Glenn Moore: Tale of two promoted clubs: While Ulloa's arrival has made the difference for Leicester, Vokes' injury has undermined Burnley

The weekend dossier

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The Independent Football

The two teams automatically promoted to the Premier League last May meet on Saturday afternoon at the King Power Stadium.

Leicester City fans, as they take their seats, will doubtless relive the thrills of the last home game, the astonishing 5-3 comeback defeat of Manchester United. For them the Premier League has so far delivered everything they hoped for.

It promised to do the same for Burnley when Scott Arfield put them ahead against Chelsea 14 minutes into their first match back in the top flight, but the euphoria of that moment has long been replaced by foreboding. That was Burnley’s last goal. There have been six blanks since, including a 1-0 home defeat by Sheffield Wednesday in the Capital One Cup. They sit bottom of the Premier League and few would be surprised if they stay there.

To the casual observer the reason for this contrast is obvious. Homespun Burnley have decided to keep a tight rein on their budget while Leicester, owned by Thai millionaires, are making a splash. They will, after all, have Argentine Esteban Cambiasso, a Champions League winner and World Cup veteran, in midfield on Saturday.

The reality is Leicester have spent £9m on transfers since promotion, Burnley £7m, and both are largely reliant on the players who brought them up. Indeed, of the 14 players involved in the drubbing of Manchester United only Cambiasso and his compatriot Leonardo Ulloa are new to Leicester this season.

 

Ulloa has, though, shown the difference one player can make to a team. Pre-season Wes Morgan, Leicester’s captain, told a gathering of reporters that Ulloa, then with Brighton, was the player who had given him most trouble last season and he was delighted Nigel Pearson had signed him. We nodded, but mentally assumed it was another example of a player talking up a team-mate, even if Ulloa had scored twice against Morgan.

Morgan, however, looks to have been a good judge. So far the big Argentine, who cost Leicester £8m (rising to £10m depending on performances), has scored five goals, notching against Everton, Arsenal and United twice, as well as the winner at Stoke. He is also creating space and opportunities for his team-mates. Powerful in the air and on the ground, mobile, with good close control, he will look today to repeat the goal he scored against Burnley last season, one of 23 in 50 league appearances for Brighton.

Meanwhile, on the visitors’ bench, Sean Dyche will be hoping the line leader he signed this summer gets off the mark. With a career ratio of one goal every five matches, Lukas Jutkiewicz was not expected to be prolific, but he did score seven in 20 on loan at Bolton last spring, persuading Dyche to pay Middlesbrough £1.25m (rising to £2.25m), then added six in six in pre-season. In the Premier League, however, he has so far drawn a blank.

This would be less of a problem if Danny Ings, the brightest spark of last season, was scoring. Ings struck 26 goals, breaking into the England Under-21 team as a result. This campaign he failed to score in Burnley’s first three matches, then pulled up with a calf strain midway through the fourth.

Quick, bright and with a poacher’s instinct, Ings looked the key player at Turf Moor last season, but maybe their problems in front of goal can be traced to the injury suffered by his strike partner against today’s opponents last March.

When Sam Vokes went down clutching his left knee five minutes into what was a match between the Championship’s top two, most Clarets fans would have been concerned, but not unduly worried. True, Burnley were trying to extinguish Leicester’s three-point lead, and Ings was already absent, but it did not look serious.

Even after Vokes limped off and Burnley slipped to a 2-0 home defeat there was reason for optimism. QPR, in third, had been held at home so Burnley had a nine-point cushion with seven matches to play – and Ings would be back for the run-in.

Indeed, Burnley duly clinched promotion behind Leicester. By then Vokes had undergone an operation, having been diagnosed with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, but with the much-coveted Ings staying at Turf Moor, and Jutkiewicz signed to partner him while Vokes recuperated, Clarets fans had reason to believe their team would be competitive in the Premier League, though they knew it would be tough.

Now, though, Vokes’ true worth is being revealed. Not only did he score goals – 22 last season – his line-leading play created them for Ings. Indeed, he did for Burnley what Ulloa is doing for Leicester. Jutkiewicz has been a handful for opponents, but he appears to lack the class to match Vokes’ impact.

The signs were there. After Vokes was injured against Leicester, Burnley finished the season with eight goals in eight games (including the blank against Leicester), having scored 64 in 38 beforehand.

Burnley have been unfortunate this season – David Jones hit the bar against Manchester United, Ashley Barnes did the same against Sunderland; in between Arfield had a last-minute penalty brilliantly saved at Crystal Palace with the game goalless.

Nevertheless, relegation is certain unless they start scoring regularly. Last season’s two lowest scorers, Norwich City and Cardiff City, both went down. Hull City might well have joined them had it not been for the £14m January investment in Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long.

Burnley also signed Marvin Sordell this summer and, on deadline, George Boyd, but neither has been a heavy scorer in his career. Indeed, there has been a distinct lack of quality about Burnley’s recruits compared to Leicester’s – which can be partly attributed to a reluctance to pay the wages players such as Cambiasso command.

Ings should be back soon but Vokes, though now at least training outdoors again, is still months away from playing. Meanwhile Dyche can only look at Ulloa on Saturday afternoon with envy.

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