Analysis: Could Brendan Rodgers have
actually turned to the Leicester City U23s in a midfield injury crisis?
Thagkalo Leshabela in action for Leicester City against Harrogate Town in the EFL Trophy | Photo: Getty/ Plumb Images

It would certainly be odd to suggest that the dust has settled on Leicester City’s January transfer window considering the lack of winter business at the King Power Stadium.

The majority of the deals done by the Foxes saw departures, whilst manager Brendan Rodgers made it clear throughout the window that he desired an attacking midfielder in the aftermath of Dennis Praet’s long-term injury. No such arrival transpired though, with a somewhat perplexing move for Watford’s Nathaniel Chalobah falling through on deadline day.

Rodgers suggested that no one in the Foxes’ youth set up was ready to step up to first-team football, saying: “My first look is within our youth and we don’t have anybody there at the moment who can step up for us, so we have to look to the loan market or to buy someone.”

Despite that, VAVEL evaluates if a player in the club’s youth teams could indeed have deputised.

Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall

One of those most likely to be the next to break through from the Foxes’ academy, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall has been a star whilst on-loan at Luton Town during the 2020/21 season. The 22-year-old has scored two goals and provided three assists in 19 Championship games, building on a previous successful stint with Blackpool.

His passing ability and confidence on the ball has seen him draw considerable praise for his exciting performances in the heart of the Hatters’ midfield, with plenty suggesting that he should have been recalled.

In the end, that was not possible and he will remain at Kenilworth Road for the remainder of the campaign but next season could certainly be his time.

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Kamal Sowah

Now in his third season of his loan stint with the Foxes’ sister club OH Leuven, Ghanaian midfielder Sowah continues his excellent development in Belgium.

He is currently in the midst of his best-scoring season having struck seven times and also provided four assists in the league.

Work permit issues have thus far scuppered any opportunity of Sowah breaking through at the King Power Stadium but with a return to the East-Midlands scheduled for the end of the campaign, he will certainly hope to have caught the eye of Brendan Rodgers.

Callum Wright

Despite Leicester not managing to complete any incomings on deadline day, one deal that was signed off was midfielder Callum Wright joining League Two outfit Cheltenham Town on loan.

His switch to The Jonny-Rocks Stadium gives him a great chance to experience senior football for the first time in his career.

The former Blackburn Rovers youngster has shown he is certainly adept in that attacking midfield role, netting 15 goals and providing seven assists for the Foxes’ U23 side. Premier League football might well be a step too far for the 20-year-old right now but it will be interesting to observe his performances whilst with Cheltenham.

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Thagkalo Leshabela

A constant in the Foxes’ youth set-up since 2016/17, it seems only a matter of time before Leshabela takes the step-up into the first-team. His opportunity could well come during the current campaign having already made the bench on three occasions in all competitions including the recent 2-0 success against Fulham at Craven Cottage.

Whilst there is already considerable competition in front of him at the King Power Stadium, should any more injuries be sustained, Leshabela is likely to be the first in line for a call up into the Foxes’ starting XI.

Sidnei Tavares

Much like Leshabela, Portuguese midfielder Sidnei Tavares has been a regular fixture in the Foxes’ various youth teams since 2016. At just the age of 19, he has broken through into the U23 lineup this season, even contributing with a goal and assist in a 3-1 victory against Grimsby Town in the EFL Trophy.

His skill on the ball and finesse are potent weapons in his armory, with his talents having reportedly been spotted by the likes of Barcelona, Juventus and Bayern Munich.

Following a pre-season friendly against Birmingham City, a game in which Tavares featured, Rodgers revealed he was a big fan but suggested he still has to develop more. He said: “We’ve now got to bring him up to the level where he’s a working talent, and so he has that hunger when he hasn’t got the ball."