This article is part of Football FanCast’s One to Watch series, which focuses on those players we think are particularly worth keeping an eagle-eye on as the 2019/20 season unfolds.
Ayoze Perez’s arrival at Leicester City was certainly one of the surprise deals of the summer, with few expecting that Brendan Rogers would spend £30m on the hit-and-miss Newcastle forward.
Perez, who wears the name ‘Ayoze’ on the back of his shirt, joined the Magpies in 2014 and slowly endeared himself to the supporters, though he was subjected to stark criticism during particularly toothless spells.
He enjoyed 195 games in the black and white of Newcastle, scoring 48 goals in the process. It’s not the most overwhelming return at first glance, but for a player who’s played predominantly as a second-striker, it’s a strong tally indeed.
The forward enjoyed his best scoring season last year under Rafael Benitez, bagging 13 goals across the whole season with the majority coming towards the end of the season, including a hat-trick against Southampton in a 3-1 win at St James’ Park.
On the back of this impressive run, Leicester City have come calling, and Perez arrived as one of three incomings so far. Despite the high price tag, he’s not the most expensive to sign; that title belongs to Youri Tielemans, who signed after his successful spell with the Foxes on loan from January last season.
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The Perez signing is a strange on because it’s difficult to know exactly where he slots into the Leicester starting XI, which one would assume he’s going to do having been signed for £30m.
Out wide seems the most obvious position for Perez to play, considering none of Leicester’s options have really cemented their place in the starting XI just yet and Marc Albrighton is hitting the latter stages of his career.
He’s unlikely to displace James Maddison as the number 10 – though the aspiring England international is also prone to playing in an inside left role – nor Jamie Vardy, who’s surely set to start upfront. So, unless there’s a huge change in system an approach from Rogers, it looks like a wide role for Ayoze.
With Albrighton, Maddison, Harvey Barnes and Demarai Gray all in contention to start out wide, he’ll certainly be rotated and rested on occasion. If he’s to play off the left or right wing, one would assume his role will be less about stretching the pitch and running at defenders, and more about receiving the ball in half-spaces to feet and looking to retain possession, exploiting his creative talents all the while.
It’s the uncertainty surrounding his role in the side considering his arrival for a big fee that makes him Leicester’s one to watch this season.
The Spaniard arrives at the club to join a squad containing a plethora of talented young players who all specialise in doing what he does well himself, so it’s naive to think that he’s guaranteed game-time.
A good season, therefore, will be defined by his number of regular opportunities to impress from the outset, scoring goals, providing assists and exciting the King Power Stadium along the way.
He may even see himself as a striker and the long-term replacement for Vardy, so his versatility should bring plenty of opportunities in the coming 12 months.
A successful season would be (all competitions):