Since taking charge of Leicester City at the end of October which resulted in a comfortable 3-0 win over Everton, Claude Puel has picked up 11 points out of a possible 18 as the Foxes currently find themselves in 9th position in the league. Puel has made various changes since taking charge that has led to his relative success early on, one of which has been his faith in 21-year-old Demarai Gray.
Following his arrival during the January transfer window of Leicesters infamous title-winning campaign, Gray was left frustrated as both Claudio Ranieri and Craig Shakespeare placed him fairly low in the pecking order behind the likes of Riyad Mahrez and Marc Albrighton. The youngster attracted interest in the summer from the likes of Crystal Palace, Bournemouth and Tottenham following doubts that he would not get the first team minutes he desired but the Foxes managed to negotiate with the promising wide-man and he signed a 4-year contract keeping him at the King Power till 2021. With the appointment of Puel, it seems likely that Gray will be given the time on the pitch that he wants and his performances so far this season point to his first-team involvement continuing over the course of this season.
The England Under-21 international has made a total of 14 appearances this season, starting 6 and completing 3 full games with the majority of his starts coming under Puel. Scoring 2 goals and creating 8 goal-scoring opportunities for team-mates is proof of the wingers potential as these stats rank him as Leicesters 3rd highest creative midfielder, only bettered by Riyad Mahrez (17) and Marc Albrighton (15). Out of his 140 completed passes this season, Gray has a 75% pass completion rate with 70% of them going forward up the pitch, which is fairly decent considering the majority of wingers’ passes are crosses and through-balls as they always look to create chances for their team-mates.
His pace is rapid and can leave most defenders in the league in his dust, as proven by his incredible run in the build-up to Jamie Vardy’s goal against Everton as well as running Kurt Zouma ragged during the draw with Stoke City which is not an easy thing to do. He also has a decent shot on him from distance, as David De Gea and Manchester United found out at the beginning of the 16/17 campaign where he scored a cracker during their 4-1 loss to the Manchester giants. Along with his ability to carry the ball, Gray is a player who always seems to have a trick up his sleeve to create the half yard he needs to dash past a defender or put in his cross. His pace and flair make him a dangerous opponent for any defender he comes up against.
The advantages of his pace make him a constant threat on the counter-attack, which suits Leicester’s game perfectly, whilst his trickery results in free-kicks that allow players like Wes Morgan, Harry Maguire and Vincente Iborra to come into play from set-pieces. However, as mentioned previously, his 75% average pass accuracy needs to be of a higher standard to ensure his side retains the ball more and his defensive contribution does need work, but that will come over time as the youngster gains more valuable match experience.
In conclusion, since being openly vocal about wanting more game time, Demarai Gray has grabbed the opportunity with both hands and continues to impress under Claude Puels management and seems to be living up to the hype that has surrounded him since his early days back at Birmingham City. At this rate, he looks set to be an important member of Leicester’s squad for the future.
All stats mentioned in this article come via Squawka.