Glenn Hoddle hails Leicester City striker Shinji Okazaki

Leicester City were beaten 2-1 by Arsenal earlier today.

Glenn Hoddle has told the Daily Mail that Shinji Okazaki’s importance to Leicester City has been overlooked throughout the season.

Leicester’s climb to the top of the Premier League table has created plenty of headlines, with Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez taking much of the acclaim.

But Hoddle feels that Okazaki should have got more praise for the selfless role that he plays for Claudio Ranieri’s side.

“Clearly the individual stars of the season are vital in Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy and N'Golo Kante. But the role of Shinji Okazaki is often overlooked. I've watched teams play the same system but get the distances between the players all wrong,” the former England manager said.

“For example, the front two start dropping too deep, which means as soon as you win back the ball, you can't break quickly. Normally you end up losing the ball and play almost all the match on the back foot and eventually concede.

“But Leicester get the distances between the blocks of players absolutely right. Vardy always stays right up on the centre halves, not allowing them to squeeze space.

“And Okazaki manages the spaces between Vardy and the midfield perfectly.”

Okazaki was only brought to Leicester from Mainz last summer, but he has adapted to the Premier League in no time.

The Japanese international may not have scored particularly frequently, but his efforts have provided the perfect foil for Vardy.

Okazaki’s importance to Leicester was highlighted in their most recent match against Arsenal, as his withdrawal hurt the side.

Okazaki came off soon after Danny Simpson was red carded, and the Foxes lost much of their threat up front thereafter.

After that, Arsenal dominated and they scored two late goals through Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck to reduce Leicester’s lead at the top of the Premier League table to just two points with 12 matches remaining.

FIFA World Cup 2018FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia - click here for all of our coverage...

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch