The curious case of Demarai Gray at Leicester City

LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 20: Brendan Rodgers, Manager of Leicester City speaks to Demarai Gray of Leicester City during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Leicester City at London Stadium on April 20, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

With the departure of Riyad Mahrez last summer, this season was a perfect opportunity for Demarai Gray to finally fulfil his potential at Leicester City.

However, despite securing a regular starting place under both Claude Puel and Brendan Rodgers, the 22-year-old hasn’t quite reached the levels Foxes fans would have expected when he signed from Birmingham in January 2016 for a reported £3.7 million.

With a disappointing output of just four goals and one assist this season, Gray has personified Leicester’s lack of end product out wide. Looking deeper into the winger’s stats, it is a similar story. He has averaged a mere 0.5 key passes per game and 1.3 dribbles this season, stats via WhoScored.

On Saturday against West Ham, Gray drew plenty of criticism from the City faithful, having completed just one dribble and not a single key pass. Meanwhile, Marc Albrighton, who was a shadow of himself, and totally lacking match fitness, completed two dribbles and one key pass, stats via WhoScored.

Although the stats are quite damning, Gray’s time at Leicester has not been all bad. For instance, he made ten appearances in the title-winning season, assisting Jamie Vardy’s second goal against Sunderland that secured a vital three points, as the Foxes sought their first Premier League trophy.

Additionally, Gray scored that unforgettable goal at the Cardiff City stadium in the first game after the tragic death of Khun Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, prompting a deeply emotional celebration. Therefore there have been severe ups and downs.

Even as recently as last year, the former Birmingham City man was undoubtedly hot property, with an England call-up in September and an enquiry from Lazio in June, per LeicestershireLive.

However, with 109 Premier League appearances for Leicester at the tender age of 22, we have seen enough of Gray to suggest that this is the best he will ever be, which is not good enough for City to realise their lofty ambitions of breaking the perennial top six.

There is no doubt that he works well within Leicester’s young, predominantly English side, but he lacks the quality to take them to the next level in the manner that Mahrez could.

If City can cash in on Gray while he is still seen as a hot prospect, with a £25 million bid rejected from Bournemouth in 2017, they absolutely should.