Leicester City strolled to a relatively comfortable three points at the weekend, despite not firing on all cylinders up front. A big part of that was a make-shift back line holding out for a 5th consecutive clean sheet to start the year.
Three PL clean sheets in a row for Leicester.— Mike McCarthy (@mikemccarthy) January 20, 2018
They haven’t done that since they won the title and at no point today did the back four contain any of Fuchs, Morgan, Huth or Simpson.
Of course much of that was thanks Harry Maguire and Wilfred Ndidi. Hard to believe they've only been here for half and one season respectively, and their defensive excellence is becoming almost humdrum.
At this point Ben Chilwell is also pushing to be considered the team’s first choice, while Dragovich’s play has been impressive of late. Instead though, I’m focussing on the least likely of the Foxes’ impressive back four, backup RB Daniel Amartey.
The 23 year old joined in January 2016 from Copenhagen as a defensive midfielder with some experience as a defender. Since then, he’s failed to make much of an impact in the middle of the park, or really at all for Leicester. His biggest footballing contributions coming for his native Ghana, who employ him as a centre back.
Then against Manchester United, he was suddenly thrust back into the fray after regular right back Danny Simpson was injured. He was sent off 15 minutes later and that looked like the end of the road.
Still, the Foxes had no other RB choices, and still haven't signed another, so after his suspension the Ghanaian was given another chance and has taken it well, showing clear improvement with regular game time, which should be expected when he’s learning a new position.
Despite their poor run of form, Watford would surely have been looking at the competition between Amartey and their own left winger Richarlison as an advantage.
The talented young Brazilian leads the Hornets in shots and assists and certainly looked like the biggest threat in their lineup, but was almost completely neutralised throughout the 90 minutes.
Richarlison has been an enormous standout for Watford this season. He’ll probably be on the move in the summer too.— Shane Burns (@ShaneBurns_) January 21, 2018
Yes, he managed to beat his man a couple of times, but none of them came to much, as the 20 year old mustered just one shot (off target) and no key passes, despite regularly being left one-on-one with Amartey.
Instead, their main threat appeared to be through the duo of Troy Deeney and Andre Gray, working against the strength of our defence in Maguire and Dragovic.
I think we were all worried by the seeming lack of RB depth but, considering how little he’s played at this position, and how most defenders peak much later than 23, I think you’d have to say that the Amartey experiment has worked well this month. I wouldn't expect Claude Puel to be desperate to add another player there this January.
Simpson is back in training now, and I’d be very surprised if he didn't start the Foxes’ next league match, which now isn't until the 31st. Nonetheless, I think Amartey and his manager will be happy with how well he’s filled in, and he could well be the future of the position for Leicester City.