THERE is a lot to like about Leicester City right now. Indeed, the Foxes are enjoying an excellent season, currently sitting third in the Premier League table and almost certain to finish in the Champions League spots. Were it not for their stunning title win of 2016, this would be shaping up to be the best season in the club’s history.
Jamie Vardy is firing in attack, with James Maddison confirming his status as one of the Premier League’s best creative midfielders behind him. Jonny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu have forged a formidable defensive partnership while Ben Chilwell and Ricardo Pereira are bettered as a Premier League full-back pairing by only Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson. Wilfred Ndidi, Kasper Schmeichel and Youri Tielemens are also performing well.
It can be easy to overlook Harvey Barnes, but the 22-year-old has been one of the biggest success stories of Leicester City’s season so far. Primarily used on the left side, Barnes has flourished under Brendan Rodgers, marking himself out as one of English football’s brightest prospects even if he has somewhat flown under the radar.
Walking it into the net
Leicester's probing and pulling eventually yields rewards as Harvey Barnes sweeps home pic.twitter.com/9sHH6G68fu
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) January 22, 2020
Barnes is the Foxes’ top assists-maker with six this season. To provide some context, Maddison, widely hailed as Leicester City’s creative spark around the edge of the box, has produced just three. The 22-year-old is also averaging 1.7 shots on goal per game, a higher ratio than any of his teammates besides Maddison, Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho.
The past month has really seen Barnes come to the boil, scoring in three of his last four appearances with arguably his best display of the season so far coming in the 4-1 demolition of West Ham which saw the youngster find the net and contribute an assist. He is only getting better as the season progresses.
Used as something of a fill-in for Vardy in an FA Cup win over Wigan Athletic at the start of the month, Barnes’ versatility makes him even more valuable. While he might be most comfortable in a wide position, Barnes is capable of playing through the middle, frequently drifting inside even when he is deployed on the wing.
It’s feasible that, in time, Barnes could be moved into central midfield in much the same way Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was later in his career. There are comparisons to be drawn between the two players – both are quick and direct with an end product to their play – and there’s no reason to believe Barnes can’t reach the same heights as the Liverpool man.
Harvey Barnes in the Premier League in 2019:
♂️ 35 appearances
⚽️ 2 goals
Harvey Barnes in the Premier League in 2020:
♂️ 3 appearances
⚽️ 2 goals pic.twitter.com/8uSzC6v70c
— Goal (@goal) January 22, 2020
Barnes could barely be under the stewardship of a better manager for his development than Rodgers. At every club he has been at, Rodgers has proved himself as a harnesser of young talent, playing a major role in the development of Raheem Sterling during his time at Liverpool. Barnes is his next project.
“Now he’s improving, developing, he’s got power, he’s got speed, he can go either way, and he’s now getting and creating goals, so I’m really pleased for him,” Rodgers said after a particularly impressive Barnes display in an otherwise disappointing defeat to Burnley, acknowledging that the 22-year-old isn’t just a player for the future, but key to Leicester City’s chances of finishing in the top four right now.
It’s just over a year ago that Barnes was recalled by Leicester City from a loan at West Brom. His impact at the King Power Stadium was immediate, catching the eye under Claude Puel before Rodgers arrived in March of last year. That now looks set to go down as a landmark moment in the winger’s career, with the Northern Irishman now getting the best out of the young talent. There aren’t many brighter than him in the English game at this moment.