Following the deadline day loan signing of Islam Slimani, we’ve got in touch with a Leicester City fan whose told us everything we need to know about the striker signed until the end of the season.
With current forward options Gayle and Joselu having mustered a grand total of 7 goals between them so far this season, it’s clear where our issues lie – scoring goals. That was evident once again on Wednesday, with Joselu’s missed penalty and golden chance dragged wide showing just why we NEED Leicester’s £29m man to do the business between now and mid May.
Fortunately, Leicester season ticket holder Jamie (also admin at the no.1 Leicester fan page on twitter @FIRST4LCFC) feels Slimani could be the answer to our goalscoring issues and a good fit for NUFC, with having a lot to say about the Algerian despite limited game time for the Foxes this season.
Here’s what he had to say during our Q&A with him this week:
Q1) What sort of player is Slimani – we know he’s a big guy who banged them in for fun in Portugal a few seasons ago, but what are his strengths and weaknesses?
“His key strength is that he is a big guy who is not scared to throw his weight around a bit and unsettle defenders. He has a middling amount of pace, not lightning quick but no slouch either, and does possess a tremendous work rate – a bit headless at times but will put it in for the team without question.
“As a target man he is well suited if you can get players around him. He is not the best at holding the ball up, and if he is isolated he struggles to maintain possession – but if tasked with winning it in the air and playing a simple pass to a more creative team mate then he’ll do well.
“Finishing wise he is inconsistent, which I am putting down to a lack of game time, but has the ability to score goals with both his head and feet.”
Q2) Do you think he has what it takes to score goals in the Premier League and be a big hit at Newcastle? Given the lack of goals in our team, he’s essentially been tasked with the job of keeping us up..
“f he is given a consistent run in the game and consistent amounts of service then I do believe he will score goals.
“Most of the games that Slimani has started for Leicester he delivered in, and he has a surprisingly good record considering his lack of minutes.
“He could form a good partnership with someone like Perez running off him, and if players such as Ritchie can get crosses into the box then Slimani will thrive.”
Q3) Why has he never been given a proper chance at Leicester? I know a few fans had reservations about signing a player whose struggled to get in your side.
“Slimani has been the victim of personnel issues. Leicester play two strikers in either a 4-2-3-1/4-4-1-1 formation, and Vardy is evidently going to be first choice at leading the line due to his importance in running the channels etc.
“Slimani simply doesn’t suit that role behind the main striker. He has the workrate, but not necessarily the defensive nous to go with it, i.e. he often closes down at the wrong time and leaves us exposed – fine if you’ve got 10 others behind you but not if you let the opposition run straight at your midfield.
“He has therefore had to compete with Jamie Vardy, playing second fiddle to a man of his quality is no shameful thing.”
Q4) We are currently in the middle of a relegation battle as you know, so we need players who would be up for the fight and ready to give their all. Does Slimani strike you as someone who’d give his all for the 52,000 at St James’?
“Yes, most definitely. He can come across as a bit petulant at times if things don’t quite go his way but he won’t shy away or hide.
“The atmosphere at St James’ will suit him hugely as I’ve always thought he was particularly buoyed by support from the crowd.
“If the fans take to him early, and crucially give him a little bit of time to settle, then I think he will fit in quite nicely.”
5) Finally, we tend to play 1 up top (4-2-3-1), however Joselu (whose played that role most of the season) has often been starved of service. Is Slimani the sort who will rely on a lot of support, or do you feel he’s got a bit more about him than that?
“Tricky one this. If I’m honest, no. He needs players around him and a consistent stream of service as I have said.
“Playing on the counter suits him only if your transitions from defence to attack are pretty quick and players can get around him early, if isolated then I’d worry.
“I think he presents more of a physical presence than Joselu, but he will need more support from the three in behind him to be a success.”
Some really interesting insights here from a guy who knows Slimani very well, having watched him closely over the past 18 months following his £29m move from Sporting Lisbon in the summer of 2016.
What do you make of this folks? Does this fill you with confidence that he’s the man to fire us to safety over the coming weeks?
Here’s some clips of him in action for Leicester – note the amount of headers!