Iheanacho Becomes Fourth Nigerian to Win Premier League Player of the Month

0
Kelechi Iheanacho

Super Eagles striker Kelechi Iheanacho has been named Premier League Player of the Month for March 2021.

The 2013 U17 World Cup Golden Ball winner was in outstanding form for Leicester City last month, scoring five goals in three matches and helping his team secure seven points from a possible nine.

Iheanacho was on target against Burnley, then got on the scoresheet again when Leicester City beat Brighton & Hove 2-1 away from home, before scoring his first-ever Premier League hat-trick in a 5-0 rout of Sheffield United.

To win the accolade, the Nigeria national teamer saw off competition from Andreas Christensen (Chelsea), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Jesse Lingard (West Ham United), Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City), Illan Meslier (Leeds United), Luke Shaw (Manchester United) and Leandro Trossard (Brighton & Hove).

Reacting to winning the award for the first time in his career, Iheanacho was quoted as saying By Leicester City’s official website: “I’m so pleased and honoured to win this award. It’s great to be recognised, but I couldn’t have done it without the support of my team-mates and the manager.

“I’m really enjoying playing at the minute and hopefully I can push on and help the team to finish as high as possible this season.”

Iheanacho is the fourth Nigerian player to win the Premier League Player of the Month, after Jay-Jay Okocha, Peter Odemwingie (three times) and Odion Ighalo.

Having scored his first Premier League hat-trick in the dismantling of bottom Sheffield United in March, the attacker played a pivotal role in leading the Foxes to their first FA Cup semi-final with a 3-1 success over Manchester United before the hiatus.

Involved in all three goals (scoring two goals and an assist) against the Red Devils, Iheanacho took his recent tally to seven goals in his last four games to send Leicester into their first FA Cup semi-final since 1981/82, ending a run of five quarter-final defeats on the spin.

Given Jamie Vardy’s inexplicable lull since January, Rodgers’ side have been uplifted by the Nigerian netting in four games in succession for the first time in his career, boosting their top four prospects and putting them within two wins of their first-ever triumph in the sport’s oldest cup competition.

“Jamie hasn’t scored in a few games, but his movement and assists have been first class. He gives Kels space,” Rodgers said before facing City. “They link up very well and since they’ve been playing together they’ve been outstanding.”

Speaking to Sky Sports, the former Liverpool boss spoke glowingly about his in-form frontman, explaining the tactical switch that’s bringing the best out of him.

“When he has played in a diamond structure or a 3-1-4-2, he has always played well and combined with another striker. That is probably what he is best suited to, but I have played a lot of the time this season with one central striker and two wide forwards,” Rodgers revealed.

“When we lost our attacking players, we lost our wingers, our really creative players, and it was just a case of trying to figure out how to get the balance in the team to give us a real creative aspect while retaining defensive stability as well.

“We decided to play 3-4-1-2 and then go to 3-1-4-2. We started looking at different aspects of how they could play together, and it has worked really well for us.”

With five goals in his last three league games, Iheanacho has now netted six league goals this term, putting him two behind his most prolific Premier League return in 2015/16. For context, the Nigeria star’s goals per 90 rate of 0.75 is the best in the entire league, adding even more gloss on his recent run.