Take your mind back to the most perfectly balanced midfields of footballing history, the likes of Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso come to mind, or perhaps the brashness of Claude Makelele paired with the unquestionable grace of Zinedine Zidane. But what are the two attributes that all these great midfield partnerships invariably possess; dictate and stifle.
Now you look forward to today’s game and you can kind find the personification of these two components in none-other than the East Midlands at high-flyers Leicester City. Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi could not be more of an embodiment of this Ying-yang type of extremely successful and adaptable midfield.
Youri Tielmans: The DictatorEmbed from Getty Images
The 23-year-old Belgian is in his second full season at the foxes since singing on a permanent deal in the summer of 2019 after a successful loan spell from Monaco. Having played in the Champions League for Anderlecht at the age of only 16 Tielemans really is an old head on young shoulders. The young Belgian has been one of the most touted after talents in world football since his induction, so when Leicester did manage to get the deal over the line for a very reasonable fee of £30 million it sent a few ripples of intent through the Premier League.
After a successful first season Tielemans has now pushed on and progressed tremendously in a new deeper role alongside Ndidi as the right side of a midfield two, still it allows the Belgian to break through the lines and get goals and assists, in fact he has already doubled his goal tally in the league from last season as his goal against Arsenal put him on six goals for the campaign compared to just the three he got last season.
The increase in goals he has accrued is very much down to his new revised position, as coming from the deeper six slot he arrives late onto the edge of the box and his extreme technical efficiency, means that from anyway around the edge of the box he is extremely dangerous, highlighted by his superb first-time finish against Newcastle.
|Passes Completed||Passes Attempted||Pass Completion %||Total Distance of completed passes in yards||Progressive distance in yards|
This new role also allows him to dictate the tempo of the game depending on situation which allows for better game management. Something that Leicester has improved on a lot this season, for example only twice out of the 26 games they have played in the Premier League have they lost a game in which they were leading. This is a casing point to the maturity and calmness of the once Belgian player of the year, as well as his ability to read the situation of the game.
Credit also must be given to Brendan Rodgers since it was him that allowed Tielemans to flourish in the role, but no one deserves more than his midfield partner Ndidi.
Wilfred Ndidi: The StiflerEmbed from Getty Images
Ndidi, now in his fifth season in the English top-flight has really come into his own as one of the elite ball-winning defensive midfielders in the Premier League, last season the Nigerian finished second in total tackles in the Premier League with 128 just the one behind Aaron Wan-Bissaka all while playing three less games than the Manchester United right-back. This season he is racking up excellent numbers in this department again with 52 tackles in just 14 games played this season.
Furthermore, Ndidi’s lengthy frame allows him to also accumulate a huge amount of interceptions. In this category last season, he once again finished second, this time with 80 interceptions and this year he has made 32 interceptions which ranks him 32nd in the league. But once more with him only playing the 14 games in the league. So if you were to extrapolate that total, to say 64 in 28 games that would more than likely place first in the entire division based on tackles per game.
So, lets see how Ndidi compares statistically up against Declan Rice who seems to be a shoe in for the England squad and someone who most football fans would agree has had an excellent season playing a very similar role.
|Premier League||Wilfred Ndidi||Declan Rice|
|Aerial Battles Won||37||38|
As you can see from the comparison I have laid out in front of you Ndidi fairs wonderfully up against one of the Premier Leagues elite holding midfields, even trumping Rice in many stats despite playing a significantly less games.
With both of these extremely talented young midfielders just coming into the prime of their careers there is so much more to come for the both of them and if they were to stay in stay in East Midlands for the foreseeable future they may to be spoken about as one the Europe’s elite midfield partnerships.
Look out for next week where I question whether football pundits and fans a like have in fact underestimated to effect Virgil Van Dijk’s injury at both ends of the pitch.