Islam Slimani – Enter the Dragon Slayer

Words by Dan Snowden

Many Newcastle fans going into the final day of the transfer window may have thought it would take the work of a mythical warrior to save us from the abyss of the championship given our precarious position. Somehow, in the final nervy hours we managed to secure the loan signing of Islam Slimani. Enter the Dragon Slayer.

Few players are given such a legendary title as the dragon slayer. In the case of Slimani, it is earned. The name was born out of his reputation for scoring important goals against Sporting Lisbon’s fierce rivals Porto – nicknamed the dragons.

In the six games Slimani played against the dragons he managed to score six goals. All of which were decisive match winning contributions.

It was the 201516 season which really cemented his legacy with the Sporting faithful when he scored an impressive 27 goals in 33 league games (a goal every 109 minutes). Four of which were against Porto who they overcame to win an unlikely league title in the same season.

Interested parties were already taking a keen interest but it was Leicester who finally got their man late in August 2016.

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But not before the dragon slayer took Porto to the sword one last time with another match winner at the Estádio José Alvalade in his last game for the club beating Porto 2-1. Leaving to a standing ovation from an appreciating Sporting crowd. The dragon slayer could not hide his emotions as he left the pitch in floods of tears, enemy defeated and legacy etched in the clubs history books for fans to reminisce over for years to come.

When Slimani arrived as Leicester’s record signing costing the club £28 million, big things were expected. Slimani opened his Premier League account with a match winning brace against Burnley, allowing the foxes fans to start dreaming again. He followed his debut goals up less than two weeks later slaying the dragons once again in a 1 – 0 victory in the champions league. Haunting the dreams of every dragons fan in similar fashion to the way a certain Shola Ameobi butchered the hopes of every mackem in these parts for years.

Unfortunately Slimani was hampered with a couple of groin injuries in his first Premier League season. Jamie Vardy’s form and Leicester’s decision to play with a lone striker, further added to a stop start campaign. His seven league goals in 1277 minutes (goal every 182 minutes – roughly 1 in 2 games) was not to be sniffed at considering he chipped in with a further four assists (producing a goal or assist every 116 minutes).

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Slimani fell behind Vardy again this season. When the striker did start however, he scored in his only premier league start when the Foxes won 3 -0 against Huddersfield. In fact the Algerian could count himself unlucky considering when he has started in the league and cup, he scored with the only exception being a 0-0 draw in the FA cup against Fleetwood. A ratio of a goal every 129 minutes is nothing to be sniffed at. When you add in his two assists to the equation, Islam averaged a goal or assist every 92 minutes this season for Leicester. In my opinion it’s easy to see why.

He’s very good in the air and comfortable off both feet. In addition, Slimani’s excellent instincts in the box and he’s a player who can hold the ball, link with the supporting players or play on the shoulder and make the runs in behind. He has composure too and will no doubt be our penalty taker if we ever get one!

The weaknesses are a lot harder to find and I’m usually able to find one or two. In my opinion, there is not anything obvious other than he doesn’t have electric pace. He’s not slouch either and what he lacks in pace, he makes up in determination and strength to hold off his man. There really isn’t anything else that his game lacks in my opinion.

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With the morale boosting victory over Man United last weekend still fresh in our minds, the entrance of the dragon slayer will be a welcomed one. It cannot be underestimated what an important victory it was. Huge performances from Lescelles, Shelvey, Diame and Dubravka to name a few, were massively encouraging against a big team. All adding to a change in mood and renewed sense of optimism on Tyneside. Slimani himself can now play without the extra pressure he would have had if we’d lost going into the Bournemouth game.

The dragon slayer must sharpen his steel once again in order to fire the club to safety, cementing his legend once again with the adoring toon army. Howay the lads!