Leicester City 1-0 Leeds United: 3 things learned from back-to-back wins

Harvey Barnes of Leicester City celebrates (Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images)
Harvey Barnes of Leicester City celebrates (Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images) /
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Leicester City
Harvey Barnes of Leicester City celebrates (Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images) /

Leicester City fans witnessed back-to-back Premier League wins for the first time since October — gameweek’s eight (Manchester United) and nine (Brentford). Even more impressively, they achieved this with two clean sheets, a feat that was last replicated by the Foxes in January 2021, after beating both Southampton and Chelsea, 2-0, in the Premier League.

The opposition this time out was Leeds United, an unpredictable side at the best of times, but after parting ways with Marcelo Bielsa and Jesse Marsch having slightly less than a week to prepare for the tie, the Lilywhites seemed increasingly difficult to read. What three things did I learn from this game, when specifically looking at the Foxes?

Wilfred Ndidi isolated, and perhaps exposed, as the central defensive-midfielder in the 4-3-3.

The lineup from Brendan Rodgers was clever, as his choice of Hamza Choudhury as a right-back, who could also drift into the right-centre-back position, meant the Foxes were tactically flexible depending on the style and system Jesse Marsch decided upon. In the end, Leeds played in a 4-2-2-2 formation and thus the Foxes stayed inside the 4-3-3 (Choudhury as the right-back) structure for the majority of the game.

Inside this structure, Rodgers has been opting for a progressive duo of box-to-box midfielders (often referred to as #8’s) in Youri Tielemans and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall. To balance out these creative players, Wilfred Ndidi is fixed as the sole defensive-midfielder at the base of Leicester City’s 4-3-3. The issue I’m alluding to, is the vacated spaces to the right and left of Ndidi, but also behind the roaming midfielders.

Touted as being one of the best ball-winners in Europe, Ndidi has gradually received recognition similar to that of N’golo Kante — with plaudits such as the space they cover can effectively feel like two players inside of one (albeit the Frenchman is superior in this regard). However, as efficient as the Nigerian is, he felt exposed versus Leeds United’s attacking-midfielders, Rodrigo Moreno, Jack Harrison, and Raphinha, and this enabled central progressions through the heart of the Leicester City midfield — which is inherently detrimental.

When the Foxes opt for the 4-2-3-1, with James Maddison in the setup, there’s less emphasis and isolation for Ndidi. He’s often tasked with holding a single side of the pitch, while his pivot partner is tasked with the opposing side. Unfortunately, playing singularly requires very good pacificity (in the correct moments), and noticing triggers to dispossess. This isn’t suggesting the 24-year-old doesn’t have these two characteristics, it’s merely stating that it’s a differing style of midfield combat, and is perhaps a rusty element for the Nigerian.