In June 2021, Leicester City made a splash. Several signings made all in the name of reaching the promised lands of European qualification spots consistently. Well, we know how that story went. Another story which unfurled was that of Patson Daka.
The Zambian international, who had turned heads with his prolific goalscoring exploits in Austria, was met with widespread acclaim, particularly among Foxes fans who were eager to see this goal machine come into the squad. The forward's first seven matches saw four goals: a glittering promise of what could have been. Unfortunately, under Brendan Rodgers' system, Daka was inconsistent and lost his place to Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho.
Leicester are of course now in the Championship, a competition fierce and always entertaining. Yet, Daka has only two appearances to his name despite the clear quality which the player has. Those days of RB Salzburg may be gone, but a revitalised and transformed King Power side should be looking to this goal machine to lead a division-climb. I hope there is a good reason.
"The problem with Pat is that we have Kele and Jamie, and now Tom is back. Kele and Jamie are doing very well. It doesn’t mean that if Pat plays he’s going to do bad, but there are already two players who are doing well"- Enzo Maresca
Enzo Maresca's reason here seems to be that Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho are playing very well and this will be keeping Daka out of the side. Well, let us look at that. The Englishman has 18 appearances, six goals and one assist; the Nigerian forward has five goals and one assist. Daka's two appearances include a goal and an assist. It would be fair to say the pair had been expected to score a few more in those fixtures while Daka has met his xG.
With that in mind, the Zambian played against Plymouth Argyle as Vardy and Iheanacho were unavailable. In that match, he played the Vardy role well: drawing defenders out of position and waiting for a moment to pounce. The Foxes gave Daka his chance, he got a goal. That performance should be rewarded with more appearances: it is time to give the player his chance to prove himself.
Harry Souttar explanation
Another story, another outcast. On transfer deadline day in January 2023, Souttar's dream of playing in the Premier League was fulfilled as he completed a £15 million move to Leicester City. The Australian defender joins forces with Brendan Rodgers' side, with supporters eager to see an improvement in a rocky and shoddy defence. We know how this one ended: he player a lot, played well, but the King Power side ultimately fell at the final hurdle and tripped into relegation.
Despite a lack of appearances for the Foxes in the first half of this 23/24 campaign, we still know what he does well at: defending. Souttar is perhaps our best out-and-out defender, with aerial prowess unmatched in the squad and a tackling acumen most profound. It is therefore surprising Maresca has left him an outcast.
"He had the chance against Liverpool and he had the chance against Stoke. He played well. At the same time, Wout is doing well, Jannik is doing well, Conor is another guy… What can we say about Conor? He’s fantastic."- Enzo Maresca
Another stupid reason to not even use the Australian international. The centre-back is not being used because there are others playing well. Well, rotation exists, and we know that Vestergaard and Faes have played nearly every single match for Leicester. Instead of relying constantly on the same talents to perform, providing competition and rest is crucial for a long gruelling season.
Harry Souttar is a brilliant defender, and was not one the reasons Leicester City were relegated from the Premier League. He has been passionate, composed, and trained well according to the Italian coach. Clearly, the reasoning is mere marketing to make the player feel more valued despite the lack of game time.
We also know that stylistically, the Australian centre-back is progressive and carries the ball up the pitch regularly. It is what he does. That is a key element to 'MarescaBall' and is being undermined by the less progressive - although more neat in passing - Danish defender. The ball has to progress forward at some point, endless recycling is not a solution.
With the stakes to high, the Italian head coach has no good excuse to not use more of the squad. Daka and Souttar have both performed when given opportunities and should be used more often. The Zambian international now deserves a run of games to prove himself, and the Danish player should be rested and allow the Australian to have a chance.