Ever since their league title in the 2015/16 season, Leicester City have often received widespread plaudits. Despite a wobble following that title success, they have managed to establish themselves as one of the best sides in England and under Brendan Rodgers, they’ve developed an excellent squad with lots of exciting, young players. In recent times, the main headline grabbers have been Jamie Vardy, James Maddison and Caglar Soyuncu, however, one man who seems to go under the radar very often is Harvey Barnes.
A product of the Leicester City academy, Barnes joined the club at the age of nine before working his way up through the age groups. This development resulted in him being sent on loan to MK Dons in 2017. It didn’t take long for him to impress there and despite only joining in the January window, Barnes was awarded the club’s Young Player Of The Year Award. Following this, Barnes was loaned to Barnsley for the next season, however, this ended up being cut short as Leicester decided to recall the winger halfway through his stint up North. Despite only making three appearances after his recall, Barnes found himself being shipped out on loan again, but this time to newly relegated West Bromwich Albion. In a hugely impressive half season, Barnes bagged 9 goals before he was recalled, yet again, back to Leicester City, however this time he would feature more regularly for the Foxes, making 16 appearances in the Premier League.
Since going out on these loan spells, Barnes has quietly become a very consistent performer in the top division. As previously mentioned, Leicester’s success is very often attributed to the likes of Vardy and Maddison, however, in my opinion, Barnes is the unsung hero in the side. One potential reason for this is that people largely consider Barnes to be more of a depth option, rather than a regular feature in the Leicester team. Whilst this was absolutely true at first, I think this misconception is borne out of how gradually the club has introduced him to the Premier League. With each passing season, Barnes has played more and more regularly and actually made 36 appearances in the top flight last season, with 24 of those being starts. In those appearances, Barnes managed a mightily impressive 6 goals and 8 assists, an excellent return for a 21 year old. These stats were good enough to mean that Barnes can claim to have been the 7th most productive player in the league last season in terms of assists per 90 mins.
This season has been where Barnes has really come of age and his performances are now a vital part of Leicester’s game as he started all 7 of their league games so far. It’s safe to say that Barnes has absolutely started where he left off, already with 2 goals and an assist to his name and ranking 5th for shots on target in the league. This form has meant that the young winger has caught the eye of Gareth Southgate and Barnes was able to make his England debut recently, a well deserved reward for his consistency.
Since Brendan Rodgers took over Leicester, he has introduced a fast, free flowing style of football and this has suited Barnes down to the ground. Although we’ve previously cited his goal and assist records, his part in the team is by no means limited to just that. Barnes is a very direct winger and his raw speed it a huge part of Leicester’s counterattacking threat. This is demonstrated in the fact that he is 6th in the league in terms of progressive carrying distance, a massive asset to any team, especially when a player can do it with the pace that Barnes does. His ability to drive with the ball is not only perfect for beating players one on one, but also commits opposition players, leaving gaps for his teammates to exploit too. I can imagine this is exhausting to defend against, both mentally and physically.
Barnes has slowly developed into a top class player and is a crucial cog in the Leicester City machine. Maddison and Vardy may steal the headlines but Barnes is the one who’ll catch you off guard and this is something that the foxes are really benefitting from now. If the other stars in the team aren’t performing then you can rely on Barnes to come up with the goods instead, a vital characteristic of any team that grinds out results. A quiet assassin up until now, I think it’s time some of the plaudits started finding their way to Leicester’s secret weapon, Harvey Barnes.
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