Wilfried Ndidi perfectly encapsulates the contrast between Leicester City’s success and subsequent decline. Once heralded as a top defensive midfielder, the Nigerian is now a shadow of his former self. Thus, it is no surprise that Ndidi’s calamitous drop-off has coincided with Leicester City’s gradual slump in form.
Wilfried Ndidi at his peak was renowned for his destructive ball-winning capabilities and was part of a much-coveted LCFC midfield trio. Ndidi and the Belgian Youri Tielemans would complement each other perfectly, with Wilf winning the ball back with his telescopic legs and giving it to Tielemans who could pick a pass.
Whilst these halcyon days feel like the distant past given the current predicament, even as recently as last season, Ndidi was still putting up around six tackles and interceptions per game. This season has seen a drastic decline in his defensive output, with the 26-year-old mustering a measly 3.5 tackles and interceptions per game. On the pitch, this has resulted in the side being bypassed too easily with Ndidi no longer the solid protector in front of the back four.
Whilst his passing has never been his forte, such glaring limitations on the ball are even more evident due to the decline of Ndidi’s defensive output. and Leicester City have really struggled to build up with Ndidi in the ‘6’. His inability to show for the ball or deal with it in tight spaces means that the Foxes often have to go long, ceding possession back to the opposition. At times these technical deficiencies have even directly led to opposition goals due to Ndidi dawdling on the ball or making an errant decision.
Who should start for Leicester City instead?
After a horrific outing against Man City, Ndidi has done himself no favours in his bid for future selection. For the three goals scored by the Citizens, Ndidi could be criticised for his role in each one. Firstly, he lost his marker John Stones, though this could be harsh to criticise since Stones’ finish was unbelievable and unexpected. Nevertheless, the other two goals were the direct result of the Nigerian’s failings.
His costly habit of giving away penalties and his failure to win a 50-50 in the midfield led to the game being out of sight by half-time. The latter error is something that the Ndidi of old would not have permitted. The one-man wrecking ball is clearly no more and for the club to have a chance of survival, alternative decisions must be made.
With Nampalys Mendy impressing when coming on, one would suggest he is the best fit for LCFC’s relegation run-in. Even though he lacks the height and defensive presence of Ndidi, he is much better with the ball. That being said, after many poor displays, can Ndidi still hold his defensive acumen as his unique selling point?