The Premier League is considered one of the unpredictable leagues in the world due to the presence of top-class talents in almost each and every club in the League.
Unlike once upon a time when the dominance from top sides was by far distant, so-called “lesser clubs” now have their own “superstars” to call upon in any regard.
The players in the top sides in the league are the centre of attention for media and fans, which steals away the limelight from the actual players that are silently doing better and should be getting all the rave and plaudits.
For players not playing in any of the top six sides, it’s hard to get the credit they fully deserve.
Let’s put this into context.
A quote with the sentence “best defensive midfielder in the Premier League” will have you spinning from Fernadinho to Jorginho, Xhaka, Torreira and a few more. Yes, Kante is omitted here because he has been deployed further upfront to accommodate Jorginho to play that role.
At least those are the “big guns” in that regard. Notice how the aforementioned players all play for clubs in the top six.
It’s unfair that a player who easily stands out than any of these players exists and has been a constant in doing what he does best as well.
That man is Leicester’s Wilfried Ndidi.
Leicester achieved the improbable in 2016, winning the Premier League. Supporters, players, pundits were all shocked as N’Golo Kante inspired the Foxes to the title. His efforts were rewarded with a £32 million move to Chelsea. The 5′ 6″ Frenchman left a huge gap when he chose to swap King Power blue for the Stamford Bridge variety.
The central midfielder’s rise hasn’t been easy. Constant comparisons to Kante set the bar particularly high. However, the tall Nigerian now operates at full throttle. While the Premier League was apparently set on fire over Lucas Torreira’s arrival when he made his debut, Ndidi quietly surpasses him.
He has been by far the best defensive midfielder in the league so far. Ndidi had just one shy of double the tackles Torreira made the whole of last season (143 compared to 72). Simply put, no player made more tackles than the Nigerian in the whole of last season.
Wilfred Ndidi made more tackles (143) than any other player in the 2018-19 Premier League season.
A rock in midfield. 👊 pic.twitter.com/okchiNJHId
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 13, 2019
Sorry to push it but even outside of England, you can’t deny that he is criminally underrated.
At a point in time, he once had highest leading tackles in Europe’s top five leagues.
Wilfred Ndidi has made more successful tackles (91) than any other player in Europe's top 5 Leagues this season.
18 more than the next. 😳 pic.twitter.com/viPFRtn475
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 3, 2018
Also, let’s talk about the characteristic neither a Jorginho nor a Torreira brings to the table: height. Ndidi can defend crosses and long balls. Last season, he won 90 aerial duals, miles ahead of Torreira’s 13 and Jorginho’s 22.
At 6′ 2″ his height is definitely a perfect trait for a player in his position. His bullet header against Chelsea on Sunday further shows how his height can also come in handy for goal contributions asides preventing them.
If we further compare the 22-year-old to his fellow defensive midfielders in the league- Fernandinho and Jorginho, Wilfred Ndidi beats both of them. Ndidi wins 3.5 tackles per game which is more than Fernandinho’s 2.1 tackles per game and Jorginho’s 2.2 tackles per game. He also manages 1.9 interceptions per game, more than Jorginho and Fernandinho(both 1.5 interceptions per game).
Even in the attacking sense, he averages 1.6 shots per game which is far greater than Jorginho’s 0.5 shots per game and Fernandinho’s 1.1 shots per game.
With all that in mind, he isn’t a polished stone yet. Flaws remain to be chipped away. His decision-making can improve.
The Premier League gives no second chances. A loose ball or misplaced pass becomes a goal conceded in seconds(as was evident against Chelsea on Sunday). His over-zealousness sometimes gets the worst out of him, a key aspect he will need to work on to be considered a “flawless” player.
If the Leicester workhorse continues to perform at such high levels, only a little time until clubs start to trigger his release clause estimated to be upwards of £35 million.
He could easily walk into any of the top six teams and at 22, he has a big room for improvement and make his performances a yardstick for which his position is judged on.