Jamie Vardy has decided to stay at Leicester City despite the Gunners purusing him for two months. But is the right decision by the forward or will Wenger have the last laugh?
The summer transfer window has finally come to a close – there have been winners, and there have been losers. Among the teams who failed to sign their targets, Jamie Vardy's transfer saga was one of the most interesting this summer. Arsenal made a very early move in June by activating the striker's release clause of 34 million Euros, much to the excitement of Arsenal fans. Nothing was said until July because of the European Championship in France, but finally Arsene Wenger revealed that the striker will not leave Leicester City this season. In the following few days, Vardy signed a new three-year contract with The Foxes ending all the speculation. On Sunday, the 29-year old revealed that it was an “easy decision” to reject Arsenal's offer. But, is it beneficial for him to stay with Leicester or will Wenger have cause to not regret the miss?
In an interview with The Guardian, Vardy opened up about his feelings during the whole saga. “I am not going to beat around the bush – every time I thought about it, and every aspect of it I thought about, both my head and my heart were saying to stay at Leicester, which is why I made my decision to stay,” he revealed. He also explained how Arsene Wenger and he were staying in the same hotel during Euro 2016, and that there was not much pressure from the Frenchmen to sign with the Gunners. This could be taken as a lack of enough ambition from Wenger, which has seen so many players sign with another club after being pursued by the Frenchman. But, Jamie Vardy clearly has enough reasons to stay put.
After humble beginnings playing as a centre forward for multiple Championship sides, Vardy was signed by Leicester City from Fleetwood in May 2012. The Sheffield-born player once said that he considered retiring from football after the 2012-13 season due to his poor showing, but faith shown by then coach Nigel Pearson and the club's backing helped him gain his confidence back. From there on, Leicester City and Vardy have only gone to scale new heights of which winning the Premier League last season was the greatest. For any footballer, its hard not to be grateful to a club that has backed him during his dark days and Vardy's decision to give the Arsenal chance a miss is simply repaying that faith.
Not all good can come by just staying loyal though. Steven Gerrard had stuck with Liverpool for 18 years as a professional footballer and had some incredible moments like winning the epic Champions League final in Istanbul, 2005. He was offered a lucrative contract to join Chelsea by Jose Mourinho in the following summer of 2005 which eventually ended up Gerrard deciding to stay at Liverpool. Chelsea went on to win the Premier League thrice after that, but the trophy eluded Gerrard until his last season with the Reds. For Vardy, a move to a club of Arsenal's stature would have been a considerable option given his age and experience in the Premier League.
But Vardy has a home crowd that worships him after his 24-goal haul in guiding Leicester City to their title win last season, team-mates whom he considers as his “brothers”, and a coach who had guided them to the pinnacle of English football. Despite N'golo Kante leaving for Chelsea, Leicester City's management made sure that Vardy had his friends fighting alongside him by extending the contracts of their star players such as Riyad Mahrez, Wes Morgan, Danny Drinkwater, Kasper Schmeichel and Marc Alrbighton. Adding to that, his role in the Leicester City line up is clear and definitive. He is the ball chaser, Riyad Mahrez, Mark Albrighton and Shinji Okazaki are his ball suppliers, and his position in the starting XI is irrefutable.
Now consider he had moved to Arsenal. Arsenal fans would have been overjoyed with his arrival and his humble roots as a factory worker during his Sheffield days would have helped him to connect with the home crowd, and that's that. Arsene Wenger had not made any significant transfers apart from signing Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi by the end of the transfer window, which still makes his squad an inadequate one for challenging the title. Attackers such as Theo Walcott, Joel Campbell are still unaware of their roles in the line-up as they are asked to play as a part of the striker pair in some of Arsenal's games. Jamie Vardy would have been a good replacement for the hard-working but inconsistent Olivier Giroud, but how he would have justified his role as a centre-forward if his team mates surrounding him had not been given definitive roles is open to debate.
Adding to that, there are rumours that Wenger, himself, would be soon leaving the Emirates after the 2016-17 season once his contract ends in June 2017, and players who like to work with big managers would not prefer that position. An example of feeling stranded is Robin Van Persie's time with Manchester United. After single-handedly guiding United to the title in 2013 in Alex Ferguson's final season, the Dutch striker grew increasingly frustrated under new manager David Moyes and left the club after just one more season. Considering all these factors, Vardy's decision to stay put at the King Power Stadium seems fair and justified.
But there is much that Arsene Wenger and Arsenal can learn from this saga. Wenger really needs to shape that frontline where his players have been at times clueless of what their definitive role is. Arsenal's habit of being inconsistent winning against the big guns and losing to the small teams has cost them the title none too often. A team which shows consistency is bound to attract top players in the business. Even after several failed attempts, Arsenal's ability to pursue their targets over multiple transfers has been commendable. Despite the Gonzalo Higuain trail going cold when Juventus signed the Argentinian, the Gunners did not give up on the striker for almost six transfer windows. Similarly, they can go after Jamie Vardy during next summer if Claudio Ranieri leaves The Foxes after the 2016-17 season which might apparently change his mind. But for now, Arsenal and Wenger will have to watch Jamie Vardy play in the Foxes' blue.