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Leicester Stock Watch: Iborra returns to prominence

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Two weeks with differing levels of success led to a fairly even amount of praise and criticism.

Leicester City v Chelsea - The Emirates FA Cup Quarter Final Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The last two weeks were a mixed bag for Leicester City. They burst out of a rut with an emphatic Premier League win over West Bromwich Albion but then followed that up with a disappointing performance and heartbreaking loss to Chelsea in the FA Cup quarterfinals.

Over this period there were both above-average and subpar performances form City’s different stars:

Stock Up

Vicente Iborra: Since the return of Matty James and the official arrival of Adrien Silva, the second central midfield position beside Wilfred Ndidi has been a revolving door. Prior to that the position was consistently occupied by Vicente Iborra and he appeared to be thriving in the role. In the last two weeks, however, he seems to have regained the position and shown the quality that allowed him to earn it in the first place. He was one of the best players on the pitch against West Brom and grabbed a goal as a capper. The steady play continued in the FA Cup where he once again showed remarkable poise on the ball, but then paired it with defensive domination (including seven tackles).

West Bromwich Albion v Leicester City - Premier League
Vicente Iborra (center left) celebrating his goal and birthing new hope for the Foxes.
Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Wilfred Ndidi: At this point consistency is expected of Wilf as he may be the most steady presence on the entire roster. Even with that in mind, though, his form over the last two weeks was not expected. He has been more active than ever and totaled a ridiculous 10 tackles against Chelsea. That kind of performance eased the pain of being decimated by former Fox N’Golo Kanté (we still miss you). If he continues to play like this City may just have to hold him hostage and never let him leave..

Shinji Okazaki: He finally returned from a lengthy injury absence and played about 60 minutes in each of the last two games. While he wasn’t especially impactful, it was promising to see him display the work rate that has made him a beloved member of the squad. It was also promising to see him immediately inserted into the starting XI upon his return. He didn’t start in the FA Cup fixture - that probably had more to do with Kelechi Iheanacho’s stellar performance in the West Brom game and his FA Cup form - but he was the first sub and got a heavy amount of minutes thanks to extra-time. Shinji has consistently proven that the team and its vaunted 4-4-2 formation work better with him in it, so having his presence back on the pitch is an exciting boost.

Stock Down

Kasper Schmeichel: Recent weeks have been strange for Kasper. In the last two games he has produced a few miraculous saves in crucial moments, but that has been outweighed by critical errors (most notable of which cost City a chance at an FA Cup semifinal appearance) and unexpectedly poor distribution. Even though it hasn’t been his best season, these kinds of mistakes are still out of the norm and below what is expected of the team’s most vocal leader.

Leicester City v Chelsea - The Emirates FA Cup Quarter Final
Kasper Schmeichel deciding to punch Pedro rather than the goal-bound ball.
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Ben Chilwell: He is comfortably Claude Puel’s first-choice left back ahead of Christian Fuchs these days, but is showing troubling inconsistency. His performances against the Baggies and Blues were the perfect examples of this: he flew down the left wing often and posed a threat in attack, but also gave the ball away far too frequently with bad touches and bad passes. Pair that with occasionally poor defensive positioning (thanks to his aggressive mindset) and you get a decidedly unconvincing figure. Regardless, he is one of the most promising players in the squad, and when he is at his sharpest he is already a dynamic young player. Unfortunately, as a member of the starting XI many judge him as if he were a finished product, and his current production has fallen below what is expected of that designation.

Danny Simpson: Typically one of the most reliable, yet unspectacular performers in the squad, Simpson had an odd day against Chelsea. He was consistently out of position - which is normally a strength of his - and abnormally aggressive in attack. This, though, is not a strength of Danny Simpson. His crosses flew in just about every direction without ever posing a real threat to the defense. Based on nothing other than pure speculation, one could imagine that this new-found offensive aggression was related to the reported discussion with Puel about areas in which he could improve. This, of course, came after a brief benching in favor of Daniel Amartey. If Simpson is unable to improve in these areas, he may find himself in jeopardy of losing his position when Amartey returns to fitness.