Early signs are promising under new manager Claude Puel, with his influence showing through just two games into his tenure as Leicester City boss.
Puel’s mentality and formation tweaks have seemingly inspired our attacking players to have more freedom to express themselves going forward. Puel has also managed to incorporate Demarai Gray and Riyad Mahrez into the same team, which has worked very well.
We’re keeping the ball better which has been one of our biggest downfalls in the past, and overall we’re already looking a fresher, better proposition under Claude Puel.
Industrious Iborra is cushioning the blow of Adrien Silva not signing
We are all aware of the farce surrounding Adrien Silva not signing, and we’d be lying as a fanbase if we said we haven’t needed him, or the quality he would bring to the team. However, filling Adrien Silva’s void has been the industrious figure of Vicente Iborra, whose classy, level-headed style of play has been welcomed with open arms by this Leicester side.
Signed in the summer by then manager Craig Shakespeare, Iborra is showing to be an astute signing and at a fee thought to be around £12m, it’s looking like an excellent piece of business.
In the games he’s played so far this season, Iborra’s steadying hand in the centre of the park has helped keep the defence and midfield in good order. As briefly mentioned earlier, ball retention has been in my opinion, one of our biggest undoings in the last couple of seasons. But in Vicente Iborra, we’ve got a player who is composed and comfortable on the ball, and it has been refreshing to watch.
Iborra hasn’t of course played for the entirety of the 2017/18 season, having to recover from an injury which kept him out of the starting eleven at the start of the season. During this time, Craig Shakespeare opted for Matty James to play in centre midfield next to Wilfred Ndidi.
Iborra’s chance came as James unluckily picked up an injury, and whilst Andy King was the preferred choice to come in for James on a few occasions before Iborra, he eventually made his full league debut in the 1-1 home draw against West Brom in October.
Since then, Iborra has really impressed and managed to cement a starting place alongside Wilfred Ndidi. Game by game, Iborra has been getting better, acclimatising to the speed of the Premier League. He is starting to gain the confidence to move forward from his defensive position and make those long runs into the opposition penalty area, something he became known for at Sevilla.
The spaniard is also learning the art of balancing his composure in possession, with quicker passing. This, probably being the most significant adaption he will make from Spanish to English football.
In the most recent fixture, Stoke City away before the international break, Iborra scored his first goal for the club, and grew into a game which was your archetypical English Premier League match. The saying always goes with foreign players coming to the Premier League; can he do it on a cold, wet Tuesday night in Stoke?
Well, whilst the weather was different and it was a sunny Saturday afternoon in Stoke, Iborra certainly got a strong taste of just how tough and competitive the Premier League is, especially away from home.
Becoming influential to midfield partner Wilfred Ndidi
Up until recently, Wilfred Ndidi hasn’t particularly impressed this season. But it’s not necessarily all that surprising, considering the summer departure of Danny Drinkwater without a replacement of such calibre coming in. Adrien Silva was tagged to be Drinkwater’s replacement, but it wasn’t meant to be (until January) with the saga still ongoing.
As such, for much of this season Wilfred has been having to work harder to avoid being overrun, and not having a Drinkwater-type centre midfielder next to him, has been showing. However, since Vicente Iborra has come into the side over these past two months, Ndidi has looked much better being next to him.
Ndidi’s workload in the midfield is now being better shared by Iborra, who is a fellow defensive midfielder. Together, they are starting to form a strong partnership in centre midfield, and Ndidi playing alongside Iborra, who has won three Europa League cups and is vastly experienced, will only benefit his progression as a player.
A good fit for Claude Puel
As we’ve seen in the past two matches against Everton and Stoke, Claude Puel likes his players to keep the ball on the floor, and that is showing already. Contrary to his time at Southampton, Puel isn’t a naturally defensive minded manager. When he was at Nice, Puel was known for setting his team up to counter attack with pace and to press the opposition, whilst keeping solid defensively.
Vicente Iborra might be a perfect fit for Claude Puel. Iborra’s defensive qualities, coupled with his ability on the ball, will not only give Puel a player who will bring great balance to the team, but Iborra might also become a very key figure under Puel’s management.