Wilfred Ndidi

Wilfred Ndidi: The Top-Tackling Defensive Midfielder

In the two full Premier League seasons that Wilfred Ndidi has featured in, he has finished as the top tackler on both occasions.
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During the 2016/17 campaign, having joined the Football Club in January 2017 from Belgian side KRC Genk, Ndidi completed 68 tackles in just 17 appearances.

His first five months in England were eventful to say the least. It was on 3 January that the Foxes confirmed he was set to join the Club, and just four days later, he lined up alongside fellow Nigeria international Ahmed Musa against Everton at Goodison Park.

It was Musa who sealed safe passage into the next round of the FA Cup for City, who afforded Ndidi 90 minutes of playing action. He was in fine shape having played for Genk as recently as 27 December in a 2-0 success over Gent.

The appearances continued to flow, with his first goal for the Foxes coming in a 3-1 cup win against rivals Derby County, before a display of then manager Claudio Ranieri’s faith came on 22 February, when the Nigerian, aged just 20, started the first leg of City’s UEFA Champions League Last-16 tie with FC Sevilla. 

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Wilfred Ndidi
Wilfred Ndidi

The Nigerian's first few weeks at Leicester City saw him play in the UEFA Champions League for the Club.

Under Craig Shakespeare, Ndidi remained in the side and played his role in six successive victories in all competitions, including the brilliant 2-0 win over Sevilla in the second leg to reach the quarter-finals of Europe’s most prestigious club tournament.

He went on to score two more goals, including a stunner against Stoke City, and eventually amassed 48 appearances for Genk and Leicester City combined in 2016/17.

His first full season in England resulted in him playing 33 times in the Premier League, where his 138 tackles left him 21 clear of Everton’s Idrissa Gueye, now at Paris Saint-Germain, and 25 ahead of former Fox N’Golo Kanté.

The 2017/18 campaign was a hugely important one for Ndidi, who not only excelled for the Foxes, who he also ranked highly for in clearances made (95), aerial battles won (117) and recoveries (296), but also represented Nigeria at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

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Wilfred Ndidi
Wilfred Ndidi

Wilfred Ndidi's 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign with Nigeria saw him come up against Lionel Messi's Argentina.

In the glorious green and white colours of the Super Eagles, Ndidi’s performances for City earned him a starting place in all three of Nigeria’s group games against Croatia, Iceland and Argentina.

In Kaliningrad, Ndidi’s nation were beaten 2-0 by eventual finalists Croatia after Peter Etebo’s own goal was added to by a penalty from Luka Modrić, but they were given hope after earning all three points in their second group game.

A superb brace from City star Musa, who later that summer joined Saudia Arabian side Al-Nassr, handed Nigeria a 2-0 success over Iceland in Volgograd, meaning a win against Argentina would guarantee progress to the knockout stages.

However, Gernot Rohr’s side, despite drawing level after a Victor Moses penalty cancelled out Lionel Messi’s opener, conceded a second goal with four minutes to play after Marcos Rojo volleyed home.

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Wilfred Ndidi
Wilfred Ndidi

The 23-year-old rounds off the scoring in Leicester City's biggest home Premier League win - a 5-0 success against Newcastle United at King Power Stadium in September 2019.

Ndidi’s World Cup campaign with Nigeria came to an end, but the experience he gathered stood him in good stead ahead of City’s 2018/19 season in the Premier League.

The Lagos-born midfielder was once again a star man for the Foxes in England’s highest tier of professional football, as he finished the campaign with a Premier League-high of 143 tackles – one more than Gueye and 14 more than Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Fellow Fox Ricardo Pereira, meanwhile, completed 118 dispossessions, finishing fourth in the Premier League’s rankings for tackles made.

Further international involvement followed for Ndidi in the summer of 2019, when he featured in all seven of Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations fixtures en route to the semi-finals, where Riyad Mahrez’s Algeria – the tournament’s eventual winners – emerged victorious after the former City winger scored a 95th-minute free-kick in Cairo.

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Wilfred Ndidi
Wilfred Ndidi

The Nigeria midfielder headed in an equalising goal at Stamford Bridge in August 2019.

At the age of just 22, Leicester’s No.25 had already played for two teams at the highest level, and had represented his country at the World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations against some of the most gifted players on the planet.

His impressive form has continued this term, where he currently sits third in the tackling charts with 91 to his name, despite missing six of City’s 29 matches.

He is only eight behind Manchester United’s Wan-Bissaka, while City team-mate Ricardo leads the way by 20 with 119 tackles.

In addition, he has made 61 interceptions and 194 recoveries, and has won 181 duels and 59 aerial battles in 2019/20.

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Wilfred Ndidi
Wilfred Ndidi

This campaign, he has completed 91 tackles in 23 Premier League appearances.

Perhaps his most apt moment came in just the second game of City’s season, when after making a rare mistake that led to Mason Mount’s opener for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, he powered home a header in the second half to restore parity and redeem his error.

His statistics since moving to the Foxes place him among some of the Premier League’s most accomplished players, and under Brendan Rodgers, he has continued to flourish.

“He’s given me a wider view of where this is supposed to go to make me even better,” Ndidi said of Rodgers in a recent interview in LCFCQ Issue 11. “The statistics are okay, but I can be better than that – that’s the way I can explain it.”

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