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Talking Tactics

Ndidi becoming the new Kante at Leicester

Adrian Clarke 15 Nov 2019
Wilfred Ndidi, Leicester City

Adrian Clarke on the League's most prolific tackler, who is approaching levels of Foxes' title-winning star

With nearly a third of 2019/20 gone, Adrian Clarke looks at the surprise success stories of the season so far.

Leicester City

Sitting in second, the Foxes will travel to Brighton & Hove Albion in Matchweek 13 as Liverpool's nearest challengers at the top.

Playing attacking football without sacrificing defensive strength, Leicester have amassed 26 points from their 12 matches.

It is the most they have had at this stage of a top-flight campaign, and one more than in their 2015/16 title-winning campaign.

While top scorer Jamie Vardy has grabbed the headlines, just as important to the team has been Wilfred Ndidi.

The defensive midfielder is integral to Leicester and holds their 4-1-4-1 shape together.

Heir to Kante

Ndidi provides outstanding protection to centre-backs Jonny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu and also links defence to attack in an efficient manner.

Calm on the ball while athletic and defensively intelligent, the 22-year-old has the look of a player who can emulate the success of former Leicester hero N’Golo Kante.

Ndidi still has some way to go to match Kante, who was 24 at the start of Leicester's Premier League Trophy-winning season.

But, when comparing Ndidi's influence for Leicester in 2019/20 with Kante's in 2015/16, the former is outperforming the latter in terms of tackles and duels won.

This is all the more impressive given that Leicester average 57.7 per cent possession this term, way more than the 42.4 per cent of 2015/16.

With more of the ball, Ndidi has less time to win it back. 

Kante 15/16 v Ndidi 19/20
Per 90 Kante Ndidi
Tackles 5.2 5.5
Tackle success 71.4% 48.3%
Interceptions 4.6 3.3
Possession won 9.7 9.4
Duels won 8.3 9.1
Recoveries 9.7 9.4

This season, Ndidi is by some distance the most prolific tackler in the Premier League.

His average of 5.5 tackles per 90 minutes is way ahead of his closest challenger, Aston Villa's Marvelous Nakamba, who averages 4.1.

Always on the move and looking to break up play, Ndidi has also made the most interceptions.

2019/20 Premier League
Most tackles Most interceptions Most possession won
Wilfred Ndidi 60 Wilfred Ndidi 36 Jorginho 107
Joao Moutinho 43 Philip Billing 30 Dale Stephens 105
Oriol Romeu 41 Declan Rice 25 Wilfred Ndidi 103

These strengths are invaluable to the way Brendan Rodgers asks his side to play.

Without Ndidi's ball-winning skills, Leicester would not be able to give both full-backs and attacking midfielders such freedom to burst forward.

The security he provides enables Ricardo Pereira, Ben Chilwell, James Maddison and Youri Tielemans to express themselves.

And while Leicester are no longer a counter-attacking team, the way Ndidi breaks up play ensures they still remain a huge threat from turnovers and transitions.

Whenever Ndidi retrieves possession everyone around him springs into life.

And not only that, he has weighed in with two goals himself this season.

Ndidi goal rescues point at Chelsea

Despite his influence, it is interesting to note that nine Leicester players make more passes per 90 minutes than Ndidi's 49.

He usually comes short to offer himself for a pass, but this is not to act as a deep-lying playmaker.

Instead it makes opponents close him down, which draws their second striker or a midfielder out of position.

Ndidi is often used as a decoy by Leicester, allowing his more creative team-mates to drop into holes around him to collect passes.

Midfield MVP

Starting all but one of their matches this season, Ndidi is without doubt one of the Foxes' most valuable players.

In the Leicester midfield only Tielemans, with 1,073 minutes, can better Ndidi's 990 minutes played.

If he stays fit, the team's prospects of finishing in the top four, or even pushing for the title, will be greatly improved.

Also in this series

Part 2: Young guns breathing fresh life into Chelsea
Part 3: Blades thriving thanks to clear direction
Part 4: Goalscoring defenders leading Newcastle's revival

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