There’s no gainsaying Wilfred Ndidi has grown to be one of the best holding midfielders the English Premier League parades.
The Nigerian midfield enforcer has been quite influential in Leicester City’s run last season, shielding the Foxes back four to provide a platform for them to soar up the table. Infact, it was during his spell on the sidelines through injury that the team derailed from their top four dream, highlighting the player’s importance to their set-up.
After several failed attempts by the Foxes to improvise a in-situ replacement for N’Golo Kante, Ndidi was shipped in from Genk to fill the big void left by the Frenchman, and he made an instant impact.
Despite arriving only midway through the season, he deservedly clinched the club’s Young Player of the Year award. In what was his first full Premier League season, he was the division’s top tackler (138).
Now under Rodgers, Ndidi has impressively advanced in metamorphosing into the kind of player he was originally signed to replace at the King Power – Kante.
In Leicester’s title-winning season, Kante was an absolute beast. Triple figures in tackles won and interceptions – hardly was there any defensive midfielder who had a better season performance this decade than the Frenchman in 2015/16.
Beyond his ingenuity in his defensive duties, Kante also displayed good use of the ball and the ability to join teammates in attack and make productive contributions – an art Ndidi has been learning under Rodgers lately.
Ndidi erstwhile had a reputation of sticking to his primary role of ball winning and nothing else. However, from the Nigeria international’s recent display for the foxes, one could deduce an improvement in the quality and accuracy of his passing as well as his willingness to rather make forward passes and create chances. Only 15 matchdays into the 2019/20 season, he had already netted two goals, equaling his best scoring seasons (2018/19 & 2016/17).
Even with the vivid improvement in the offensive attributes, Ndidi has not relented one bit in his defensive duties. Last season, he made 128 tackles with Man United defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka (129) making more; no Premier League made as many interceptions (80) as the Nigerian midfielder last term also.
It’s widely accepted the 23-year-old hasn’t attracted interest from top European teams because of his inefficacy in the attacking facet of the game. Fair enough, top teams tend to retain possession more especially in games against weaker sides who tend to sit deep and limit damage.
But from a statistic point of view, Leicester have had above average possession in the league in the past two seasons and only Man City, Chelsea and Liverpool have kept possession of the ball more than the Foxes (55.4%) last term. That, at least, now puts to bed the notion that Ndidi could be ineffective in an attack-minded team.
Kante won the PFA Player of the Year award in the 2016/17 season he played DM for Chelsea; with Ndidi’s improvement in core teamplay areas of his game (and given his age), he can surely reach the superstar level the 2018 World Cup winner is.
Alex McLeish, his former manager at Genk, attests to that:
“The ball retention was the area he needed to improve on as a midfielder.
“He is brilliant defensively but he just has to improve his technical side of his game. He is getting better and better. He will do that under Brendan, who is an incredible coach.
“He reminds me of Kante, who is a world superstar. There is no reason why Wilfred can’t obtain that.”
Leicester have fared well in Ndidi’s absence this season though as they currently top the league with 18 points. The Nigerian midfielder is expected to be back from injury to support Foxes’ big title dreams at a point in December. Trust me, especially if you are a top punter who does sport betting, backing the Foxes to win the league this season over a injury-plaugued Liverpool and a Man City who are enduring a rough patch is not a bad idea.
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