Osaka – Japan forward Shinji Okazaki believes Leicester City strike-partner Jamie Vardy would make a seamless transition at Arsenal if he joins the Gunners just weeks after helping the Foxes complete a fairy-tale run to their first Premier League title.
Vardy, who scored 24 goals last season, one behind Tottenham Hotspur’s golden-boot winner Harry Kane, could be moving south to the Emirates after Arsenal met the 29-year-old’s £20 million release clause.
Leicester has reportedly launched a bid to keep Vardy by offering him an improved contract, and the England international has been agonizing over the two offers, hoping to reach a decision before the start of the upcoming European Championship in France.
Leicester’s success was built on Vardy’s strengths of playing on the counterattack and sending long balls over the top and some have questioned whether he would fit in at Arsenal, which plays a more patient, possession-based game.
But Okazaki, speaking to Kyodo News ahead of Japan’s Kirin Cup game against Bosnia-Herzegovina here on Tuesday, said, “I think he has the potential to adapt to any style of soccer. At Leicester, we just happened to play the way we did and he fit fine.
“But even in a team that plays possession soccer, he has that sudden burst of speed and there are a lot of players at Arsenal who will notice that right away and play to that strength of his, like the way they did with (Danny) Welbeck.
“He’s not someone who only tries to get behind the defense, though. He picks his spots. Someone like me, I have to really get set up and then go but he can quicken instantly, go from zero to full speed. He can adjust to any style.”
Okazaki hopes Vardy stays and if he does — along with Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante, who both have been linked with moves out of Leicester — it could be the start of something special for the club.
“It’s not a decision that’s up to me, but he was very encouraging to have as a teammate and I am sure he would do a fantastic job if he stayed with us this year too,” Okazaki said.
“But this is a life choice and every footballer has to make his own choices. If he goes, then hopefully other players will come in. If several players end up leaving it’s going to be a tough season for us, but I think Leicester understand that.
“We still don’t have the resources to stand toe-to-toe against the big clubs — yet. But if we can keep the squad together and ‘endure,’ as the manager always says, then we can move on from being surprise packages to legitimate contenders in England.”
The 30-year-old Okazaki, who is one goal shy of 50 for the national team, was non-committal when asked what he would do if he were in Vardy’s position.
“It is difficult to say what I would do if I were in his position,” he laughed.
“Arsenal have not won the league for a long time and that is maybe a dream (Vardy) has. He has won the league with Leicester and if he led Arsenal to the title rather than try and help Leicester defend it, then his stock would rise even further.”