly ruthless finisher, especially one on his first day at work, would've gone for goal to open his account early.

He had the awareness to see Vardy all alone in he box, and the selflessness to find him with a simple, weighted touch. That selflessness, it could be said, is both a quality and a curse.

A striker should, ideally, have only one thing on his mind when he gets into positions like that, even if he misses. All the greatest strikers in the world would have gone for goal, but the midfielder in Iheanacho chose to pass.

It's also a major asset; having played in midfield for so long and so well, Iheanacho still has the spatial awareness to keep track of his teammates' movements in and around the box.

That said, Iheanacho must understand that he is now a striker, and goals rather than assists will be the key metric by which he is judged. At Manchester City, he was shielded both by his age and the giant goalscoring image of Kun Aguero.

A £25 million outlay for his services means that that shield is now discarded to the ground. Iheanacho has nowhere to hide, but has both an opportunity and a responsibility to stand on his own two feet...and no, he cannot hide behind Jamie Vardy, either.

Unquestionably, he has the talent to thrive.

Precedent shows he has the numbers in his favour. It is now time for him to step out of the shadows and be his own man. On the basis of his first showing, there seems to be reason for optimism.

ESPN

 

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