In the year’s first edition of the Leicester Stock Watch we’ll analyze how the season’s first few games have impacted a number of players’ metaphorical standing within the club. Remember, this is not just a measurement of who played well, but how their recent performances compare to those that came before and to what is expected of them.
In City’s first five games of the season there have been a few surprise performers and a few players surprisingly left out. The XI seems to be taking shape and the team appears to be finding its balance well:
Nampalys Mendy: Papy Mendy has been a welcome revelation this season. Given how the last two years have gone for him its easy to forget that he was once Leicester City’s record-signing, but the appointment of Claude Puel seems to have revitalized his career with the Foxes in a significant way. He started the season in a familiar place: unavailable through injury. Since then, however, he has pushed his way into the XI and started three straight Premier League games. And not only has he started, he has excelled. In these three games he has forged a formidable partnership with Wilfred Ndidi and helped dominate the middle of the field with his knack for popping up in the right place in the right time. In addition to his defensive work, Papy has shown impressive comfort on the ball, averaging about 52 passes per game on a sterling 93 percent pass accuracy.
Also, never forget this very good tweet:
Ben Chilwell: Puel’s first-choice left back supplanted Christian Fuchs last season but received mixed reviews. His energy and attacking ambition were noted positives, but his defensive discipline was questioned. If the first four games of the Premier League season are any indication, these concerns will become insignificant. Chilwell’s explosive runs up the left wing have terrorized opponents thanks to his athleticism, direct running style, and apparent improved control. While this still results in him being caught out of position every once in a while, his overall defensive acumen has improved. His early performances were enough to earn him Fosse Posse Man of the Match in each of the first two games and the good form has carried over since then.
Rachid Ghezzal: The new man came in with somewhat mixed expectations. With the departure of Riyad Mahrez the burden on Ghezzal was amplified as many considered him to be a direct replacement, especially given their many similarities. His previous production, however, didn’t quite match Mahrez’s as he had spent much of his career as a substitute. Ghezzal started his City career on the bench as well, but was given a chance to start in the Carabao Cup. He responded with a stunning strike from outside of the box and then was rewarded with his first Premier League start. He carried over the good form in that game and grabbed another goal - albeit a much easier one. Still, he provided good play throughout the game and linked up well with James Maddison and Demarai Gray on several occasions.
Kelechi Iheanacho: Expectations were high for him as he finished last season strongly and became City’s main man in the preseason by scoring a few goals. Thanks to Jamie Vardy’s numerous absences Iheanacho was handed two Premier League starts. Unfortunately, he failed to capitalize on either of those starts and ended up on the bench against Liverpool despite Vardy’s continued absence. Still, he did start and score a goal in the Carabao Cup, and create a goal against Liverpool by stealing the ball from the keeper, but one goal in three starts and two substitute appearances is not quite enough given what is expected of him.
Adrien Silva & Vicente Iborra: A battle between these two for a spot in the XI was expected this season. Now it seems neither of them will start when the side is at full strength. This is through no fault of their own; in fact, Iborra scored a goal in the Carabao Cup and Silva registered an assist. The rise of Papy Mendy, though, has unexpectedly made them auxiliary options. Perhaps injuries or changes in form will reverse this, but for now they find themselves in smaller roles than was expected.
Fousseni Diabaté: The young Malian winger burst onto the scene last season as a completely unknown commodity, but quickly established himself as willing line-breaker who always looks to push forward with the ball at his feet. He was handed several appearances and even supplanted Demarai Gray at some points as the first winger off the bench. This season has been much different for Diabaté as he has made just one senior appearance and it was as a substitute in the Carabao Cup. He hasn’t even been on the substitute’s bench for several games. Much like Silva and Iborra, this represents a significant and unexpected diminishment in role for the player.