Vardy May Be Leicester City's Star Man But It's Ndidi Who Is Truly Irreplaceable

The Nigerian has been labelled a 'machine' and a 'colossal player' by Brendan Rodgers
15:00, 22 Jan 2020

Wilfred Ndidi could return to the Leicester team tonight less than two weeks after undergoing a knee surgery that was set to rule him out for six weeks.

It has been a remarkable recovery for a player who is integral to the way that the Foxes play and they have truly missed him holding things together in the midfield, losing both Premier League games in his absence.

The surgery the Nigerian underwent involved removing a piece of floating bone from his meniscus, yet the player Brendan Rodgers has labelled as a "machine" was out jogging the day after the operation. The Leicester manager told Sky Sports:

“Wilf is just a machine. The day after the operation he was on the move. I've seen pictures of him then and he's starting to jog. Listen, if we were playing in an FA Cup final a few days ago he could probably have been playing in it, but we wanted to make sure the knee's clean. He's been running, he's been tackling, he's been aggressive.”

This sort of recovery is rarely seen in the footballing world with Rodgers and his medical staff only able to think of another former Leicester player Robbie Savage and ex-Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, who have both recovered from similar injuries in such a short period of time.  

Ndidi’s ability was praised by his manager who has clearly missed him over the past two games. Defeats against Southampton and Burnley have highlighted some glaring weaknesses in the Foxes midfield when the Nigerian is not present.

Before the injury, Rodgers’ preferred and clearly successful set-up was a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Ndidi the holding midfield player, that allowed the talented duo of James Maddison and Youri Tielemans to flourish in central areas ahead of him.

With his midfield general out, Rodgers has attempted to fill that gap by using both Nampalys Mendy and Hamza Choudhury in that role across the past two games, with limited success.

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To help the replacement defensive midfielders out he has also chosen to start the energetic Dennis Praet in place of Tielemans with the hope of providing slightly more protection to the backline, although that has hampered their creativity.

With Ndidi now set to return, it will be interesting to see whether Rodgers goes back to his tried and tested attacking axis of Tielemans and Maddison, or whether he keeps faith with Praet. Ndidi certainly brings the option of going with the two more attacking-minded midfielders. 

“It's absolutely brilliant news for us because he's a colossal player,” Rodgers said. “He gives a lot of the talent in the team that chance to express themselves because of the ground he covers. He's like having two players."

"He's so valuable to us. That type of player, especially at this time of the season, is vital for you. He's improved. If you look at how he plays, it's not just his aggression and his defensive side - he's always available for the ball.

"He's constantly on it and gets us playing forward and defending forward. There are not too many better than him who do that job. He's a phenomenal player.

"So to have him back, and early, is a huge boost. It's great, great news for us."

Earlier this month he was named Nigeria’s Player of the Year for 2019 and after the last two games, he can also be considered Leicester’s most important player. Jamie Vardy may be the star man, but Kelechi Iheanacho is an able replacement. James Maddison’s creativity can be substituted for Dennis Praet’s and Jonny Evans has the Premier League winning experience of Wes Morgan ready to fill his shoes if needed. 

Wilfred Ndidi though? For Leicester, he is truly irreplaceable.

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