Luke Vials explains why Brendan Rodgers’ most important player is Wilfred Ndidi as the Nigerian is the glue that holds things together at the King Power Stadium.
Before the Premier League was suspended on 13th March the 2019/20 season had brought us a wide-range of stand-out performers.
Arguably the ‘best of the rest’ after runaway leaders Liverpool and champions Manchester City was third-placed Leicester City.
While Jamie Vardy is topping the goal-scoring charts and Çağlar Söyüncü has proven to be a more than capable Harry Maguire replacement, Nigerian midfielder Wilfred Ndidi may just be the most important piece of Brendan Rodgers’ jigsaw…
Since making his debut for the Foxes in January 2017 arguably no man has had as big an impact on the way Leicester play as the 23-year-old. Joining the club from Belgian side Genk, Ndidi had big shoes to fill. While not a direct replacement, comparisons to N’Golo Kante were inevitable.
While the likes of Jamie Vardy, James Maddison and even right-back Ricardo Pereira have dominated the headlines, Ndidi’s impact in the middle of the park cannot be understated.
Ndidi’s tough-tackling approach quickly endeared him to the Foxes faithful. As well as Leicester’s management. During his first full season at the club, he missed just five games and in 2018/19 he played every league fixture.
Starting games does not necessarily equate to importance. But in Ndidi’s case consistency is key.
According to Sky Sports, Ndidi has missed just 12 games since joining the club and out of those, 12 games Leicester won just twice losing eight.
Breaking it down to this season and Ndidi’s impact on the team is even clearer. Since January, he’s been suffering from a knee injury which has kept him out of numerous games.
His absence coincided with Leicester’s worst run of the season losing games against Southampton, Burnley and Norwich. They also won just once in this spell with a 4-1 victory at home against West Ham. Ndidi made his injury comeback off the bench in this game before suffering another setback.
Perhaps his best quality is his ability to dictate the tempo in Leicester’s midfield. Tackling is clearly a big part of Leicester’s philosophy.
In fact, Sky Sports state their 568 tackles this season is more than any team in the league.
But he’s more than just an enforcer. Ndidi is more talented on the ball than Hamza Choudhury and tougher in the tackle than Nampalys Mendy or Dennis Praet.
His all-round quality in the midfield not only gives him the edge amongst the competition but allows Leicester’s forward players to express themselves at the business end of the pitch.
It remains to be seen when the Premier League will restart again. But when it does Leicester fans will be hoping he’s over his injury troubles.
As having Ndidi fit could just be the difference when it comes to securing Champions League football.