Analysis: The damaging reality of
Wilfred Ndidi’s injury to Leicester City
Wilfred Ndidi is set to be missing for Leicester for an extended period | Photo: Getty/ Plumb Images 

Following their Carabao Cup exit to Arsenal on Wednesday evening, Leicester City were handed the devastating news of a long-term injury to midfield powerhouse Wilfred Ndidi.

Foxes’ boss Brendan Rodgers revealed that the Nigerian had suffered an adductor injury, which if requiring surgery, could keep him out for up to 12 weeks.

For a squad already lacking depth in the midst of an extremely busy campaign, his absence will be a blow to the East-Midlanders but it could have reverberations throughout the rest of the team.

Unmatched in the Premier League

In his time at Leicester since arriving from Belgian outfit KRC Genk, Ndidi has developed into one of the most effective holding midfielders in world football. He topped the Premier League standings in 2017/18 and 2018/19 for tackles, whilst he was only one behind Manchester United’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka last term. He is also an expert at anticipating a pass, too, again being consistently near the top of the standings for interceptions in the top-flight.

Whilst stereotypically the ‘dirty’ work in the middle of the park, his role is key in providing the Leicester backline with protection. It also gives the more attacking midfielders of James Maddison and Youri Tielemans the opportunity to get on the front foot, whilst not being too concerned with their defensive responsibilities.

Nampalys Mendy has been an able deputy in the position at times but the Frenchman is clearly not quite up to the world class standard that Ndidi has displayed at the King Power Stadium.

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History repeating itself?

The midfielder being restricted to the sidelines could of course provoke feelings of déjà vu amongst the Leicester support. Of the five matches that the Nigerian missed in the second portion of 2019/20 with a knee injury, the Foxes did not win any. This included losses to Southampton and Burnley, a huge reason besides their failure to earn a UEFA Champions League place.

Leicester's win record without the 23-year-old is to put it lightly atrocious. Since signing for the club, Ndidi has missed 12 Premier League matches through injury or suspension. Of those games, Leicester have only won two, giving them a win percentage of just over 16% without the Nigerian compared to a 46.3% win percentage when he plays – a huge drop off.

Should this win rate continue until Christmas, when Ndidi could return, that could result in the Foxes winning just two of their 12 games up until that time. Considering Leicester’s promising start to the 2020/21 campaign, the absence of Ndidi really could hurt their chances of earning a European place once again next season.

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Knock-on effect

With Ndidi out for a sustained period, it could also start a chain reaction of problems at the King Power Stadium

Whilst Mendy and academy prospect Hamza Choudhury are themselves defensive midfielders, the absence of their talented teammate could lead to an exponential rise in their respective workloads considering the packed schedule with the presence of UEFA Europa League football. This then could potentially lead to fatigue and injuries amongst the other options in the East Midlands.

This could also be true at the heart of defence, where Ndidi has been deputising in the early part of the campaign with Jonny Evans still out through suspension. Following the Northern-Irishman's return, it would be unlikely to assume that Ndidi would again be called upon to play at centre-back.

However, should there be an injury to Evans, Caglar Soyuncu or Wes Morgan, then Ndidi would again be a real option. That is now not possible with the Nigerian's long-term problem. If the Foxes' do not recruit smartly in what is remaining of the transfer window then they could well be extremely thin at the back, if they aren't already.

With pressure on the squad expected to be higher than ever with UEFA Europa League this season, the absence of the club’s most reliable midfielder Ndidi could well be felt throughout the squad and could severely impact the current campaign under Rodgers.