Is Nathan Collins the answer to Leicester’s lack of defensive depth?

Nathan Collins of Stoke City (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

An in-depth analysis on why Leicester City desperately needs someone like a Nathan Collins to solve their underlying problems before a new campaign begins.

For those of you who are not familiar with Stoke City’s young starlet Nathan Collins, you are in for a treat. This 20-year-old Republic of Ireland youth defender is an aspired prospect for Arsenal and Leicester City. He plays primarily as a CB but can adapt to a secondary role as an RB. He featured in 22 games for The Potters in the Championship this season, earning an overall rating of 6.80.

Collins signed a five-year contract in 2019. The club is adamant about only letting their prized asset leave for quite a sum of the transfer fee. Last year Burnley was hoping to add Nathan to their squad, but they could not agree on Stoke’s asking price of £7m.

“We have him on a long-term contract and the club has no desire to sell him. It would take a number much greater than the number I’ve seen bandied about.”

– Stoke City manager Michael O’Neill, via Stoke Sentinel.

A lot has changed since then, more Premier League clubs are keeping close tabs on the defender this time around. Naturally, that interest and a promising season have added to his price significantly. His price tag has risen to £15m for this transfer window. The player is currently injured but is speculated to make his return before the pre-season friendlies.

“This season he has really grown. He has taken on the challenge of playing at right-back or right centre-back and I think he’s dealt with it very well. He has a lot of areas to develop in of course but the pleasing thing for me is that when he has had downturns or hard performances, he has reacted well to that. He has shown a good mentality to play and a good mentality for the situation. I think he’s a player who will continue to develop here. I have no doubt that in the not too distant future that Nathan has the capability to play in the Premier League and hopefully that will be for Stoke City and not someone else.”

-O’Neill, before Collins’ ankle injury.

Stoke will enjoy the upper hand for negotiating the sales for their player as Collins still has three years left on his contract. From the player’s perspective, he would love to move to the promised lands of the Premiership rather than stagnating in the bottom half of the Championship table. Let’s now understand why do the Foxes need someone who would likely be warming the benches initially if he comes to play for the East Midlands’ side.

Leicester City’s desperate need for centre-backs

Brendan Rodgers played a back three formation with a fluidity, aiding the wing-backs plenty this season. Such a formation had often worked wonderfully as a lethal tactic for this counter-attacking side. A critical drawback to such a system for the manager is to stick with his ideal pieces. It was due to the constant injuries that sidelined the players disrupting the stability of such a system.

The King Power club had only four traditional centre-backs in Caglar Söyüncü, Wesley Fofana, Jonny Evans, and Wes Morgan. Amongst them, Morgan was suffering from his back problems throughout the campaign, and others from the triplet had to make rounds to the injury list sometimes.

Eventually, Rodgers had to adjust the defensive midfielder, Wilfred Ndidi, several times to fill the gap in their transparent back-line. This recurring problem demanded a permanent solution that was only possible to solve by planning reinforcing moves in the transfer market. Leicester City has been linked to instigate a move for Burnley’s James Tarkowski, who can surely aid in solving this problem.

But the issue would persist in a dormant way. By counting the heads, one might see that the departure of Morgan is a subtraction of the existing crisis. Adding just one CB does not nearly solve much. Even a player like Evans doesn’t remain very fit for an entire season. So, if you are going to stick with the back three formations, you need at least two centre-backs signings for this season.