Ademola Lookman and his continuous quest for regular playing time

The Anglo-Nigerian forward is spending the 2021-22 season on loan at Leicester City.

Ademola Lookman

When then 19-year-old Ademola Lookman came off the bench to score in Everton’s 4-0 bashing of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City on January 15, 2017, it somewhat signaled the sign of another Premier League star in the making, with parallels drawn with Wayne Rooney who announced himself to the world with a stunner against Arsenal in a 2-1 win on October 19, 2002, also in Everton colours.

The difference here was that Lookman already had first team football with Charlton Athletic, playing 49 times and scored 12 goals before the Toffees snapped him up for £11 million in January 2017.

Lookman would go on to play seven more times for Everton that season. The following season(2017-18), he played 16 times in all competitions before sealing a loan move to German Bundesliga side, RB Leipzig, in the second half of the campaign, with five goals and four assists in 11 outings.

Lookman would get more playing to me in 2018-19 in the Everton shirt with a total of 24 appearances in all competitions, scoring only once and bagging two assists. His time would however come to an end at Goodison Park with Leipzig acquiring him for £16 million in the summer of 2019.

Lookman played only 11 times in the Bundesliga in 2019-20 and once again would be on a loan move to Fulham ahead of the 2020-21 season. It happened to be his most productive in terms of appearances with 34 coming in the Premier League with four goals and four assists. The Cottagers however suffered the agony of relegation by finishing in 18th place.

In his latest adventure, Lookman is currently on loan at Leicester City. The 23-year-old has played seven times already, scoring once. His latest outing came in Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Crystal Palace in which he started from the second Premier League game in a row.

Such starts could be just one of many rear ones and the reason isn’t far fetched. Leicester utilize a system that prioritizes Jamie Vardy, James Maddison and Harvey Barnes. As such it stifles opportunities for other players. Maddison was on the bench on Sunday hence it gave Lookman the opportunity to start. However, coach Brendan Rogers isn’t going to utilize the 4-4-2 he used at Selhurst Park all the time. He prefers a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 of which Vardy, Barnes and Maddison are key.

Former England International Darren Bent has stated that Lookman might not be a regular at the King Power Stadium, but the experience of playing with the 2016 champions will help him develop.

“I don’t think he’s going to be a first-team player just yet but, learning from the players on the training ground and backroom staff, I think he will grow and become a good player,” Bent said.

Lookman seems to be happy in East Midlands and upon his arrival acknowledges the need to grow and contribute his quota to the team whichever way he can.

“It’s a great honor to be at such a big and amazing club with such a huge history and a quality group of players,” Lookman stated when he joined.

“The facilities are incredible. It’s pretty mind-blowing and I just can’t wait to get to work here. I think the environment is very important for a player, so this is the right environment for me to work hard every single day and to help my craft be even better.

“I’m very, very excited to see the fans and to be in the stadium with a lot of fans. I’m just looking forward to playing out there with my new teammates and doing the best I can and hopefully getting lots of goals and assists for the team. I’ll try to help the team in any way.”

Does this mean Lookman is ready to accept being a bit-part player again with lots of cameos? The only way he will see more game time at this rate is if either one of Vardy, Maddison and Barnes are out injured or lose form. The latter two missed the bulk of the second half of last season and this, coupled with Vardy’s drop in form, afforded Kelechi Iheanacho the chance to shine, the Nigerian netting 12 goals in 17 appearances in that period.

Failure for such opportunity to present will see Lookman looking on from the bench more often than not with his best chances coming only in cup games, something Iheanacho has largely been limited to as well.

This will be a sad tale for a player that many thought would take the world by storm. These kind of scenarios do not also help Lookman’s international career either. He has declared his intentions to play for Nigeria, but hasn’t gotten a call-up. With how things are going with him, it will be really difficult to get invited without enough game time and performance.

This is not to say things can’t turn around for Lookman in the future. He is after all still only 23 years of age. It would however do him best to be in a place where the fullest of his potentials can be met without any obstructions whatsoever.

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Kunle is an avid writer with interest in topics on sports, politics and health. His articles have featured in Goal.com, Opera News and Vanguard News. He holds a Bachelors and Masters degree in International Relations and is an advocate for people living with Hydrocephalus and other neurological conditions. Follow him on Twitter: @kfayiga

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