Having failed to stamp his mark under Brendan Rodgers’ guidance and with his contract set to expire in six months, Demarai Gray appears set to leave Leicester City in January.
Now 24 and looking for a new challenge, it was nice to see his manager praise his attitude despite him only featuring once this season. “It’s pretty clear with Demarai that he’s looking to move on. His attitude to training has been first class, he has been very professional,” Rodgers insisted.
“He is at the stage of his career where he has been here a long time and hasn’t maybe nailed down a place. A fresh start may be the course for him. I will always respect him and until his last day I will never discard him but it’s looking more than likely he will probably be somewhere else next season.”
At this stage the man who played over 160 times for the Foxes and was part of that remarkable title winning team of 2015/2016 has already been linked to quite a few teams. And AS Monaco is one of them, with reports suggesting sporting director, Paul Mitchell, is keen on snapping him up.
While he’d add some extra depth to Monaco’s wing options, which is necessary given Henry Onyekuru appears destined to leave, his inconsistency raises some question marks. One thing that isn’t in doubt is his talent, for on his day he’s an electric, unpredictable and extremely dangerous operator.
To start with his dribbling, and the quiksilver attacker’s sharp ball control and first touch give him a strong platform to be a menace. Then once he gets going, he can breeze by markers or gain separation using his array of stepovers, shoulder drops, feints and clever alterations in speed. So agile and swift to cut inside before either passing or shooting, his razor sharp changes of direction are a good weapon, for defenders struggle to react quickly enough to stop him.
Fast footed and relishing every available opportunity to get at his opponents, he unsurprisingly loves being isolated 1v1 so he can use his qualities to outfox adversaries or draw fouls in dangerous locations. Hard to read and with a wicked turn of speed, Gray’s a real handful both in transition and in slower more methodical build up, where he can light up a move with his ingenuity.
Able to turn out of tight spaces and lure multi markers, his teammates also benefit because of his press resistance and tight ball handling, with this opening up space for them to exploit.
His nifty movement has been another highlight, for this sees him break in behind using his pace, crafty decoy runs to disorient foes and well timed runs, plus drop deeper and wider to connect play. Showing some promise with his depth runs, he attacks gaps between defenders and on their blindside shrewdly.
Gray’s crucially shown his aptitude when dropping deep to link play, where his back to goal work and one and two touch passing enables him to add tempo to moves. Quick to recognise vacant spaces between the lines, this has been a real positive too, as he’s done so promisingly after executing clean rotations with his teammates in the final third.
In addition, how he’s worked with his teammates to form triangular overloads out wide in the half spaces has aided his team’s chances of breaking the press.
With these interchanges of position and variations placing doubt in defenders’ minds, these add important strings to his bow, which Niko Kovac would utilise smartly.
Meanwhile, when it comes to his end product and decision making, this is an area many fans have called for improvement in. Having only scored 13 goals and notched 17 assists in his 169 appearances for Leicester, this record illustrates his struggles to capitalise on his regularly excellent approach play.
Often criticised for being wasteful and taking the wrong option, there’s still plenty of time for development in this area of his game, which would surely come with frequent starting minutes.
It must be said, however, that he has shown his capacity to hit some incisive through balls in behind, smart crosses and cutbacks and some crisp line breaking deliveries.
His statistics over the past five years offer an insight into his talent, for he’s enjoyed 7.83 dribbles per 90, 3.22 crosses p90, 2.90 touches inside the box p90, 2.46 shots p90, 2.46 progressive runs p90 and 1.18 shot assists p90.
Looking for a fresh start after seeing his career stagnate in recent seasons, the former Birmingham City starlet would definitely be an interesting option for many outfits, including Monaco.
No matter where he ends up, one thing for sure is that it’ll make for intriguing viewing where he ends up to see if he can go on to fulfil his exciting potential.