Craig Shakespeare has revealed that he asked Shinji Okazaki to deliver more in the box, and the Japan international has duly obliged.
Since he was signed from FSV Mainz 05 in the summer of 2015, the 31-year old has been widely criticised for his lack of involvement as far as goalscoring is concerned.
Prior to this season, the former VFB Stuttgart forward had scored just 12 goals across two seasons, which indeed is a poor return for the Bundesliga’s most prolific ever Japanese.
This time around, though, Shinji Okazaki has hit the ground running, finding the back of the net four times in six appearances, three of those goals coming against Arsenal and Liverpool.
It’s not just his own hard-work, however, that has resulted in such a change in front of goal, as Craig Shakespeare kept encouraging him to rediscover that magic Bundesliga touch. He said:
"“Shinji has always been valuable to us. Coaches and managers talk about team players these days and the importance of the team rather than the individual and Shinji epitomises that.“We have encouraged him to get into the box more. He is associated with hard work without the ball but as a forward we want him to contribute with goals as well.“We told him we didn’t just want him to contribute outside the box, but inside the box as well. He has made a conscious effort and got his rewards as well.”"
Say it quietly, but at this rate, Shinji Okazaki may well be Leicester City’s player of the year, come the end of the season. The goals apart, he makes the team look much-more better than it does with Kelechi Iheanacho or Islam Slimani in the side, both of whom have been brought in for hefty amounts.
He’s not the most attractive player to watch; in fact, he’s not attractive at all, but he’s a satisfying presence to have for coaches, players and fans alike. With him, you know that you have the complete package: A striker, a midfielder, a defender and more importantly, a team man, unlike some of the other, more highly-rated players in Leicester City.