Many questions were asked of then Premier League champions Leicester City as they allowed one of the stars of their historic title-winning season in Ngolo Kante to move to Chelsea for £32m. Although The Foxes managed to keep hold of other crucial players like Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, the Leicester midfield began to show signs of weakness as the foxes endured a mixed season as they finished 12th in the defense of their title. Although it is seemingly impossible to replace a player of Kante’s calibre, Wilfred Ndidi was brought in during the January transfer window of 2017 – signing from Belgian side Genk for £17m and helped steady the Leicester ship as they quickly eased any fears of a relegation battle. At more or less the halfway mark in his first full season with the club, it’s clear to see Ndidi’s influence has grown into an important part in how the Foxes line-up.
Ndidi started out his career as a centre back playing for Nigerain side Nath Boys, but quickly showed the kind of shooting and passing ability that, combined with his strength and size, would be the makings of a powerful defensive midfilder. The 17/18 season has proven to be a strong one for Ndidi, as he has completed the most tackles so far with 101 in total, the highest in all of Europes Top 5 leagues. The Nigerian international also averages an impressive 64% tackle success rate in the Premier League this season. His defensive importance is further highlighted by the fact that he has blocked 11 goal attempts, intercepted 32 passes and completed 68 clearances. This allows players like Harry Maguire to push forward from the back and join the attack as they know they have suitable cover in Ndidi behind them. On average, the defensive midfielder has a hand in 5 defensive actions per game which ranks him 7th in Leicesters rank, only two behind Danny Simpson on 7.
Pass accuracy is an area where he could look to improve, as he is currently ranked 13th with an average pass succession rate of 76%. But more often than not if he misplaces a pass, there’s a strong chance he’ll win it back for his side. Having said that, he has managed to bag 3 assists and play 55 successful long balls in-behind so far this season which is just proof of Leicester’s fondness of keeping possession and playing tidy football if his overall pass succesion rank is outside the top 10. Part of Kante’s success was his partnership with Danny Drinkwater, a player Ndidi only played less than half a season with before he departed to join Kante at Chelsea. Prior to the unveiling of Adrian Silva, there were a few make-shift midfield parings with the likes of Matty James and Andy King joining Ndidi in the middle of the park but neither really struck a strong partnership with him. However, in his early days at the club Silva has impressed and following his Premier League debut against Huddersfield has a 100% success rate in both pass completion and successful tackles. He seems to add that much needed bit of flair to complement Ndidi’s powerhouse playing style, which may have the makings of a solid midfield partnership as Leicester look to carry on their good form which sees them currently lie in 7th position in the Premier League.
At the age of 21, Ndidi has bags of potential and playing at the highest level will only aid in his development which may see him go on to be just as crucial as Ngolo Kante was as Leicester City look to push as high up the Premier League table as they can.