Leicester City strike it big with savvy Shinji Okazaki signing
Leicester City (11/4 with Coral for a top 10 finish) have proven their ambition goes beyond simple Premier League survival in the upcoming campaign, as the King Power hierarchy sanctioned a reported £7m swoop, just two million less than the club record fee splashed on striker Andrej Kramaric, for Japan international Shinji Okazaki.
For one thing, having apparently failed with previous bids for the poacher over the past few seasons, the Foxes have shown they will eventually snare their targets. Is Okazaki worth the wait?
The adaptable 29-year-old is far more than just a fox-in-the box, with his link-up play and intelligence key to his nation’s fluid and inter-changing style. Yet, despite being flexible enough to be deployed out wide on either wing, the experienced frontman is clearly most effective spearheading the team up top, where he provides quick feet and an aerial threat.
As Japan’s third all-time top scorer with a fantastic record of 43 strikes in 91 caps and, having hit 27 Bundesliga goals over the past two terms for former club Mainz, the marksman will hopefully be utilized as one of the front two in Nigel Pearson’s 3-5-2 formation.
Watch Okazaki in action:
After the Midlands men made their great escape from the drop zone in some style, it would seem senseless to drop a system which saved their top tier status, and recent signings such as versatile full back Christian Fuchs on a bosman plus a permanent deal for centre half Robert Huth, suggests Pearson will persevere.
Defender Huth himself had this to say, tweeting:
Now the sexy football show rolls into Leicester!!
— robert huth (@robert_huth) June 24, 2015
An icon in his homeland, Okazaki should be worth his weight in gold, or at least shirt sales, though his acquisition has raised questions over whether the Foxes’ now impressively well-stocked forward line is a case of too many cooks?
As Leicester struggled to finish off games they should have won in several poor patches of form last campaign, once going a stretch of five games without scoring, the Foxes look to be taking no chances in the forthcoming term.
Argentine attacker Leonardo Ulloa, previously a club record signing for £8m, began life at Leicester in prolific fashion before blowing hot and cold for much of his first season, suffering several goal droughts despite spirited performances.
Ulloa will likely partner new boy on the block Okazaki up top, at first anyway, and the hardworking pair should gel well. However tempting it may be to field the duo plus young-gun Kramaric, width proved crucial for the Foxes when their forwards were misfiring, so the Croatian and his club may be best served by him beginning the campaign on the bench.
Flexible Jamie Vardy’s exuberance and versatility should see him safe, especially following several match-winning performances, while David Nugent can provide valuable squad depth. Chris Woods looks set to be the striking sacrifice and odd-man out, then, with a switch to Championship club Leeds United reportedly in the offing.
If the Foxes (16/1 to finish bottom) are to continue to field two up front, their roster seems to be sufficient for the rigors of a long season rather than over indulgent. Now, in case of a loss of form or injury, Pearson has an array of attackers able to fill numerous roles, who can each bring a different dimension to the Foxes XI and complement differing styles of play.
Should Leicester later add inspirational but out-of-contract Argentinian midfielder Esteban Cambiasso to their ranks for another term, the Foxes will fancy their chances of a higher finish this time around.