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Leicester City 2020/21 Season Review: Midfielders

It’s a great engine room, but it could use a few more colliers.

Leicester City v Newcastle United - Premier League Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

With the season in the books, we’re taking a look back at how each of the players performed. We’ve already taken a look at the defense, so let’s run the rule over the midfielders.

I feel for Jack and Tanner and their attempts to rate our defenders and attacking players. The midfield was relatively stable compared to those roles, and it’s still a bit of a mess. Manager Brendan Rodgers was forced to make his lineups and shapes work with fistfuls of players unavailable through injury, and this led to seeing familiar faces in some unusual places.

Defensive Midfielders

The central midfield was anchored by what felt like an ever-present partnership of Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi. I say “felt like” because those two only started 21 of 38 league matches together in midfield. Ndidi missed almost a third of the season, and he was drafted into central defense on occasion when needed. The two of them were originally the holding midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 shape and kept their places when the injuries to Harvey Barnes and James Justin forced a switch to a 3-4-1-2.

How good were they? They were amazing and so we’re just going to talk about them together. Ndidi’s ability to win the ball and growing confidence with it at his feet and Tielemans’ vision and range of passing were a match made in heaven. As per WhoScored.com, Ndidi was our best player (7.25) and Youri was third with a 7.09. Youri won’t mind so much as he was named the club’s player of the year by fans and teammates alike.

Tottenham Hotspur v Leicester City - Premier League
No way through, mate
Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Nampalys Mendy made 15 starts in midfield for the Foxes and I defy any reader to recall any moment where he had a big impact on a match. He is, by all accounts, an incredible worker and a very good teammate. He’s a tidy passer when moving the ball back and sideways and he got his first Leicester City assist this year. WhoScored gave him a rating of 6.36.

Attacking Midfielders

No matter the shape, the Foxes used a central attacking midfielder in the pocket behind the striker(s). Two players saw the bulk of their minutes in this role: James Maddison and Ayoze Perez. For Madders, it must have been a deeply frustrating season. When he wasn’t sidelined by injuries, he was playing through pain and seldom 100% of the player we all know he is. In spite of that, he managed nine goals and five assists in just 24 starts. His overall rating of 7.00 is misleading, as he made 9 appearances as a substitute and produced a more-impressive 7.23 when starting in his preferred position.

Leicester City v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Ayoze has never really found his role at the King Power. He made 15 starts this year and the position where he made the most was central attacking midfielder with...four. Hence, we’re ranking him with the midfielders. The Spaniard managed just two goals and a single assist, but it’s fair to say most of his impact comes off the ball. He made clever runs when we were in possession and worked tirelessly in defense to win the ball back. Nonetheless, it wasn’t an individually great season from Ayoze and his 6.60 rating is about right.

The Marc Albrighton

Albrighton played as both an attacking midfielder and a wingback, so if you take the average of those two, you have a traditional 4-4-2 wide midfielder. That’s exactly what Marc is, and it’s why he’s on an island here: This position doesn’t really exist in modern football anymore. He’s an excellent defender for an attacker, he’s a great crosser for a wingback, but he’s almost never playing his preferred position anymore.

Chelsea v Leicester City: The Emirates FA Cup Final
Managers love the GOAT
Photo by Michael Regan - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Albrighton started 17 matches and came on as a substitute in 14, so he piled up a lot of match time. It wasn’t a great season: he scored once and assisted five times, but the pace is starting to go and he was never especially good at dribbling past people, managing a 6.74 rating for the year. Expect him to play next year, but also expect a reduced role.

The Rest

It hurts me to put Dennis Praet in this category, but he didn’t get to 1,000 minutes this year and that’s my cutoff. An awful injury saw his season cut short just as he was starting to find his stride. If you don’t like the way Madders dribbles this way and that and brings out his bag of tricks, Praet might be your cup of tea. He proved himself a willing runner and a refreshingly direct attacking midfielder. He’s also a hard worker in defense and here’s hoping we get to see more of him next year.

West Ham United v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by John Walton - Pool/Getty Images

It was a lost season for Hamza Choudhury. There’s no other way to put it. He started only 4 league matches despite a desperate need for able bodies. The gaffer’s confidence in him was low enough at the start of the season that he sat even when Ndidi was out, and one suspects he was the single player most hurt by the illicit party incident. He remains a capable ball winner, but his time at the King Power seems to be running out.

That leaves only Sidnei Wilson Vieira David Tavares, who made 1 start and 1 appearance off the bench. Tavares is out of contract this summer and was apparently unwilling to sign a new one if he wasn’t promised a role in the senior side. There were moments of intrigue in his cameo with the club, but probably not enough to meet this condition.

Here’s how I rate ‘em-Wilf has the highest rank on WhoScored, but Youri played an unreal number of minutes this year and that has to factor into the rating.

Seasonal Ratings:

9 - Youri Tielemans
8 - Wilfred Ndidi
7.5 - James Maddison
7 - Marc Albrighton
6.5 - Ayoze Perez
6 - Dennis Praet
5.5 - Nampaly Mendy
5 - Hamza Choudhury
Incomplete - Sidnei Wilson Vieira David Tavares