Demarai Gray; overrated or unfulfilled potential?
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Demarai Gray is now into his fifth season donning Leicester City colours. Upon signing from Birmingham City for a mere £3.4million in January 2016, great things were expected from the then-teenager.
Fast-forward to 2020, Gray has played in over 150 games for The Foxes. In his three complete seasons with the East Midlands outfit, the English winger has averaged over forty appearances per term. He's on course to reach that mark again, though football fans can't help but feel underwhelmed with the 23-year-old's overall output.
That's not to say Gray hasn't left his mark. There have certainly been glimpses of his quality on display from time-to-time. I remember an absolutely outrageous strike against Manchester United, plus who can forget the goal and celebration following the tragic death of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. Gray certainly has it in him to be the man of the big occasion though his overall output is underwhelming. In 125 Premier League games, he's scored nine and assisted nine. I think it's fair to say Leicester's fans expected to see the winger develop and improve by this stage in his career. Instead, he's remained somewhat stagnant.
Take this season as the case-in-point. Gray has featured in 14 Premier League games which feels like a decent number. However, he's averaged just over 30-minutes played per match, totalling 441 in total, including just one league start. Being used as a substitute for most of the time definitely doesn't allow the former England U21 star the time to find consistency within his game. Then again, Gray featured in 34 of 38 league games last term, totalling almost 2,000 minutes. He'd score four goals and assist just one. Why should Brendan Rodgers hand the youngster starts with regularity? After all, this Leicester squad has Champions League qualification on their minds. They can't afford any slip-ups and Gray just hasn't been good enough.
Competition at the King Power is fierce. Harvey Barnes is one of Leicester's own and that simply means more to the supporters - hence why he's been utilised far more often. Ayoze Perez's big-money arrival hasn't helped Gray, either, while Marc Albrighton continues to play beyond his means. That said, talent-wise at least, Gray could potentially outshine them all. Simply put, he hasn't lived up to the hype.
In terms of his skill-set, Gray has pace in abundance, two pretty decent feet, a fierce shot and an excellent passing range. He also doesn't mind tracking back and doing the dirty work which is essential in this day and age while he always gives his absolute all for the cause. Availability is reliability. Gray has missed just four games with injury since moving to Leicester. That definitely has to count for something.
Overrated? Nah. He's an immensely talented young man who has struggled to impress with regularity. Perhaps what Gray needs is a change of scenery, preferably to a club who can offer him starts week-in-week-out. Whether that's in the Premier League remains to be seen. I personally think he'd fit in nicely at a Southampton a Bournemouth or maybe an Aston Villa. The good news is he's young enough to take a backwards step in order to eventually obtain long-term growth.
I'd back Gray to prove himself upon a transfer, though Leicester fans have every right to feel disappointed. It's just one of those situations that hasn't really worked out for player or club and the sooner he gets a transfer away, the better it'll be for all involved...