Wilfred Ndidi is the glue that keeps this brilliant Leicester side together

Alistair Tweedale
The Telegraph
Wilfred Ndidi scored Leicester fifth goal on Sunday, but you won't find him in the opposition box very often - Getty Images Europe
Wilfred Ndidi scored Leicester fifth goal on Sunday, but you won't find him in the opposition box very often - Getty Images Europe

Leicester's title triumph of 2015/16 will simply never be beaten. A 5,000/1 shot winning the Premier League was, is and will likely remain the greatest footballing upset anyone alive to see it will witness.

But as Manchester United's recent plight has shown, ever-so-slightly less difficult than winning the title is recovery after falling away at the top. Inventing the wheel is one thing. Reinventing it is another entirely. Brendan Rodgers looks like he might just have managed to do so with his new-look Leicester City.

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They are no better than the title-winners of 2015/16, and they won't repeat those miracles - Liverpool and Manchester City are just too consistent for that to happen - but they are just as exciting and after Sunday's 5-0 thrashing of Newcastle Leicester look like they could make good on the many pre-season predictions that this could be the team be the side to break the 'big six' stronghold at the top of the Premier League.

This is a completely distinct team in playing style: possession is their close friend and there are fewer of the lightning-quick counter-attacks that so defined their title-winning campaign. Jamie Vardy remains the lung-busting channel-running goal threat but otherwise Rodgers has created a new team.

Much has been made of the Leicester's success in the transfer market with players like James Maddison, Youri Tielemans, Harvey Barnes and Ricardo Pereira - all of whom wouldn't look out of place at a 'big six' side - but the man at the base of midfield (much like in the title-winning side) is one of their most important players.

<span>N'Golo Kante made the most tackles and interceptions in the Premier League when Leicester won the title</span> <span>Credit: Reuters </span>
N'Golo Kante made the most tackles and interceptions in the Premier League when Leicester won the title Credit: Reuters

Much like N'Golo Kante, Wilfred Ndidi is the ball-winner in a hugely impressive Leicester side. After making a colossal nine tackles and five interceptions in Sunday's win, Ndidi now leads the Premier League in both columns for the season, with 33 tackles and 23 interceptions. Kante topped both individual charts when Leicester won the title. That is largely where the similarities end, though.

Ndidi's goal capped off Leicester's latest win, but it was not a moment that reflected his performance, style of play or strengths. It was the 92nd minute and it was the first and only time Ndidi had touched the ball in the Newcastle box, as the below touchmap shows. It was also only the third time he had ventured into the final third.

<span>Ndidi's touchmap against Newcastle</span> <span>Credit: Opta </span>
Ndidi's touchmap against Newcastle Credit: Opta

While Kante - who played in a midfield two - would run himself into the ground, winning the ball all over the pitch and relieving pressure on the defence by carrying the ball up the field, Ndidi retains his position in front of the back four and behind two other central midfielders, distributing play quickly and efficiently to get attacking moves started once he has won the ball.

He had 84 touches  on Sunday and completed 91.8 per cent of his passes. As the below graphic shows, the two most-advanced and central positions in which Ndidi attempted passes resulted in losses of possession (red lines = unsuccessful passes; green = successful passes). That is not where he is at his best.

<span>Ndidi's passes against Newcastle</span> <span>Credit: Opta </span>
Ndidi's passes against Newcastle Credit: Opta

He is the kind of selfless player that every great team needs. Leicester's flying full-backs have rightly received a great deal of praise for their tireless, attacking running, but they are helped hugely by Ndidi's ball-winning and lateral distribution to get play out wide as quickly as possible.

It is also no coincidence that Harry Maguire's replacement Caglar Soyuncu has settled into the side so quickly. When you have a player like Ndidi so committed to protecting the defence, the centre-backs immediately have a better chance of succeeding. Just look at how exposed Maguire and Victor Lindelof have been at United with no natural holding midfielder in front of them.

Leicester suffocate opponents when they try to play out from the back and it is usually Ndidi that sweeps up possession in central midfield. They were helped by Isaac Hayden's ludicrous challenge that earned him a red card on Sunday, but even when it was 11 vs 11 Newcastle just could not find a way out at the back.

This is already Ndidi's fourth season in England, so despite being just 22 years old he is already somehow an experienced member of this Leicester side. He is unflustered, unassuming and doesn't go in search of the limelight.

Unless Leicester are 4-0 up at home against 10 men and the game has entered second half stoppage time. Otherwise, he will stick to his job and everyone around him will feel the benefits.

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