With the 2018/19 season officially in the bag for Leicester City, we’ll be breaking down how the year went, and how things look heading into the summer. We kicked off with the defenders, moving on today to a hugely talented group of central midfielders.
It was an up and down season for a very talented Foxes midfield. Or, to put it more accurately, a down and up season, ending on an incredible high after Youri Tielemans loan arrival.
Under Claude Puel it felt like the midfield struggled to adapt to a new way of playing; they could play quickly or patiently, but never both. As a result, we really struggled for creativity, with Jamie Vardy often left isolated. Wilfred Ndidi also struggled for form early on, putting more pressure on the defence.
There’s not a lot I can say here about Youri Tielemans and his impact on the team that Michael didn’t already cover much more comprehensively.
If you haven’t already, I suggest you find a moment to read his breakdown, but for now I’ll summarise: he’s really good. And the team is much better with a really good player in it.
With the likes of Maddison and Tielemans, the Leicester City midfield was packed with talent, capable of taking over games at any moment, but the best performance of the season was a defensive showcase from Wilfred Ndidi, in a 2-0 over Bournemouth.
Big Wilf covered every inch of the pitch, especially in the 2nd half, snuffing out every opportunity the Cherries tried to create. His outrageous output of 11 tackles and 5 interceptions was nearly double the combined total of the next player, but he also added 5 clearances, 5 aerials won and even completed 68 passes, which is an area of his game that he struggled with in the early part of the season.
For the first half the season, Adrien Silva couldn’t even get on the field here. That made a lot of fans very angry with the management, but honestly he never really put in any particularly impressive displays in a Leicester shirt, and it was no great loss when he moved on loan to Monaco.
Since moving to France however, he’s really impressed the fans, and has made his impact felt on the pitch, leading the team in tackles per 90 minutes. If his performance can help us in any way to bring in Tielemans on a permanent basis, that would be comfortably the most positive effect his transfer has had on the club.
Speaking of that Tielemans loan...it was just bad business. I mean, it was great, but in hindsight it was poorly executed. We balked at the asking price and went for a short term loan instead. He was so impressive that we might not get the chance to make that permanent now, so far from being the best signing, it could go down as a bad one. But we did add one very talented midfielder permanently.
100 - @LCFC's James Maddison was the only player to create 100 goalscoring chances in the Premier League this season & was the first English player to create 100+ in a single Premier League campaign since Leighton Baines in 2012-13 (116). Peng. pic.twitter.com/FcZ5NHMuvf— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 13, 2019
Maddison stepped up a level and into a team that had struggled creatively, immediately becoming the creative force that we needed. That’s a bargain for £25m, and that’s even before you consider that young, English players are always the most expensive. This wasn't just our best move of the summer, but possibly the best since Kanté in 2015.
It’s hard to find a disappointment on the field from this group. All of them (at least those not sold or loaned out) played incredibly through the 2nd half of the season.
The lack of opportunities Hamza Chooudhury got was certainly unfortunate, especially given the team’s record when he played, but with Wilf ahead of him there’s not a lot he could do. It’s also a great shame to see Matty James miss out on another season, and maybe it’s time for him to move on this summer.
It’s going to be a big summer. It’s absolutely vital that Leicester City can push home their early advantage from the loan and complete the signing of Tielemans, while again holding onto key contributors in Ndidi and Maddison.
With those three together in the middle of the park, this team is ready to push its way back into the top 6. Hamza provides some very secure depth being Ndidi, but the creative crux of the side runs through Youri and Madders, and we could be scrambling to replace that if either is not retained.